“The Voice of Peace”
Easter 2, April 19, 2020
The Voice of Peace
Text: John 20:19–31
“Okay, Google, what’s the weather forecast this weekend?”
“Hey, Siri, call Mom.”
“Alexa, set my alarm for 7:00 a.m.”
The human voice has new power! Now we don’t have to type anymore. We can talk to our devices and they will do what we ask. Or at least that’s how it is supposed to work. Someone shared on Facebook or Twitter or one of those things that he texted with Siri to a member of his church, “I prayed for you today.” He didn’t proofread, he just hit send. But what the phone sent was “I prayed for you to die.” We all can relate to that right? Voice to text is far from perfect. But this is the sort of thing that was science fiction just a few years ago. At a time when most of the information that went into a computer was on punch cards, Captain Kirk and others on the USS Enterprise talked to a computer. And now we all can talk to the computer. We can dictate to our word-processing programs, we can surf the internet without touching the keyboard, and we can call up a recipe in the kitchen without getting the iPad dirty.
God created the voice to have power. When sea lions gather in large colonies to raise their young, hundreds of pups will swim out into the water together and come back together. Once on the shore, they find their mothers by listening for the distinct sound of the mother’s voice. In time, all the young find their way back to their own mothers.
Easter is, among other things, about the power of the voice. On this Second Sunday of Easter, The Risen Lord Jesus Comes to You and to Me to Speak His Peace into Our Hearts So That We May Share That Peace to the World.
This is what we read in this morning’s Gospel. After Mary and the other women told Jesus’ disciples they had seen the Lord, the disciples did not really believe. By the evening of the day, the disciples are behind locked doors, like a bunch of little piggies afraid of the big bad wolf that might be looking for them. This is the Church at its absolute worst. Hunkered down, huddled together, letting fear rather than faith control their every thought and action.
Then suddenly, Jesus comes and stands among them. John says the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. But in their joy not one of them apologizes for his behavior over the last few days. No one says he’s sorry or that they should have done better. Perhaps part of the reason is they don’t get a chance to say anything. Instead, it’s Jesus who speaks the first word. And just as it was at the sound of God’s voice in creation, the sound of Jesus’ voice creates something wonderful and new: “Peace be with you,” He says (v 19). This is not a wish or a hope. It is not just a greeting. It is His gift to them. “Peace be with you,” He says it, and there is peace and joy.
This, the disciples could only begin to realize, was the whole point of what Jesus had just been through. Jesus’ death on the cross was to reestablish the peace between God and us that had been broken when we first sinned. Sin will always be separation, conflict, between two parties. In sin, we live for ourselves, not for anyone else. In sin, we cannot be in harmony, we will always be selfish. In sin, we could never be with God, because His holiness cannot be in relationship with unholiness. But by taking our sin to the cross, Jesus removed the separation and put us back together with God, bringing us back into peace with Him.
The whole scene repeats a week later when Thomas is with the apostles. The doors are still locked, but Jesus comes again. He speaks the same word. “Peace be with you.” Rather than scolding, Jesus encourages Thomas to touch and see the wounds. “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (v 27).
Even though two thousand years have passed since that first Easter evening, the church still struggles to get out from behind locked doors and into the world. Although I must say that IF there is a “silver lining” to this pandemic, it is forcing church members to do more outside these walls, it is reminding us that the Church is not a building, but you. We all know what it feels to be afraid to be candid about our faith with neighbors, co-workers, friends. While we might not fear suffering the same stuff as Jesus suffered on the cross—the fear that kept the first apostles locked up—there is much to be wary of in the twenty-first century. As we continue to deal with the whole virus thing out there, we wonder what the next day will bring. And we wonder as we head into month two of this quarantine, we wait for and wonder when we will all be able to worship here together again.
The temptation is to focus all our attention on our fear and let that fear paralyze us. This text from John 20 is not about how the world locks its doors to the Gospel, but how the Church locks itself away from the world. The irony of the disciples’ locked doors is that they weren’t just keeping out soldiers looking to crucify them and they weren’t just keeping out friends and relatives who may have wanted to ridicule them for following Jesus. They were also locking out Jesus. They locked out the Word He had so clearly spoken to them about dying and rising again, and in locking out that Word, they locked out Jesus. When fear becomes our focus, we fall into the same trap; we lock out the Lord, who time and again tells His Church, “Do not be afraid!”
Jesus will have none of it! The securely locked doors are no problem for Him. If the grave could not keep Him in the ground, their padlocks would not keep Him outside the room where they were gathered. And so, He comes and stands among them and among us and speaks His word—a word that brings the very thing it says: Peace be with you!
This is Jesus’ word to you this Second Sunday of Easter. “Peace be with you.” “Peace, your sin is forgiven!” “Do not fear the world. I have overcome the world. Peace be with you.” That word comes to you and me today, with exactly the same power as it came to those first disciples on the first Easter and to Thomas a week later. Remember the end of the Gospel I just read? “These [words] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (v 31). In His word, Jesus comes among us today, and we experience the power of His voice. He doesn’t just tell us about peace, but He actually speaks peace to you and me. He makes it happen. As Luther put it, “As soon as He said it, it was done” (AE 12:32).
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (v 21). The Lord cannot be bound; His Word will not be bound; and His followers do not live behind locked doors. He sends us out into the world, but we do not go empty-handed.
He breathes His Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and to His Church. And with that, we, like those first disciples, are sent to the world to be the voice of peace. Our voices, our human voices, become voices of power, not because they are louder, wiser, or more entertaining than other voices, but because through our voice, He speaks. And while we may be social distancing, we can still share that peace with all the other ways we have now to communicate.
Long before there was a Siri, Alexa, or Google, there was the risen Lord Jesus, speaking to and through people like you and me. We are to do this today, so that all who are locked behind doors of fear, sin, sickness, and even death itself might hear His word: “Peace be with you.”
Do not be afraid. The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!