Second Sunday of Easter

Risen Christ

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! This Lord’s day, wherever you are, no matter what may be your worry or fear, a risen Savior, a conquering Christ, comes to you and says, “Peace be with you.” In faith, that peace–Christ’s peace–can be yours.

Not so long ago I read about a woman who had driven about 50 miles to visit an old friend. They had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, when it was time to go home, she found out that her keys were locked in the car. Normally, in her town that would be no problem. But where she was, there was no auto dealership that might have a master key for her vehicle. The local locksmiths, after some conversation, said they couldn’t help her. Finally, as her worries increased, and having rejected the idea of trying to break a window, the lady resorted to her last resort. She called her husband.

As she stood by the side of her locked car, she continued to talk with her sympathetic friend. They discussed how her hubby would never, ever, let her forget this little incident. It was during the course of their sensitive sharing that her friend tried one of the back doors and found it to be open. Quickly, the lady got on her cell phone to call her husband, but he was already on his way to rescue her. Worried, the friend commented. “If your husband was going to be upset with you for having to make the drive out here because you locked your keys in your car, just how angry is he going to be when he finds he made the trip for no reason at all?” To which the lady replied, “I don’t think he’ll be upset at all. That’s one worry I can take care of.” And with that, she stepped over to the car, locked the back door, and slammed it shut.

It probably would be a wonderful thing if we could all take care of all our worries by pushing a button and slamming a door. Unfortunately, most of our worries don’t seem to be so easily solved. Think about it. When you share your worries with a friend, they usually say something sympathetic like, “Hey, hang in there, this is going to be all right. Things will work out just fine. You’ll see. You’re worrying about nothing.” Occasionally they will say, “Hey, things could be worse, you know,” and then they tell the story of somebody who had things so bad that, in comparison, the Old Testament sufferer Job, would have felt pretty good about his situation. I’ve seen people, people on their deathbeds, who wanted to talk about their leaving this world, and the family stopped all conversation by saying, “Don’t talk that way. You’re going to beat this thing and get better. You’re just having a temporary setback.”

Now, I know and you know that all of those speakings and sayings are offered with the best of intentions. But those sayings, no matter how sincerely they are given, are in the final analysis, and when all is said and done, pretty empty and meaningless. There is nothing behind those words other than hope and a belief that sometimes things simply just can’t get any worse. We don’t know that things will get better. We don’t know that these worries will dissolve. We don’t know that these concerns will dissipate. We have to confess that when we say, “Things are going to be fine,” we have no way of making that happen, and we don’t have the ability to make our worries go away.

Worry. A number of years ago (August 22-24,1997), the Sunday supplement magazine, USA Weekend, ran a cover story titled: “Fear: What Americans are Afraid of Today.” After interviewing what was said to be a scientific cross-section of the country, the magazine listed the things that Americans feared the most. Fifty-four percent said they were afraid or very afraid of being in a car crash. Fifty-three percent were afraid or very afraid of having cancer. Fifty percent were afraid Social Security would fail. Forty-nine percent were afraid of not having enough set aside for retirement. Thirty-six percent were afraid of getting food poisoning from meat. Thirty-five percent were afraid of coming down with Alzheimer’s. Thirty-four percent were afraid of pesticides and their food, and 33% afraid of becoming a victim of personal violence. Thirty-two percent were afraid of being unable to pay their debts, and 25% were afraid of natural disasters. When people were asked about the cause of their worries, nine out of ten confessed they thought the world is less safe today than it was when they grew up. Almost half felt they were unsafe taking a nightly stroll within a half-mile of their home. Twenty percent of all the people said they were afraid of being struck down by a terrorist bombing while they were in a public place. Now understand, that poll was made before the tragedy at Columbine High School; it was made before the terrorist tragedy of 9-11; it was made before the tsunamis that rocked the world. The world has changed since that poll was made. People’s fears have changed since 1997. One thing hasn’t changed. People are still afraid. People still worry.

We shouldn’t be surprised by that. Worry has been part of our psyche since sin entered the world. After Adam and Eve chomped down on the forbidden fruit, they were afraid to meet with their Maker. Their son Cain was afraid that people might murder him. Jacob was afraid his brother might kill him; Moses was afraid God’s people might not listen to him; King David was afraid his son might overthrow him; Elijah was afraid that he was the only believer left; Christ’s disciples were afraid that the same Jewish leaders that had worked so successfully, so efficiently in bringing about the crucifixion of Jesus, might now be looking for them. Was their fear legitimate? There is nothing in Scripture which indicates that they were marked men; nothing which shows they needed to hide behind locked doors. Of course, fear does not have to be based on fact, to make a person tremble. People who are afraid of flying may know, statistically they are safer in the air than they are in their own automobile, but that knowledge doesn’t take away their fear. The average person may know that the audience to which he is speaking will not really start shouting nasty comments, or rush the stage with intent to do him bodily injury. Still, most people are afraid to speak in public. Most children know that a bad report card will not cause mother and father to take their names out of the will and send them off to an orphanage. Still, that doesn’t stop them from fearing the day the postman delivers that bad progress report to the family’s mailbox.

No, fear doesn’t have to be based on fact to be real. Fear is fear and worry is worry. They come. They are there. And that is the way it was for the disciples who, after Jesus’ crucifixion, locked themselves away. Their fear told them, “Keep a low profile; keep your head down; try to blend into the woodwork and wait for this whole Jesus thing to blow over.” Considering their situation and their worries, it was probably a good plan. It might have been a most effective plan, except for one totally unanticipated, relatively major glitch in their plan: Jesus showed up. Now they shouldn’t have been surprised. Jesus had said that He would rise on the third day, but when He said those words, His disciples didn’t understand. That’s why, when beaten Jesus, whipped Jesus, spit-upon Jesus, nail-pierced and crucified Jesus, a-spear-through-His-side Jesus showed up, they thought they were seeing a ghost. Was it wishful thinking or mass hysteria? No, it was neither of those things. This was a living Jesus who miraculously brushed past locked doors and stood among them. This was a resurrected Jesus who was able to talk to them; who ate with them; who held out His nail-pierced hands to them; who showed them the heart wound between His ribs. That Jesus showed up and said, “Peace be with you.”

When Jesus said, “peace,” He was saying to those who heard Him: “be well”; “be whole”; “be at rest.” Now coming from anybody else other than the Son of God, the world’s Redeemer, those words would be no more than wishful thinking and upbeat optimism. Coming from Jesus, they are everything. Hundreds of years before He was born, the prophet Isaiah (9:6) promised the Messiah would come, and He would be “the Prince of peace.” When the angels announced His birth to the shepherds who were watching their flocks in the fields of Bethlehem, they said that He would be “good news of great joy” for the entire world. They promised that He would bring “God’s peace to men on whom the Lord’s favor would rest.”

Time and again, when He had been doing ministry, Jesus had shown His Divine ability to bring peace in the most unlikely situations. When the disciples were caught in a ship-sinking storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus spoke to wind and wave commanding, “Peace, be still”; and the storm was silenced. When a woman who had had an unclean issue of blood for 12 years was healed by touching His robe, Jesus said, “go in peace, your suffering is at an end.” When a woman who had led a questionable life worshipped Him, He silenced her detractors, forgave her sins, and sent her out to lead a new life, a forgiven life of peace (Luke 7).

And now, three days after His Body had been bruised and battered; three days after He had declared His work of redemption finished; three days after He had died, He stood once more before His disciples and said, “Peace.” At that moment the world of the disciples changed. They had visible, tangible proof of God’s power. No longer would death be the ultimate cause of fear. No longer would the devil have the last word. No longer would they be alone. No longer did they have to be afraid. The Christ who had conquered the grave, even as He had with His perfect life and Godly power, conquered suffering and sin, would defeat their dreads as well. That day, they knew Jesus’ commendation of peace was not just a wishful word, it was backed by living, resurrected proof.

It was with that proof the disciples were transformed. One day they were hiding in fear of their lives, a short time later, after the Holy Spirit had come upon them, they became lions for the Lord. Confronting councils and kings, they shared the story of the Savior’s salvation. They told all who would listen, and many who would not, that recovery and redemption is guaranteed to all who, by the Spirit’s power, have faith in the atoning Lord. When they were told to keep silent, they replied, “We must obey God, rather than men.” When their lives were threatened, they, and those who came after them, fearlessly replied, “Do your worst; my Lord has already done His best.” They were unafraid, un-intimidated; they were unstoppable. Which is why, as a distant inheritor of the message of peace, the disciples pronounced with such boldness, I want you to know, that the peace which Jesus brought to that locked room of disciples is still there. Jesus still comes and says, “Peace be with you.”

It was a number of years ago I heard about a woman who was washing dinner dishes. She got toward the end of the pile and stopped. She stopped with a coffee cup in her hand, and asked herself, “How many times have I washed this cup?” Then she became afraid. She asked herself, “Is this all there is to life? Is this all I’m supposed to be?” The lady set down the cup, went to her bedroom, packed a small suitcase with a few of her belongings, and quietly walked out the front door.

That evening, from an undisclosed location, she called her husband and told him that she was physically all right, but she just couldn’t face her life and she wasn’t coming home. Worry and fear had a stranglehold on her. Eventually the husband hired a private investigator to locate his wife. It was easy enough for him to find her. She was holed up, liked the disciples, behind locked doors. She was in a budget motel in a city about 200 miles away. The husband, with the investigator’s report in hand, dropped off the children at grandma’s and went for a drive. He knocked on the door of his wife’s room, unsure as to how he might be received. He heard the lock turn and the door slowly opened. His wife looked at him in silence, and then fell sobbing into his embrace. She said, “When you called, I heard words. When you showed up, I knew how much you loved me. You had sought me out; you had come for me.”

When Jesus says to His disciples, “Peace”; when He speaks the same to you, you can be sure that He is not just uttering words and wishes. The love of God is more than so much sounding brass. Jesus, in love for us, sought us out by coming down from heaven. He came for us, became one of us, so that we might be forgiven, so that we might be saved. He showed His compassion and concern for us in the life He led; in the death He died; and in the resurrection which offers eternal life and everlasting peace to all who with repentant hearts, are turned to Him as their Redeemer, their Substitute, their Savior and Friend.

This is what I want you to know. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, Jesus offers a powerful peace which is for all people. What is your worry? Take a moment. Think about it. Bring it to light. How long has that worry been hounding you? Robbing you of sleep and goading you with guilt? What is your worry that is robbing you of hope, happiness and good humor? What is that worry which is ruining your life? You have tried to push it down, push it away and deal with it. Worry isn’t so easy to get rid of. Still, Jesus comes and promises peace. By the Spirit’s power, believe with all your heart that Jesus, who has the ability to defeat death, who can ignore locked doors, has the power to conquer your worry as well. Believe that the Christ who gave His life for you on a cross 2,000 years ago, loves and wishes to help you.

The apostle Peter said it, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Peter should know. Peter had plenty to be worried about. He tried to talk Jesus out of dying for us; He fell asleep on His Master, when he had been asked to stay awake in prayer; he had, in the courtyard of the high priest, three times denied ever knowing his Lord. That is more than enough to worry about. Still, Jesus took all of Peter’s worrisome shortcomings and failings, forgave them, and empowered Peter to become one of His best and greatest witnesses. That life transforming change can be yours as well. Let the Lord take the worry off your shoulders. Cast your care upon Christ, knowing He cares for you.

The apostle Paul said much the same: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … Do not be anxious about anything … And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7 excerpts). Paul be anxious? Paul should know about anxious. He, who once with a burning vengeance hunted down, arrested, and executed Christ’s followers, was given forgiveness. In Jesus, he found the peace of God which transcends all understanding. He was given God’s peace which dispels anxiety and recreates hearts, minds and lives. He was given Christ Jesus. The same Christ Jesus that should belong to you. The same Christ Jesus that can take care of your worries.

After the tsunami which took place, I read about a Christian lady, a resident of the Philippines, who seemed calm enough, even though all around her were worried. After things had begun to return to normal, some people asked her, “Aren’t you afraid of another earthquake and another tidal wave?” The lady quietly confessed, “No, I’m not. You see, I rejoice to know that I have a God Who is big enough and powerful enough to shake the world. If He’s big enough to do that; He’s big enough to take care of me.”

May the peace of our savior Jesus comfort you and give you the strength to reach out to those around you that are looking to shed the fears of this life. His peace will calm, you and me and all those who call on His name and believe.
Amen.

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