Sunday, 15 April 2012
2nd Sunday of Easter, Shaftesbury
Jn 20:19-31; 1 Jn 5:1-6
As we just heard, when Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples, He claimed to give them "peace", He appeared and said “Peace be with you”. And as the second half of that verse continued, "and [He] showed them His hands and His side". He then proceeded to offer the forgiveness of sins. I want to say a word today about why all these things are connected: “peace”, His wounds, and forgiveness.
Peace is one of those things that we recognise most in its absence, when we feel a LACK of peace. I want to the note two particular ways that we can feel a lack of INNER peace: First, there is the type of un-peace we feel when we experience fear, or feeling weak, or feeling barely able to cope -the type of peace that can leave us feeling queasy inside. Second, there is the type of un-peace that comes with the inner conflict of sin, when we feel that tension within us such that we do not have peace. In both of these situations true peace can only be found if there is peace with God, if I myself personally am at peace with God.
Thinking about that first type of un-peace, it's very easy and very common to attempt to deny that I am weak, that I have something to fear, that I'm not really able to cope. But any human's denial of the weakness that is part of our condition is actually a very hollow strength, it’s a strength that is vulnerable to being exposed for the weakness that lies beneath.
If, however, I admit that I am weak, and if I turn to Him who has the power to strengthen me, then I am turning to the one who is able to bring peace.
Returning to that image of the triumphant resurrected Jesus displaying His wounds to His disciples, what He was displaying in that act was His victory. Death had tried to defeat Him and yet had failed. He had shown He was stronger than death, stronger than evil, stronger than anything that we can fear might assail us. In short, He has shown that He is the strength that we in our weakness can turn to, that we can depend on, in whom we can have "peace".
Returning to that second type of un-peace, all sin does not merely make us "enemies of God" (Col 1:21) it also puts us in conflict with our own inner nature, puts us in conflict with ourselves, puts us in conflict with our neighbour. The only resolution to such conflict, the only way to "peace" is forgiveness, the forgiveness that Christ won on the cross, the forgiveness that, as we just heard, Jesus handed on to His Apostles that they might hand on down to the priests today, "for those who sins you forgive, they are forgiven" (Jn 20:23).
This too requires us to admit our weakness, our failure, our sin, because it is only “if we confess our sin [that] He will forgive our sin” (1 Jn 1:9).
In both cases God's activity in our weakness brings us peace. And, there is another added dimension we can expect, namely the relief, the JOY that comes with this sort of peace, with the joy of knowing His strength, and His forgiveness.
When we feel that the weight of the world rests on our own shoulders then we feel crushed.
When we know instead that the weight to the world rests on HIS shoulders, and that He is strong enough to carry it, strong enough “to overcome the world”(1 Jn 5:4), then we have relief, joy, peace.
This is what He has won on the Cross and what He has manifested in displaying His victorious wounds, and is why He alone is able to say to us, “Peace be with you”. “A peace which the world cannot give you, this is my gift to you”(Jn 14:27).