First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

With Glad Hearts

With Glad Hearts
Acts 2:24-28, Psalm 16:5-11; John 20:19-22
First United Methodist Church, April 19, 2020
Pastor Toni Carmer

Peace be with you,” Jesus said to his disciples.  “Peace be with you.

It’s been 10 days since Jesus died on the cross and was placed in a tomb.  It’s been a week since he was resurrected: a week since Mary Magdalene had seen him in the garden, with his burial clothes tossed aside.  It’s been a week since she had run to tell the disciples, as Jesus had instructed her to do, telling them they were to go to Galilee.  They were to go home, and there, he would see them.

It had been a week, and yet the disciples are here, behind locked doors, uncertain, fearful, most likely, that they too, might be arrested, tried and crucified.

They hadn’t stood as strong as they expected…they hadn’t been as strong as they had told Jesus they would be.  They thought they were ready, but apparently, by now, they could see they hadn’t been.  It seems that after his arrest they had scattered and pretty much disappeared.  Of course, we remember Peter, outside the high priest’s house, but that wasn’t a moment he was proud of.  He was disappointed in himself.  Couldn’t believe he had done such a thing.  Jesus would be disappointed in him, too, he couldn’t help but think. John had been at the cross.  Jesus had seen him there.  Jesus had presented John to his mother—and his mother to John.  “Behold your son,” Jesus had said.  “Behold your mother.”  

He was still taking care of them even as he was dying on that cross.

But now, somehow, here he was, appearing and standing among them.  Peace be with you, he said.  He didn’t chastise them for their lack of faithfulness, he didn’t ask questions they couldn’t yet answer: what are you doing, what were you thinking, why didn’t you believe what I was telling you?

Instead, he offered them peace. And then he showed them his hands and his side.  If they’d had any question that this was him, if later they might have said—hey wait a minute, there just wasn’t something right about all that—he showed them the proof by way of the wounds that had been inflicted upon him.  The wounds they had tried not to see; that they feared receiving themselves.  

When they saw the wounds they were convinced, they knew this was Jesus.  It really was him!!  He had come to them, even though they had let him down—even though they had let themselves down.  And he offered them peace. This was a familiar Jewish greeting: one you would offer to a friend, on the street, when you entered one another’s home, when you wished good will—peace.  Peace be with you, Jesus said to them. And their response was to rejoice!  Of course!  Peace!  Peace be with you!    

I’m guessing each one of us can recall a time when we’ve fallen short.  When we’ve regretted something we’ve said or done.  Perhaps we’d admit that we’ve felt shame or sorrow or embarrassment and cringed at the thought of coming face-to-face with the one we’ve wronged. But then, when that moment happened, instead of angry words or a well-deserved dressing down, we were offered grace.  Grace beyond our deserving, grace beyond our ability to understand.

That’s what happened when the disciples met the resurrected Lord that day.  They were so relieved: their shame disappeared and they rejoiced.

In that moment of relief, Jesus repeated the blessing, “Peace be with you,” and then continued, saying that as God had sent him, so now he was sending them.  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

The story immediately following this one in the Gospel of John that we didn’t read today is about Thomas—how he wasn’t there, and how he needed to see and even touch the wounds of Jesus in order to be convinced that Jesus had really been present—that he had risen from the dead.  The poor guy has carried around the nickname of Doubting Thomas for all these centuries later, and yet, it’s important to remember that the none of the disciples apparently totally believed Mary’s witness to the resurrection.  None of them seemed to believe until they had the opportunity to see Jesus for themselves.  

So Jesus came to them. And then he came again, so that Thomas could see.  Jesus offers Thomas the opportunity to touch his wounds just as he had told the others he needed to do—but then, when Thomas saw Jesus, he no longer needed to touch him.  He simply believed: “My Lord, and my God,” Thomas said when Jesus returned to him.

We can see in this text that it’s not about who we are, what we can do, how strong we are, or even how fearful or weak or disappointed in ourselves we might be.  It’s about who God is. Jesus came to the disciples—they weren’t out looking for him—but he came to them, to the place where they were.  And he gave them exactly what they needed.  It was grace.

And so, it was with glad and thankful hearts that were able to go out and do what Jesus had been preparing them to do. 

He offers us grace, too.  He offers us new life.  And peace.  This isn’t a very peaceful time, we’re worried about a lot of things. But may we receive the peace that can only come through Jesus: a peace the Bible says, that passes all understanding.  May we allow this time at home, or at least away from our usual schedules and our usual people—help us to take a breath (a lot of us aren’t so good at that), to remember our priorities, (we get those mixed up, don’t we?) and to let go of the reigns that so many of us are accustomed to handling (I know, it’s really hard to do that).  Pray that you and that all of us will learn lessons that can make our lives fuller.  Remember those around you who may not have the community you have, who might need help getting needed items, who might just need a phone call.  And remember that as Jesus came to his first disciples, so, too, does he come to us…seeking us out, offering us grace, offering us peace, giving us what we need.

May that make our hearts glad.

In Jesus’ name.