A message well worth repeating
The Rev. MATTHEW D. RUESCH
Pastor, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
How do you get an important point across? You might raise your voice or make dramatic hand gestures. If you’re texting or posting on Facebook, you might use ALL CAPS or attach a picture.
Even the authors of the Bible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had their own way of emphasizing something that they wanted to reader to take to heart. In the Biblical world, that was done through repetition. If you see something repeated in the Bible, you know it’s worth taking note. Take, for example, Psalm 136, where the author–over the span of 26 verses — says 26 times “His steadfast love endures forever.” Jesus Himself, before He would say something of note, would say “Truly, truly.”
Those words are actually literally translated, “Amen, amen.” In John 8, Jesus says of himself to a crowd of Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (v. 58, ESV) The reader of John’s Gospels takes note by means of Jesus’ repetition, that Jesus calling himself by the name of Yahweh is very significant. Moreover, all throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus repeats the name “I am” seven other times in verses that are well-known to all of us. (“I am the bread of life,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” etc.)
Many of us heard another word from St. John’s Gospel that is traditionally read on the first Sunday after Easter. It’s where Jesus appears to His disciples on Easter evening to gift them with the Holy Spirit and then appears again eight days later to the same group, plus a “doubting” Thomas. The Sunday school lessons of our childhood emphasize Thomas’ doubt and Jesus’ appearance to show the wounds in his hands, feet and side. But perhaps we skip over what Jesus repeats three times in this text.
“Peace be with you.” (20:19)
“Peace be with you.” (20:21)
“Peace be with you.” (20:26)
Jesus and St. John the Evangelist want you to notice this. Not only are Jesus’ words repeated, they’re said three times: a number that we associate with the Holy Trinity. What was the point of everything the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — had just done over the course of Holy Week? Why the suffering, the dying, the burying, the rising? Peace. Jesus, the “Prince of Peace,” comes to bring peace to a world that needs it desperately.
That word — peace — strikes a dissonant tone right now. A dissonant sound is one that doesn’t belong. It would sort of be like listening to a beautiful orchestral piece and suddenly, in the middle of a flute solo, the flutist strikes an out-of-tune note. It doesn’t fit with the melodies and harmonies of the composition. Peace seems out of place at this moment. Very few of us feel “at peace,” being required to stay in our homes. There isn’t much peace in our state capitals right now. One doesn’t get a sense of peace listening to the news reports updating the COVID-19 cases and deaths from the pandemic.
That’s not new, though, is it? We have families that miss peace … careers that don’t have peace … social media accounts that are without peace … communities, governments and institutions that are peaceless. The world in which we live is a world without peace.
For that very reason, the Prince of Peace came, took the sin of the world … the sin of human history, upon the body that he assumed at his incarnation. He offered himself to his Father as the peace offering for all of humanity. He rose on the third day and appeared to his followers, showing them his wounds and proclaiming peace.
You need peace. Find it in the risen Lord Jesus. Look on his wounds through eyes of faith. Find peace in his death for your sins and in his resurrection as the promise of your resurrection. His word gives to you exactly what it says: Peace.
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!