EASTER SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 9 April 2023
Sermon Text: John 20:11-23
Sermon Video: Click this LINK to watch
I. Peace to weeping eyes
II. Peace to fearing hearts
III. Peace to dying sinners
The message of Jesus’ resurrection has been preached ceaselessly since the day of Jn. 20 and over the past 2,000 years. This message has reached the four corners of the world, reaching almost the very remote parts of the world. Meanwhile, it has rescued numerous people from sin’s darkness and moved them into Jesus’ marvellous saving light. You and I belong to this great multitude of Christians. This message of the living Jesus is the reason for the joy of every Christian.
Yet, there’re still many doubters in the world. It seems that, at any moment in time, doubters appear to be more than believers. While Christians give thanks to God and celebrate the blessings of Jesus’ resurrection, doubters are totally indifferent to what Easter is all about. To us Christians, Easter is the foundation of our faith and joy, as the Apostle Paul pointed this out to be of ‘the first importance.’ But, the unbelieving mind considers it a myth, if not a joke. On Easter morning, an unbeliever asked a Christian, ‘How do you know Jesus is alive?’ The Christian replied, ‘Because I’m going to church to meet Him and worship Him this morning, will you join me?’ Easter is reality to Christians, but to any doubter it is simply another day that adds more futility to their futile mind.
But to us Christians, Easter is reality. I mean, we live in the power of Jesus’ resurrection; we breathe in the blessed promise of the Lord’s everlasting life and breathe out the same blessing in words and deeds. Every day we live on earth is, in this sense, Easter. That is to say, we live in ‘peace’ Jesus gave us. About this peace, Rom. 5:1 states, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” So, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” In fact, Jesus’ work on the cross is, in a word, peace. Eph. 2:14 firmly says that Jesus Himself is ‘our peace.’ Living in this Christian faith is, therefore, living in the Lord’s peace.
No wonder why our risen Lord’s first greeting to His beloved was “Peace be with you”! He specifically chose these words to greet His disciples. It might sound not too significant, as this could sound simply following the way of Jewish greetings in Hebrew, ‘shalom,’ only translated into Greek. But that’s not the intention of Jesus. The Lord specifically pronounces ‘peace’ to His beloved – and that twice, in vs. 19 and 21 – because believing in the Saviour is their ‘peace’; living in Him is to live in peace with God and one another; in fact, every aspect of their life in faith would be in heavenly ‘peace.’ So, Jesus declares peace to not only those gathered in a locked room in Jerusalem in the 1st century but also to all His disciples after them, including you and me.
This is what we’ll focus today – I mean, the Lord’s greeting, “Peace be with you,” and its significance to us as to those people of Jn. 20.
I. PEACE TO WEEPING EYES
First of all, this peace Jesus gives wipes away every tear from our eyes.
Let us consider this through what happened on the first Easter morning. As we read from Jn. 20:11, a woman named Mary was standing outside of the empty tomb, weeping, because the body of Jesus was missing. Her sorrow seems to be so deep that her mind did not fully function and she was unable to perceive things around her. Weeping, she stoops to look into the tomb. And she sees two angels. But there’s no hint in Jn. 20 that their presence in the tomb had any effect on her. Seeing angels, she shows no sign of fear or even of being surprised.
Moreover, she exchanges a fairly casual conversation with the angels. The angels ask, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Here, the angel’s addressing her as ‘woman’ is a respectful way according to the Jewish custom. Jesus also addressed His mother the same way once. Then, listen to Mary’s reply to the angels, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” What follows this actually shocks us; having said this, she turns around and sees the risen Lord Jesus. But she does not recognise Him!
I don’t think she failed to recognise Jesus because she wasn’t expecting Him to stand there alive. I believe, instead, her deep sorrow disabled her eyesight as well as hearing. Her agonising heart and tears blocked her senses. Isn’t it strange? She was weeping as she missed the Lord and for the absence of His body. But she doesn’t recognise the Lord’s voice nor His face!
Her case is not totally strange to us, however. Like her case, many people have their heart so deeply occupied with the sorrows of the world. People see their days on earth as survival. We’re tired of worrying over things. Almost everything of our earthly life brings tears to our hearts, if not to our eyes. We’re so occupied with the sorrows of this world. This is not just for the unbelievers; even believers do worry and often weep over many things, and our sorrow often blocks us from hearing the Lord’s voice!
Jesus declares peace to Mary and to us, and wipes away tears from our eyes. Hear the risen Lord’s voice, calling her name tenderly, “Mary!” His voice brings peace to her and the Lord’s peace wipes tears from her weeping eyes. He does the same for us and takes away every tear and worldly sorrow. Now, seeing Jesus, Mary grabs hold of Him the Lord! Likewise, looking at the Lord risen from the dead is our peace. If anyone is sorrowful, look to Jesus who is our peace.
II. PEACE TO FEARING HEARTS
Moreover, Jesus’ rising from the empty tomb gives ‘peace’ to fearing hearts. The truth of the living Lord strengthens every believing heart and removes from it all fear.
Again, let us consider this with the happenings on the first day of Jesus’ resurrection. As you know well, Jesus’ disciples are hiding themselves in a room. They have locked the doors firmly and keeping guard on the situation on the streets. They’re deeply afraid of and terrified by the Jews and their authorities. After all, they have crucified Jesus! If they have done such a terrible thing to Jesus, they would easily come and drag His disciples out for the same fate.
Their fear is more than understandable. Fearing in such a situation seems to be quite normal, doesn’t it? A pastor of north London church was arrested in 2021 under the UK’s Public Order Act for allegedly making ‘homophobic comments’ during a public sermon. A German preacher was under disciplinary proceedings by not only the government authority but also the denomination he belonged to and that was due to his preaching on biblical truth on marriage. Israel Folau is a similar case happened on our own land, following his social media postings quoting some Bible verses. But the disciples have seen the Lord’s crucifixion and hiding behind the locked door seems to be reasonable and understandable.
Yet, there is more fundamental fear in everyone’s heart. That is, fear of physical injury, fear of socio-economical loss, fear of losing of various things of life. But the deepest and greatest of all is fear of death! This kind of fear is not the matter of choice but innate in every human being.
The fundamental fear Jesus’ disciples of Jn. 20 had was of being dragged out and losing their life. The fundamental fear you and I and every human being on earth have is to leave this flesh and leave this world behind. This fundamental fear has a dreadful shadow, and that is, facing the unknown world that would follow our physical death.
The Lord Jesus gives His peace to this fearing heart of man. His appearing to His disciples was itself the most powerful message of peace, wasn’t it? He rose from death, their fundamental fear. The living Lord declares to us the same message of peace. Easter is the day we reaffirm our peace in Him. In fact, on every Lord’s Day, we gather together before God because peace is declared to us in Jesus; we give thanks to our God because we’re living in this peace the risen Lord has granted us.
Based on the Lord’s resurrection, the Apostle Paul teaches about our resurrection in 1 Cor. 15. The gist of his teaching is that we’ll not die but go through the process of transforming into a glorious form of existence. There will be some details you might like to know more, but that’s of secondary importance. The primary concern is that death is stripped off in terms of exercising power over Christians. The sting of death is removed from you and from me because Jesus has already taken it upon Himself in His death on the cross. What remains with us is simply to take off the present sin-affected flesh to receive an incorruptible body with pure spirit to dwell in the presence of God.
This gives us perfect peace of heart, does it not? Consider you’re reading a storybook. The main character of the story is in a horrible situation. Danger approaches from every direction and it seems that he has got no way out. But, if you’ve already read the last chapter, including the epilogue, would the imminent danger the hero or heroine faces thrill you or frighten you? It would never because you know the end of it. Likewise, you’ve seen Jesus the risen Lord, then, what would frighten you? Death? Injuries? Loss of this or that in your life? No, nothing will make you fearful; nothing will drive you shiver.
This kind of tranquillity of heart is given to you and me by Jesus. “Peace be with you” means this kind of peace. Things like the COVID-19 virus cannot corner you nor will war, famine, natural disaster frighten you! If then, could any man or government make our faith dwindle or make us shrink in fear? Not at all! We’ve received from the risen Lord ‘peace’ that removes all fear from our believing heart.
III. PEACE TO DYING SINNERS
The last point for us to consider on this Easter morning is our task of bringing the message of peace to dying sinners.
The risen Lord Jesus sends us for this task. Hear Him telling you and me alongside those who heard this commission from the Lord firsthand – it’s in v. 21, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.” Then, He breathed on them (and on us), saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The message we’re entrusted to bring to dying sinners is the gospel, good news, of peace. Hearing it and believing its message, all tears will be wiped away from their eyes. Hearing it, their hearts will be calmed and strengthened. This is the message of peace to man who is in war against God. Man had declared war on God, but God would declare ‘peace’ to those who would believe.
In fact, this is a kind of message none of us can hold to ourselves. It naturally overflows from us. No matter what you do, you cannot conceal it to yourself. Your peaceful heart emanates joy; your peaceful soul pours out Jesus’ love. And this is apparent to all around you, readily visible to everyone’s eyes. You and I are, in this sense, a letter from Christ, “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tables of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
So, do not consider that the risen Lord’s commissioning anyone for this task is for missionaries or church ministers. Every Christian is sent out to carry this mission out. From the moment Jesus’ peace wiped away your tears, from the moment all fears are taken away from your heart, your commission has begun, and you’re on this privileged task of bringing Jesus’ eternal peace!
Let me conclude today’s message for us. We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection today as we do on every Lord’s Day. The Lord’s resurrection is not a hypnotic trick nor a rumour nor a myth; it is a fact, a true historical event testified by so many witnesses and records. The only thing that dismisses this true historical fact is sinful man’s rejection of Jesus.
We used to be not different in disobedience and rebellion. But now, the resurrection of the true and living Lord and Saviour of all is real to us, and this has become the sole foundation of our peace! In this peace, we fear no one; in this peace, no tears fall from our eyes, but rejoice always in the life of Jesus! We have both ‘peace with God’ and the ‘peace of God’ through Jesus’ resurrection. ***