It is the evening of the day Christ rose from the dead. The two disciples who walked with a stranger as they returned home to Emmaus rushed back to Jerusalem with the news that they had seen Jesus and knew that it was him as they shared a meal with him. While they were telling all this Jesus comes to the disciples again and offers them, as he’s done before, his gift of peace. With this gift Jesus is saying to them ‘all is forgiven,’ your denials, your betrayals, your abandoning me, that’s all in the past. This echoes the words of Isaiah, though your sins be as red as scarlet they shall be white as wool, though they be red as crimson they shall be white as snow. Then Jesus said, I have things for you to do, as the Father has sent me so now I am sending you.
Even seeing Jesus face to face, hearing his voice, seeing him eat a bit of fish they still couldn’t take it in. They were startled, terrified, skeptical, and overjoyed all at the same time. They couldn’t get their heads around the wonder standing before them. Jesus lives, his is risen from the dead.
Patiently he opened their minds to understand the scriptures they all knew but had missed the deeper meaning in them – that the Christ, the Messiah they longed for, was to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations.
It must have been difficult for these disciples to trust in the peace Jesus offers them. They were so ashamed they had let him down so badly. They couldn’t look him in the eye. They knew in their hearts they held grudges and resentments against people who wrong them but no one wronged them the way they wrong Jesus. Yet here he is offering them his peace, his love, his friendship
Forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all the nations because God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The Risen Christ wants us to know that we can have peace with God, we do have peace with God when we repent, admit our sins of selfishness, our bigotry, our rejection of others, our indifference to the sufferings of others, our envy of other peoples blessings, our misuse or squandering of the gifts with which we have been blessed and make up our minds to try harder to be the kind of man, the kind of women we are meant to be as a follower of the risen Christ.
But to know Christ’s peace we have to be at peace with others, especially those closest to us, our spouses, our sons and daughters, our relatives. To know Christ’s peace we have to be at peace with those we feel wronged us by the way they spoke of us or to us. To know Christ’s peace we have to be willing to let go of past hurts and disappointments, let go of our long held grudges. To know Christ’s peace we have to forgive as we seek forgiveness.
As I’ve said so many times, we are good people but we struggle every day with a basic fact of life – the good we would do that we do not and the evil we would not do that we do. We are mistake making beings. There are times when we can make very bad, hurtful, selfish mistakes. It is then more than ever that we need the peace and forgiveness of our Risen Lord.
As one writer observed, ‘my difficulty is not so much in believing that God exists, my difficulty is believing that God loves, that God loves someone like me who has done some pretty awful things in my life. If and when we think like this we we are challenged to hear the words of the risen and forgiving Christ – peace be with you. If and when we fail to trust the peace and forgiveness we could remember the confident words of Paul, the persecutor of the church, ‘there is one thing I go, I forget what is behind and I go with confidence to the throne of grace’. It is there that Paul knew peace. It is there that we will know peace, peace beyond our understanding. Peace be with you.