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About 700 years before Jesus lived and died, the Spirit of God inspired a prophet by the name of Isaiah to write about Him. You might remember reciting Isaiah’s words as a child in one Christmas Eve service or another. The prophet wrote…
“6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV).
Of these different titles for our Savior, today we seize on the last one, the “Prince of Peace”. In our meditation we’ll see how Jesus brings peace to His followers, and to the world.
A few moments ago we read a section from Luke’s Gospel. For our sermon reading we revisit that section. I’ll read it once more so that it’s fresh in our minds.
Luke 24:36-48 (NKJV)
36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things.
As the last of the disciples hastily entered the room, they quickly closed the door and locked it. Many emotions surged in the minds of those gathered in that room, but peace was not one of them. Uncertainty, doubt, and fear filled the minds of these men. And with good reason.
Just a few days previous their world had come crashing down. Their Master and Teacher had been arrested, tried, condemned, and crucified – all in the space of twenty-four hours.
When He was arrested, they had fled, fearing for their lives. And since that time their fear had only grown. If the powers that be were capable of having Jesus murdered, who could say what was in store for His disciples.
And now stranger events had added to their fear. There were reports from their own friends that the tomb of Jesus had been broken open, and that the Master’s body was missing. Some had reported seeing angels. Others that they had seen Jesus Himself, alive!
While you and I might think this should have led the disciples to joy, their minds had not yet put it all together. They were still gripped by fear. And so, as the disciples discussed the events that had been reported, they did so in hushed and tense voices.
But then a new, and confident voice rang out in the room where they had gathered. A strangely familiar voice. It said,
“Peace to you.”
And as every head turned to look at the newcomer, their hearts raced faster, not with elation, but with ever more increasing fear.
Fear is like a tumor in the human mind. One that grows at an alarming rate. When the disciples first saw Jesus, they didn’t respond with joy. Instead their fearful minds gathered in still more fearful thoughts. This must be a ghost! A disembodied spirit come to visit some terror upon them! And they shrank back from Jesus like He was a leper.
But with a calm, and slightly scolding tone, Jesus questioned them, saying,
“Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
If it had been you or me reassuring a loved one that it was us, we might have pointed to a scar, or a tattoo, to prove it. But Jesus had more recent and telling marks to show His disciples. He held up His hands, which still bore the nail holes made to secure Him to the cross. With these he motioned to His feet which bore the same.
But Jesus could see that they still held on to the ghost idea. They still thought that it too good to be true. So, Jesus asked for food and ate it in their presence. And finally, the tense hearts of the disciples relaxed.
They could see that He wasn’t just a ghost. But now, what would show them that He was truly the Master whom they had loved so much? What could prove He was Jesus, the man whom they had traveled with for years? How about something that He had told them in private? Yes. That would do. Jesus spoke once more, saying,
“These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”
Once when they had been alone with Jesus, He had told them that He must suffer and be rejected by the chief priests, that He must be killed, but He would be raised to life again on the third day as ancient prophesy had declared (Luke 9:22). And He had repeated this same thing to the disciples a number of times. Once on the final trip to Jerusalem, again in the upper room on the night He was arrested. (Luke 9:44, 18:31-34, 22:37)
Somehow they had failed to grasp His full meaning on these occasions, but now Jesus helped them to see how His words matched perfectly with what had now taken place.
Fear for their lives had robbed the disciples of their peace. Confusion over recent events had done the same. But now, the Prince of Peace had come to restore their peace by explaining it all.
Jesus’ words to those fearful disciples was like powerful medicine massaged into sore muscles. It worked from the surface inward. First He assured them that He was no ghost. Then that He was indeed their loving teacher who had known God’s plan all along. And then the medicine of Jesus’ words worked all the way to the deepest source of their anxiety – their guilt.
Unless a person has burned away their conscience completely by repeatedly embracing sin, all humans feel a level of guilt over things they have said, done, or thought. The disciples felt this guilt, just like we do. But Jesus now addressed this final antidote to peace. He said,
“Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
We all harbor a sense of mortality in our hearts. We know that one day we will die. And we fear some sort of accounting for the things we’ve done. We sense that we fall short of what God expects. As the Bible clearly declares,
“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NKJV).
“…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23 NKJV).
That’s why it was necessary for Christ to suffer. He suffered for our sins. To take the punishment we deserve away forever. And because Jesus successfully did this by His cross, God the Father raised Him from the dead on the third day, again, as was foretold.
The Prince of Peace brought peace to those first fearful disciples by telling them their sins were now forgiven. And He brings that same peace to us today as we celebrate His resurrection.
Jesus told them that all the crazy events that had recently taken place had happened for a purpose. Now that forgiveness had been earned for sinners, the message of repentance and forgiveness must go out to the nations. Others must hear that message, believe it, and experience the peace that comes with it.
It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter if the people you’ve sinned against don’t forgive you. Because Christ died in your place, God forgives you all your sins. You have peace with your Creator, through His Son. That’s why Isaiah called Him, the “Prince of Peace”!
In the book of Romans it does indeed say,
“...the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a NKJV).
That’s eternal death, not just physical death. That’s eternal separation from God and all His goodness! But that same verse goes on to say,
“…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b NKJV).
That’s the prize we find in the Easter egg of Jesus’ tomb. Free forgiveness for all our sins, and an eternal place in God’s Kingdom of grace.
When Jesus appeared to those first disciples, He swept away their fear and doubt with His physical presence, and with His words which explained all those confusing events.
Just as Jesus’ resurrection brought them peace, it also brings us peace. The resurrection is the Father’s stamp of approval on all that Jesus said and did. The resurrection says, “The sacrifice was accepted. Believe the promise. Your every sin is now gone – through Christ Jesus.
Before we close our meditation this Easter, let me direct your attention, once more, to the last words Jesus spoke to His followers here. He said,
“And you are witnesses of these things.”
The work of saving sinners from Hell was all Jesus’ work. None of the disciples had a part in it. The weight of our sins fell on His back alone when He suffered for us on the cross. But the disciples were there for a reason – to see. And they were there in that locked room to do the same – to see, and hear, and touch – to become His witnesses to the world. This was their role to play. They were to testify concerning the peace that Christ gave them and how it was done. And they did. Their testimony, written down on ancient parchments and copied throughout the centuries is the reason we have gathering here today to celebrate the resurrection. We have come to trust in Christ as our Savior through their words.
And today, like them, we have become witnesses once again. We have seen and heard in our minds what the first disciples saw and heard with their eyes and ears. We are witnesses to the love and forgiveness God has extended to the world of sinners in His Son, Jesus Christ.
When you leave this room today, take that message of forgiveness with you. Hold it in your heart, and it will continue to give you peace and strength. Speak of it with your mouth, and it will become the possession of others as well.
It is a simple message: You’re a condemned sinner, but Jesus is your Savior. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be troubled. Don’t doubt. Trust in the God who keeps His promises.
And when the fear sets in, and the worries gather around you, remember those fearful disciples huddling in that locked room. Remember Jesus’ first words to them,
“Peace to you”.
And remember that the Prince of Peace, who once was dead – He is Risen!