A sermon preached by The Rev. Justin Clemente on April 15, 2018, the third Sunday of Eastertide at New Creation Church (Anglican), Hagerstown, MD.
Text: Luke 24:36-49
Think of how gracious Jesus’ first words are in this passage: “Peace to you!” Think of the wonder of these words! To whom? The deserters. The deniers. These men are first to receive Christ’s forgiveness, even as they are called to proclaim it. There is a great lesson here, not only for ourselves, but in how we are treat others in Christ’s body. J.C. Ryle puts it like this:
“We must not cast off men because they do not see everything at once. We must not despise the humblest and most childish means, if we can only persuade men to believe. Such dealing may require much patience. But he who cannot condescend to deal thus with the young, the ignorant, and the uneducated, has not the mind of Christ. Well would it be for all believers, if they would remember Paul’s words more frequently, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak.”
In verse 40, Jesus shows them “his hands and his feet.” They are overwhelmed with joy. Why? Because they were beginning to realize that the wounds were for them, first of all. If we know this ourselves, then the word on our lips will be “peace” as well. This is powerfully illustrated in Les Miserables. The main character is, of course, the hardened ex-con, Jean Valjean. In the course of the story, he steals silver candlesticks from a Christian, a bishop, in fact, who has already shown him kindness. He is caught by the police, brought back to the bishop and…the bishop gives him the candlesticks, forgives him, leading to his release from arrest. Valjean is deeply affected and troubled by this.
Here’s how the narrator puts it: “He was distinctly conscious that the pardon of this priest was the greatest assault and the most formidable attack which had moved him yet; that his obduracy was finally settled if he resisted this clemency; [and] that if he yielded, he should be obliged to renounce that hatred with which the actions of other men had filled his soul through so many years, and which pleased him.”
The disciples, and we, are here like Valjean – receiving Jesus’ radical grace. If we receive this grace we are then also called, as Paul tells us, to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7). What a challenge this is! Not least of all in the every day relationships of the home, work, and the church. Let how we treat others be determined by Jesus word to us – “Peace!”