April 15 2018 Luke 24.36b-48 “Peace Be With You” Pastor J. Hines
+++The story of Jesus’ surprise visit to the disciples during their prayer meeting is one of the most mystical and mysterious in the bible. [slide # 1 Jesus in the room] Luke writes as if Jesus just appeared like a ghost out of nowhere. They did not see him open the door because it was locked and dead bolted – according to the gospel of John.
They must have looked as if they had seen a ghost. [slide # 2 Thomas open-mouthed] They were already pretty shook up. The reason they had the doors locked tightly was because they were afraid that the chief priests and the Pharisees were going to send thugs to arrest them and persecute them and hang them high like they had done to Jesus.
They were traumatized, having followed Jesus even though those so-called Godly men were constantly hunting him down to harass him. They were jealous of all the attention he was getting. The more attention Jesus got for doing good, the less the establishment received in their offering plates while doing evil.
The disciples had gone through so much with Jesus. Now he had gone and got himself killed and left them behind, grieving and floundering, confused and distressed. Worst of all, their lives were in danger. They were at risk, daring to meet to pray and come up with a plan of protection for their families. They needed a plan to defend themselves or maybe even to disarm the enemy before the enemy had a chance to attack them.
They talked, maybe even argued about what to do next and….. in walks Jesus. [slide # 3 Jesus in center] The atmosphere was filled with anguish, but Jesus dared to speak, and this is what he said: “Peace be with you.”
You would think that they would be relieved knowing that he had just the answer they needed most. But, no. Verse 37 says “They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
There is an important lesson that we can take from Luke’s text this morning. The lesson is that when Jesus brings peace, it can be a very unsettling experience. [slide # 4 man walking tightrope] Our first reaction may be to be scared out of our minds. Peace comes from God. Peace is a product of Heaven. God provides it. Angels deliver it. We receive it. Peace comes from a place that is out of this world. Peace is precious and divine and holy and we may not be used to it. [slide # 5 peace]
There are children in this country who are not used to the peace that others are used to. Some children do not know what life was like before cell phones, computers, or monthly school shootings in the news. More than ever, we are all living on edge! We need to grow together that fruit of the Holy Spirit among others – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (generosity), faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Some children, here and abroad, are not used to families and governments and friends who consciously cultivate the things that make for peace. [slide # 6 child / peace sign]
Isn’t it ironic? Sometimes, we have to fight in order to get peace. Parents have a fight on their hands when they try to get their kids off the computer. [slide # 7 baby on computer] Parents know that too much time on the computer can leave children restless and agitated and without sufficient exercise.
Teachers have to fight with parents who feel safer when their kids have their own cell phone with them at school. Teachers need student’s full attention to get them to absorb advanced material. [slide # 8 student on cell phone] Peace has a price. [slide # 9 Peace has a Price]
I heard a father sharing that he and his wife had learned life-saving information through nar - anon – the narcotic equivalent to al-anon where families gather in a group to discuss their experiences with an addict. [slide # 10 nar-anon] This father learned that they were enabling their drug addicted son. They would give their son what the son wanted because they felt guilty and whenever the son wanted something, he would just keep pushing their buttons until they felt so guilty that they would give him anything – even a path for more drugs. [slide # 11 guilt]
When they stopped the cycle of guilt and giving in, [slide # 12 cold turkey] it was not a pretty picture. [slide # 13 sitting on floor] It was not at all peaceful. However, when they stopped parenting by guilt, the father says, the son began to heal and their story ends with joy just as it did for the disciples. Verse 41 says “While in their joy - the disciples were disbelieving and still wondering…” They didn’t understand what was going on, but they had joy! [slide # 14 joy]
We all have things we may not see until Jesus that moment when Jesus comes to us in our distress and speaks peace into our lives, [slide # 15 peace... sunrise] even though it may be unsettling at first. I was listening to a book about emotional and cultural blind spots that humans have. One well-known example comes from the Innocence Project that has determined that about 70% of [slide # 16 71%...] convictions overturned because of DNA evidence were initially convicted because of an eyewitness who misidentified the suspect. [slide # 17 jail cell]
We pray the Spirit would open our eyes because what we see is so crowded with our own biases, beliefs, and buttons. We want the Holy Spirit to work in us to help us see past whatever walls are blocking our view of all that God is guiding us to. [slide # 18 child looking into scope]
As the saying goes, things are not always what they seem. Skim milk often masquerades as cream.
In one research study on how the mind works, participants viewed a video of an automobile accident. One group was asked how fast they thought the car was going when it was hit and they answered with a certain speed that they thought the car was going. A second group that saw the same video was asked how fast the car was going when it was smashed. Researchers concluded that just because the word “smashed” was used in the question asked to the second group, they answered with speeds that were much higher than the first group.
Another study about emotional blind spots asked three groups of young technology students to write down the last three digits of their social security number. Next they were asked to write down what price they would pay for a keyboard and a mouse and a book. Normally, there would be no correlation between anyone’s social security numbers and the cost of merchandise, but what researchers found is that the higher their social security number, the higher the price they wrote that they were willing to pay for each item. Researchers conclude that what is close to us, culturally, visually, audibly, etc. often bends us in a certain direction. We need to pray and focus on God’s ways because we are surrounded by so many other ways that influence us.
I took a communication course once and on the first day the professor asked us to write down the grade we thought we would get. I wrote a B, my friend wrote an A. I got a B, my friend got an A. On the last day of class, the professor said he gave us exactly what we said we would get. He did that to remind us that our mind has been shaped by a multitude of factors and we need to pay attention to how we think about ourselves and others.
The other thing that I remember most about that communication course was the lecture on magazine advertising. He showed us a picture of an elegant woman in an advertisement for Virginia Slims cigarettes. She was beautifully dressed and the smoke swirled around her like a friendly ghost as she savored the tobacco. When we were instructed to take a closer look, the professor pointed out that the throne that she was sitting on was not a throne at all but an electric chair and the bracelet she wore as her hand lay on the arm of the chair was not a bracelet at all but a handcuff. The subliminal message was the lie that life is beautiful when you do what I do.
That is why we pray. We want the Spirit to work in us to help us focus on where God wants us to go rather than on any lies or limits of our own hearts and minds and cultures and conversations. We pray because prayer brings light that helps us to see the path that leads to peace. Now more than ever, we need the light. [slide # 19 prayer brings…]
As Jesus says to each and every one of us, to our friends, our family…. “Peace be with you!” Let the unsettling journeys begin? [slide # 20 prepared for war…peace] [slide # 21 Thomas looking at Jesus scars]