R.I.P.

Sermon based on Mark 8:27-38 (Rom. 5:1-11) for the Second Sunday in Lent

Dear saints at peace with God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

One of the most widespread wars in human history ended seventy years ago. The Second World War included most of the world’s nations, including all of the great powers. Battles took place on land, sea, and in the air. Peoples were displaced, homes destroyed, infrastructure demolished, cities annihilated. Over the course of the war an estimated 50 to 85 million people were killed. When the surrender documents were finally signed and the war was over, people could again return to their lives. Life could return to where there had been nothing but bloodshed. There was peace.

In our Epistle today, Paul writes about peace. He writes that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our war with God is over. We, who were enemies of God, have been reconciled to Him by the death of His Son. There is peace.

This was Peter’s confession. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Peter confessed that Jesus is the bringer of peace.

That’s not what the people said about Jesus. The people said that He was John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets. They said nothing mean or negative about Him. They don’t say anything bad about Jesus. He’s a good guy, like these other good prophets. Many still say the same today. Jesus was a good religious leader and died for His cause. As long as He is just a prophet, then everything is okay. There’s always room for another prophet. Even the Pharisees were willing to call Him “Rabbi” or teacher.

The problem is if He is the Christ, the Saviour of the world. The problem is if He is the Son of the living God who came to save us. The problem is if He is God in the flesh who came to take our sins away and give us peace. The people stumbled on this problem and did not accept the truth of who Jesus is.

But Peter confesses the truth of who Jesus saying, “You are the Christ.” But we immediately see that he did not understand what he was saying. Jesus responds to Peter’s confession by saying that He must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. Peter takes Jesus aside to rebuke Him. “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Mt. 16:21) “Stop talking nonsense about suffering and dying. You’re here to save us, not die. You’re here to bring us peace, not die in a battle with the elders, chief priests, and scribes.”

We see that Peter’s confession was not his own. He didn’t come up with the answer that Jesus is the Christ on his own. It was revealed to him not by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven (Mt. 16:17).

Peter had very different ideas about peace. Peace would come when Jesus would put the elders, chief priests, and scribes in their place. Peace would come when Jesus would conquer the Romans occupying Jewish territory. There is no peace in suffering! There is no peace in death! That’s what Peter thought.

But Jesus responds, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter thinks he knows better than God how to bring about peace. That is satanic.

It is exactly through Jesus’ death and resurrection that we have peace with God. Our Epistle tells us that we were enemies of God. Not friends that occasionally don’t get along. Enemies. Not colleagues who sometimes don’t see eye to eye. Enemies. Every one of our sins put us as enemies of God. Our sins mean war! Our sins mean screaming-in-your-face enemies of God shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” at the top of our lungs.

Jesus conquering the Romans would not have helped us one iota. Jesus putting the elders, chief priests, and scribes in their place wouldn’t have meant squat. Neither would it have put us one step closer towards peace.

However, taking our sins upon Himself, Jesus takes them from us. Dying on the cross for our sins means taking our punishment on Himself. Instead of declaring war on us, God the Father declared war on His Son. God’s full battle force attacked Jesus instead of us. Taking the full force of God’s war on sin, Jesus saved us from God’s wrath and anger. Now peace has been declared. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We were reconciled to Him by the death of His Son.

So there is peace in death. We have peace because of Jesus’ death. There may not seem to have been too much peace in the scourging, suffering, and crucifixion of our Lord, but that is why we have peace. That is why we can mark our graves with “R.I.P.” It comes from the Latin, but the same English letters are also rendered “Rest in Peace.” We can rest in peace because Jesus rested in the tomb after His death for us. Jesus’ three-day rest in the tomb hallowed the graves of all who believe in Him, promising resurrection to our mortal bodies. In Christ, we have eternal peace.

Our past sins are forgiven. Our past as enemies of God has been wiped out. We have peace. Thus we can boldly pray as we sung in our sermon hymn:

Lord, let at last Thine angel come,

To Abr’ham’s bosom bear me home,

That I may die unfearing;

And in its narrow chamber keep

My body safe in peaceful sleep

Until thy reappearing.

And then from death awaken me,

That these mine eyes with joy may see,

O Son of God, Thy glorious face,

My Saviour and my fount of grace.

Lord, Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,

And I will praise Thee without end. (LSB (708 st. 3)

We rest in peace because Jesus ended the war. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Chirist Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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