Dear people expecting Jesus,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Peace be to this house” (Luke 10:5). He is on His way. He will be here soon. Jesus of Nazareth is coming. He is coming to heal and to teach and to deliver you. This good and glad news was spoken in cities, towns, and villages, by those sent out by Jesus to the places where He would come. Luke is the only Evangelist, the only Gospel writer, to tell us about Jesus sending out a larger group of emissaries to tell people the good news that He was on His way. This has led many people to speculate that although St. Luke was not one of the twelve disciples, he may have been one of this larger group sent out by Jesus.
Whether or not he was one of them, in a very real way St. Luke has fulfilled their mission. For Luke’s greetings of peace and words of preparation and comfort have gone out to cities, towns, and villages all around the world. His Gospel is read from house to house, including this very house of prayer and, I hope, also in your individual houses. Luke, the Evangelist, has been preparing us for the coming of Jesus, for His final coming when He will, in a final and glorious and loving way, heal all our diseases, reveal to us all mysteries, and deliver us from every oppressing evil of sin, death, and the devil.
Over and over again the words of Luke have sounded forth in our houses proclaiming the peace of Christ Jesus. In this poet’s winged word, the nation’s have seen their coming Lord. Luke recorded for us the song sung once by firstborn sons of light which now echoes across the globe, not only every Christmas but at every Divine Service when we sing the angels’ Gloria in Excelsis, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). Luke’s ready pen inscribed for us the songs of our faith as he recorded the great canticles of the Church: Zechariah’s Benedictus, Mary’s Magnificat, and Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis, which we will take up for meditation at our midweek Evening Prayer this Advent. We share in the faith and the confession of that faith with these first Christians because the Lord sent out Luke to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5).
In the words of Luke’s Gospel, the peace of God has entered our house, like it entered the house of Zacchaeus and brought to it the gift of salvation (Luke 19:9). God has entered here to seek and to save the lost, and He does so through the words of Jesus recorded in Luke’s Gospel. The living and active word brings salvation. It forgives sins and offers peace and communion at the meal where Christ Himself is present with us.
As the resurrected Jesus travelled with the two disciples to Emmaus and answered their plea to abide with them as fast fell the eventide (Luke 24:29), so Jesus enters here and we hear His words as He took bread, gave thanks, and gave it to them. Luke and the other evangelists record not only events and the very words spoken by Jesus, but through them the Lord effects for us what He gave to His disciples in the upper room, on the cross, and at table after His resurrection. The body and blood of Christ are present with us by the almighty, ever-living words of Jesus.
“Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). For Jesus is on His way. He is coming to heal bodies broken, to deliver from oppression, to save sinners. As this message of good news recorded by Luke is proclaimed around the world and in your very home, “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9).
Our Lord is coming and we are the Zechariahs who are feebly holding onto God’s promises and need the words of the Benedictus to issue forth from our mute mouths, confessing that “God has visited and redeemed His people” (Luke 1:68) in Jesus Christ our Saviour. We are those lost in our sins of greed and corruption who need Jesus to appear at the table to bring salvation to this house as He seeks and saves the lost just as He did for Zaccheaus. We are the disciples on the way to Emmaus blinded by grief and doubting the sure and clear promises of the crucified. And it is to us and in our house that Jesus comes and reveals Himself in the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:35).
Our merciful Lord and Saviour is not content to pass us by as His kingdom draws near. He comes to this very house. He even prepares the way by sending out His Word, written down by Luke and preached by pastors, to extend the peace of Christ into our hearts and homes. He does not want you to miss this. He does not want you to be caught unawares or to be absent. He does not want you to be without the peace that His Word of forgiveness and comfort brings.
How tragic it is then, that the Lord in sending out His preachers has to issue warnings. Everyone is in need of the peace that they bring but not everyone will receive it peacefully. He tells them, “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3). Yet they are not to take provision for themselves but trust that those who receive their message of peace will provide for them. There is the possibility that they won’t be well received. The Lord tells them that if there is no son of peace where they go, their offer of His peace will return upon them. They will find peace even when those to whom they are sent don’t show them any. For the source of all peace is the one who sent them.
Their provision and peace is the word that they bring, the word of the coming Jesus. The Jesus who brings peace to the house of Zacchaeus and to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, gives the same peace to those who preach it. He gave this same peace to St. Luke, who faithfully wrote down what the eye-witnesses delivered to him (Luke 1:1-4). They delivered the words and deeds of Jesus that they themselves saw and heard.
Luke wrote of the peace that they saw coming to an old priest like Zecharias, and to a humble maiden like Mary, to shepherds out in the fields, and to the elderly Simeon in the temple. They saw Jesus save Zacchaeus and other tax collectors and sinners. They saw Jesus cause the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear. They saw Him crucified, dead, and buried, and they saw Him resurrected, living, and ascending to heaven with the promise that He will come again.
Jesus left the instruction that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (24:47). For He is coming. He is on His way. That is why His word is proclaimed in this house and in your own. He is coming with salvation. And He has peace for us even now, that we might know our sins are forgiven in His death and resurrection for sinners. He has peace in the promise of eternal healing, and the restoration of loved ones lost. He has peace in the words that He spoke to sinners, so that we might know what He speaks to us. For we are the sinners He came to save, the lost He came to seek.
Luke provides us with the songs of the faithful, the precious Christmas Gospel, the resurrection account that has inspired hymns across the centuries, like Abide with Me and…
Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide, For round us falls the eventide.
O let Your Word, that saving light, Shine forth undimmed into the night.
Luke provides us with the account of the Day of Pentecost and the bold preaching and mission activity of Peter and John, Philip the deacon, and the Paul who had Luke as his companion on much of his mission journeys. The words of Luke’s Gospel and of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles bring the Holy Spirit’s work to us. As He was active in the first century church, so He is active now through the Word preached and proclaimed as Luke recorded it. The Spirit is active now in you through this Word as Jesus comes and the kingdom of God draws near to you.
These weren’t just the words and actions spanning several decades two thousand years ago. Luke was not just writing a history, although it is history. He was writing, inscribing, the very way that God is at work in you, delivering to you the gifts of Jesus, forgiving your sins, calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying you and the whole Christian Church around the world and throughout the ages.
These words were not just written by Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, spoken by Jesus. They were also the words that worked on Luke himself. These are the words that transformed a physician of the body into a physician of the soul. The Gospel bearing his name was not only to provide the healing words of Jesus to the world, but to Luke himself. It is by these words that he found forgiveness for his sins, that he was strengthened in the one true faith, that he was able to accompany Paul and provide for him in his times of need. Luke heard the greeting of peace through the words proclaimed about Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners, and Luke provided for the bodily needs of those who proclaimed it to him. When everyone else had deserted the imprisoned Apostle Paul, Luke alone was with him (2 Timothy 4:11).
You see, the words of this Gospel, the words of Scripture, are not just words cast out on the wind. They are not just broadcast into the air to become part of the cultural environment in which peoples and nations exist and move through time. These words and deeds of Jesus, recorded by men like Luke, come to those people whom Jesus continues to seek and to save. These words came to Luke, just like they came to Zecharias and Mary and Zacchaeus. And these words have come to you. These are the words of salvation that have come to you here and now. “Peace be to this house.”
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.