Peace Be With You

It was evening on the first Easter. It was a day of confusion, joy, and fear. That morning Mary had found Jesus’ tomb empty. Two other disciples race to witness it, and all the disciples stare in disbelief as Mary shares the encounter that only she had, with angels and a man who turned out to be the one they all presumed dead:

I’ve seen the Lord!

It was evening that day, and the risen Jesus appeared among the disciples to say:

Peace be with you. 

The disciples were not at peace that day. They all had doubt and fear until each would have their own encounter with the risen Jesus. Even after that, Jesus’ proclamation, command, blessing: Peace be with you, would not sink in for some time.

The disciples were not at peace. They were behind closed doors because they feared the Jewish authorities. It makes sense. They had seen their friend, teacher, and Lord arrested, “tried,” tortured, and executed. They closed the doors to the world they believed responsible for all that. They closed the doors for fear that that world would see their belief, their allegiance to Jesus, and do the same to them. Closing the doors made sense, but it would not bring them peace.

Last week my husband and I prayed for a friend who has a family member being deployed with US troops to Syria. He had a week to prepare himself and his family for this news. He will miss his brother’s wedding, in which he was meant to be the best man.

What does Jesus’ Peace be with you mean today, for us?

How do we receive Peace be with you, in a country that responds to war with acts of war? How do we hear Peace be with you, in a nation that closes the doors to refugees of war, while dropping bombs on the war-torn country?

As we read, hear, and watch these events unfold in the news, it is hard to believe that the peace of God is at work in this world. We may simply turn off the news. There is nothing we can do; it is better to not let these troubles into our minds. We come to believe the world’s answers to the world’s problems. A little more war, done in the right way, will end the war. That’s the only way to fix the unrest. It is hard to believe that the peace Jesus proclaims really is possible.

It was hard for the disciples on that first Easter Day, too. How can they think of peace just a few days after the crucifixion? Closed doors and fear are a better response than vengeance. They’re not going to war with the world they believe responsible for Jesus’ violent death.

This is not enough for Jesus, though. Jesus, the one most wounded by the world’s violence, ignores the disciples’ closed doors and doesn’t stop at saying Peace be with you. Jesus calls them to take peace outside the doors: As the Father sent me, so I am sending you. Jesus is the one who was tortured and killed by people who could not make peace, and he does not condone hiding from that world. He shows the disciples the scars that his body still bears, while he commissions them to go as he has gone.

Still, they couldn’t believe God’s peace was really possible. Still they locked their doors. Still they turned off the news of the world. Still they kept their small community of faith secluded. It is safe here with just us disciples.

8 days later, Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. 8 days later the doors were still locked. 8 days after the wounded and risen Jesus proclaimed peace, 8 days after he sent the disciples to share his peace in the world. Again, Jesus tells them, Peace be with you. Again, he shows his scars.

The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_by_Caravaggio
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

Then Jesus makes reference to us, the ones who would hear about all this later, after Jesus’ ascension, the ones who will not see or touch Jesus’ scars, but will believe in his life and his calling to peace. It is not easy for us, perhaps even harder than it was for those first disciples, perhaps not. Like them, we also worry about following Jesus into the world that wounded him. It is not easy to look at our world and believe that Jesus’ peace is possible here. It is hard to believe that we could make any difference by following Jesus out from our safely closed doors.

We don’t know what will happen when we open the doors, but the disciples’ experience shows that behind our doors we will not even achieve peace for ourselves, much less share peace with others. Scary as it is, we have to go out into the world that crucified Jesus, to be people of Jesus’ peace.

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