On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:19-29)
We don’t know exactly what went on in that upper room in the days after Christ died, but the Gospels give us a pretty good idea. We know there was fear—that’s why his followers were hiding out, shut up behind a thick wooden door in a small room in the attic of a house.
We find ten disciples cowering in a room, afraid to come out. The doors were shut and locked; the drapes were drawn, the widows were closed and the disciples were full of fear and despair. They have just seen their Lord and Master crucified on a cross and buried. Then on the third day His body disappeared from the tomb. Although the angels at the tomb tried to reassure them, they were still afraid. They still DID NOT understand that Jesus had risen from the grave.
“Overwhelmed” is a good way to describe how the disciples must have felt after Jesus died, huddled together in their fear and confusion, not knowing where to turn or what to do next. Their leader and teacher who had held them together all those long months was dead and buried, executed like a common criminal, and his body now missing from the tomb. What a disappointing turn of events! When Jesus was laid in that tomb, there went all their hope, their vision, their sense of direction and purpose in life. They were left only with an overwhelming sense of failure, loss, and shame, because they knew they had deserted Jesus in his hour of need. Were they more disappointed and disillusioned with themselves or with Jesus, who had raised their hopes so high?
Jesus had been executed; they could easily be next. They feared those who caused the death of Jesus would come after them. (Not an unrealistic concern). But most of all, they were paralyzed with fright – they did not know what to do or what was going to happen to them. There was also confusion. What had actually happened? Had his body been taken, or was he really alive? It also seems there was some disagreement among them: the women were convinced they’d seen him, but the disciples had a hard time believing the report (after all, why had Mary Magdalene – a woman – been the first one to see the risen Christ?) They were at loose ends.
And then there was the matter of what to do next. Should they pack up and go home—back to their fishing nets and tax-collecting booth? Or should they carry on with their mission? But what exactly was their mission, now that Jesus was gone? And who was in charge? So it was a troubled crew of Christ-followers gathered in that room that day.
They were full of doubt, and misgivings (had they been duped by a charlatan?), and fear. Could a dead body REALLY rise again?
Then Jesus appeared, walking right through the closed door! He came looking for the disciples when they were in need. He forgave them for their denial and calmed their fears. He blessed them, saying:
“Peace be with you” (John 20:19)
This was not just a something common greeting, this was a promise from Jesus to us.
He was assuring the frightened disciples that everything was going to be okay, just like the same assurance we receive when close our service every Sunday with:
- “The Peace of the Lord be always with you”
If we will, we can receive the peace of Jesus, just as those frightened disciples did so many eons ago.
The problem was, of course, that Jesus couldn’t stay. He was returning to His Father. He would not stay with them to calm their fears, settle their disputes, and help them carry out His mission. So He gave them a gift—His Holy Spirit—to be with them, and in them, always. In John’s gospel we heard that Jesus actually breathed on them and said,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
Let’s think about our body for a moment. Our body is in the shape of a cross, and our heart is in the center. Our heart is where Jesus should reside, where He placed the Holy Spirit when he breathed on the disciples then and breathes on us today. Our bodies are a reminder of His suffering and crucifixion, and our heart (the Holy Spirit) is a reminder of His Resurrection and promise that He would never leave us. He is dwelling in us, standing with us each and every day.
Our Ecclesia crosses remind us of Jesus: notice how the cross is bent, almost as if in agony. And how we can hold it in our hands, with our fingers easily wrapped around it. We can hold it that way when we need comfort and a reminder that Jesus is always with us.
Furthermore, Jesus said:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid. I am going away and I am coming to you (John 14:27-28)
Jesus promises that He will be with us forever. And if you have ever had a promise that is kept, you know what a wonderful experience that is. And Jesus keeps this promise, every single day!
How can we increase the peace we find (or don’t find in the world)?
1. See the value of peace.
- Maybe you need to take peace a little more seriously. Think of how good it feels on those days when you are calm, you know where your next meal is coming from, where you are going to sleep, you have a little money in your pocket and a few friends to laugh and have fun with. That peace that is sought after and valued – not anger and wrong and stress and disappointment.
You want to work for those peaceful, gentle days, when there is no needless arguing, waster time, worrying over little things. Think of those things that are important to you , and whatever you value, you will seek out with gusto.
2. Trust God.
- Trust what God says in His Word and completely give everything over to Him. When we do that, we enter His peace. Believe that you are okay and God lives in you and through you. You can, at any time, tap into that trust in God anytime you need it.
3. Make a decision to please God first.
- It’s not possible to keep all the people in your life happy all the time. This doesn’t mean you act rudely toward them. Just don’t try to please another person at the expense of displeasing or being disobedient to God. Live to please God first.
4. Mind your own business.
- I’ve learned that usually, the less I know about other people, the better off I am. Being nosy and spending energy trying to learn what others are doing or saying produces anything but peace in life.
5. Let peace be the umpire of your life.
- If you are thinking about doing something, but you don’t have peace about it, if you know it will hurt or discourage others, don’t do it-because if it’s not peaceful, it’s not God.
We need to close our eyes and breathe in and out slowly and repeat to ourselves:
- “God, let your peace live in me”
“Jesus, let your peace live in me”
“Holy Spirit, let your peace live in me”
If you will put these suggestions into practice, a more peaceful life might be possible for you. Remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and He can provide the tranquility you long for…even in today’s modern world.
- Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be
With God our Creator
Family all are we
Let me walk with my family
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment
And live each moment
In peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin
IN ME (sung)1
1 Adapted from Let There Be Peace on Earth, written and composed by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller
Delivered at In The Garden Community Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church On Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 4 May 2014