It’s the 1st day of the week. Some of the women have seen angels. Some of them even claim to have seen Jesus. Two of the most trusted men attest to the emptiness of the tomb. At least one of them already believes Jesus to be alive. The others are not so sure.
A politically sanctioned and religiously motivated execution has taken place. A leader of men and a friend of sinners has been silenced. But now things have taken an unexpected turn for the worse. A tomb guarded by official soldiers has been disrupted. Emptied. This is an embarrassment that must be managed. A cover-up is launched. It’s remembered this rabble-rouser Nazarene has followers. For them, there are sure to be repercussions.
The friends of this same rabble-rouser huddle together in a locked room. Here are the co-conspirators. Here sit the accomplices. Here gather the rebels against Rome and religion. They find themselves in a bewildering place of fear and uncertainty. What are they supposed to do? Unsure, they do the hardest thing of all, the thing we all do when choices thin out like the oxygen at 30,000 ft.—they wait… unsure of outcomes.
‘What are they waiting for?’ I wonder as I read John chapter 20. I want to say they’re sitting there in a prayer meeting, waiting for Jesus to show up. And maybe they are. But the part of me that knows human nature is pretty sure they’re also kind of waiting around for the other shoe to drop—When will their quiet whispers be interrupted by the loud pounding of fists on heavy door timbers? When will their hiding, their running, their denials, when will they finally catch up with them? When will their dreams to change the world end behind bars?
I feel for these guys. Most of the time, I’m one of them. Whether I’m sitting in the bottom of a deep hole I’ve dug on my own or watching as things beyond the scope of my control grow from molehills into mountains that block out the sun, there’s always that dark room of fear and uncertainty along the way where I find myself waiting and wondering, ‘What’s next?’ What’s next?
What’s next is that Jesus shows up. Man, this guy’s sneaky post-resurrection! Creeps up behind Mary Magdalene at the tomb. Smiles and disappears mid-meal after a long hike to Emmaus. Scares the living hummus out of His best friends behind locked doors in a dark room—and then has the nerve to greet them with these words—"Shalom aleikhem!" “Peace be with you!” Ah, Jesus… don’t tell me You weren’t having fun messing with them.
Some have said we shouldn’t read too much into these first words addressed to His assembled followers. ‘It’s just the traditional greeting,’ they say. But… then Jesus says it a second time.21”Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.’” Why did He say this a second time? I think the answer is pretty simple: He wanted them to know this was more than just a greeting. These words were literal. Up to this point, the words in this traditional greeting were like a waiting dream, a verbalized hope of a promise that had all but lost their meaning after centuries of thoughtless repetition. Think the “Bless you” we mindlessly dole out when someone sneezes. But now, suddenly, much like the appearing of Jesus out of thin air, this hope for peace had materialized—‘it’s actual,’ Jesus is saying, ‘it’s fulfilled.’ Peace with God. Peace from God. Peace sustained by God—realized in real-time at long last because of the death and resurrection of JESUS.
I asked the guys in our men’s Bible study the other night how it was possible for peace to “be with them” in the midst of so much fear? Without hesitating, someone said “Because Jesus was with them.” Bingo! Peace could be with them because Jesus was with them. The perfect sacrifice Who had propitiated the just wrath of Almighty God against all of humanity was with them! Can you imagine Peter walking into the room and going “Hey guys—peace be with you! No seriously— PEACE… be with you!” Yeah Peter, thanks… you’re definitely the embodiment of peace on earth. Hey, would you mind putting that sword away? Sweet, thanks man.
We have a peace unlike anything the world gives (John 14:27). Our peace is not the absence of trouble—Jesus was very clear about that (John 16:33). Our peace is the promise of the presence of God in the midst of trouble. He is with us. Emmanuel.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Peace is with us because Jesus is with us.
As you 'walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear no evil'-- for God is with you. Peace... be with you.