Reflection: "Peace Be With You"
“Peace be with you”
says Jesus to his disciples, when he appears before them on that day, soon after his resurrection.
You know, peace was probably the last thing they were thinking about at that stage.
After all, they’d just been on a huge roller coaster ride which started with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem only a week before, the changing of the traditional Passover Meal into the sacrament of communion, the traitorous actions of Judas Iscariot, one of their own, the arrest of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, his trial and crucifixion, death and burial, the empty tomb and now, his rising from the dead and appearing before them.
They surely would have been so confused and scared, not knowing where to turn, or what to do, that peace was EXACTLY what they did need.
To top it off, Jesus tells them that he’s sending them out into the world with something called “the Holy Spirit” to guide and protect them.
Jesus had assured them earlier that he would bring them comfort and joy and that he would give them an advocate, "the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father".
With that Spirit, he would send them into the world to continue the work, spread the message and the world would know that God had sent them.
Now, in their presence, Jesus breathed on them and they were touched with the Holy Spirit.
At this time the disciples were a closed, inward looking group, but he turned them into an open team of missionaries, sent out into the world to spread the good news about God’s love and forgiveness.
He even laid it on them that if they didn’t forgive the sins of others, then their sins would not be forgiven.
Quite a responsibility for a bunch of simple fishermen, tax collectors and the like.
Could they do the same work as Jesus had done during his ministry on earth?
Would it work, or would the people just scoff at them, or worse still, stone them for blasphemy?
There were and still are today, those who wouldn’t believe that Jesus had died and risen from the grave after 3 days.
In fact, even one of the 12, Thomas, refused to believe that Jesus was alive, as he wasn’t in the room when Jesus first appeared to the disciples.
Not an unreasonable assertion, given the circumstances and one that you and I would probably make too.
Even the disciples seem unable to recognise Jesus the first time he appears before them.It wasn’t until he showed them his hands and side that they recognise him.
Does that make Thomas a “doubter” - or a realist?
He saw Jesus nailed to the cross and he saw him die, so you really can't blame him for wanting a real encounter with a really risen Lord, just like the other disciples had encountered. When you read through the resurrection accounts of all four gospels, you quickly realise that Thomas is not alone in his doubt.
In fact, doubt isn't the exception but the rule.
No one says - even after all the predictions - "Welcome back Jesus."
Or "We knew you would do it."
Or even "What took you so long?"No.
No one anticipates the return of Jesus and when he shows up, everyone doubts.
To make sure that he includes all of his closest followers, Jesus appears a week later, in the same room.
Jesus doesn’t chide Thomas as he allows him to put his fingers in the nail holes and his hand in the gash made by the centurion’s spear.
It is then that Thomas utters that immortal confession “My Lord and my God!”
Then we hear that lovely and poignant declaration from Jesus:“
Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Isn’t that what “faith” is all about?
I mean, we weren’t there 2,000 years ago, yet we believe that the events occurred and were faithfully recorded and passed down through the ages.
Like Thomas, we’d like to be able to have some physical signs of God’s presence, but, instead, we must rely on our faith and be part of the greater number who “have not seen and yet believe”.
So, to all the scoffers, I say that there must have been a cataclysmic event that changed the scared, hiding disciples into bold advocates for the Gospel – the good news about Jesus.
It was this meeting with the risen Jesus, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit, that gave them the courage to go out into the world, spreading God’s love.
Most of them ended up being killed for the words they spoke.
Would they have done that if the Easter message had finished on Good Friday, with their leader being crucified?
I think not.
We didn’t witness the miracles of Jesus first-hand.We weren’t in that closed room with the disciples.
But by reading John's message, and others like it, we hear these stories and believe.
And, in believing, we have life eternal.
As John says in the concluding verses of today’s reading: “these words are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
That’s pretty deep, isn’t it?
Not just that we may exist, but that we may have life in his name.
To be wholly devoted to him, live our lives to glorify him and to live in harmony and peace with others.
The Psalm we read today puts it in a beautiful way, reminding us how good it is to be God’s people, living together in unity and that the best part is that God gives us a gift, a life with Him forevermore.
What could be more precious than that?
I like to think of us as Resurrection people - that is - people who don't need to have it all figured out before coming to church, or before helping out a neighbour, or feeding someone who is hungry, or caring for someone in need. If we have to figure it all out ahead of time, then we'll never get started.
And as Resurrection people, we believe, and in believing we act.
We reach out, we feed, we care, we tend, we struggle, we work, we love, with a promise from the Lord who continues to bless those who believe and those who have doubts, but still keep the faith.
John 14:27 tells us that Jesus brings us peace - not the sort of earthly peace that we’re used to, but the eternal peace that only he can give. He tells us not to be afraid, he has gone to be with his father and that we should rejoice.
Can you remember the last time Jesus brought peace to you?
Close your eyes now and feel God’s peace flowing over you.