While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Have you ever stopped to consider the import of these first words of Jesus to the disciples? To be honest, I rarely have. Maybe it’s because the story is so exciting and I get caught up in imagining their surprise and joy. Or maybe it’s because the story is so familiar it’s easy to gloss over the particulars in favor of the whole. But whatever it is, I’m not sure I’ve noticed how Jesus greets his disciples.
But his words sure struck me this morning: “Peace be with you.”
Which is striking. Though forgiveness is clearly important in the gospel, Jesus doesn’t say “I forgive you for denying or deserting me.” And while he had predicted his death and resurrection on several occasions, he doesn’t say, “I told you so.” (Probably what I would have said. :)). Nor does he promise that with his resurrection all will be now easy – you know, the kingdom is coming ushered in by 10,000 angels. He doesn’t tell them about his time in the grave, let alone sit down to right the next bestseller about a life-after-death experience. He doesn’t chart out the future of the church or hand out their upcoming mission assignments. And he definitely doesn’t promise them that now all their earthly needs will be met and life will be smooth.
He doesn’t do any of this. Instead, he blesses them with his peace.
Which I think is instructive. No one ever said the Christian life is meant to be easy or comfortable or one parade of achievements or victories after another. Church tradition tells us, in fact, that most of those gathered with Jesus will end up dying for the sake of the faith they confessed. Why, then, should we expect much better?
And Jesus knew this. And so he doesn’t greet them words of victory or comfort or promises of a lack of worry or tribulation. Rather, he offers them peace.
Jesus still offers us peace. Not comfort or ease or certainty, but peace.
This world and life is a beautiful, precious gift from God. It is also, as recent events in Boston have reminded us, all too often turbulent, challenging, and violent. The resurrected Jesus does not promise to take us out of this beautiful and difficult world, but rather promises us his peace amid it. Peace that focuses our attention and stills our hearts. Peace that enables us to endure and even to flourish. Peace that empowers us to reach out in compassion, mercy and love. Peace that invites us to commit ourselves to sharing Jesus’ grace and peace with others.
Jesus’ peace. It might not always be what we want, but it’s definitely just what we need.
So what else is there to say? Except, perhaps, “Peace be with you!”
Prayer: Dear God, you grant the peace that passes understanding, peace that the world cannot give. We ask that your peace settle on our hearts that we may in turn offer peace and comfort to all those in need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.