Peace be with you
or... Frightened; Fathomed (Understood); Fulfilled
Luke 14: 36b - 48
News of the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo was eagerly awaited. As the message was being semaphored across South England fog came down and blanked out part of the message. London heard
Wellington defeatedGloom set in – until the fog lifted and the message was repeated:
Wellington defeated the enemy!
A mixture of gloom and joy fills the story of the resurrection. Hopes were suddenly dashed. I guess the disciples, as well as Peter, were left feeling horribly guilty that the majority of them had let Jesus down the few days before. Jesus had been tried before the Council and Pilate and Herod, and then suffered the horrendous execution. And then the story was circulating that some of them (mostly the women) had seen Jesus alive. How was this possible? It was beyond their experience and belief.
They had known without doubt that Jesus was crucified. Now they were locked together in a room (John’s Gospel) for fear of being discovered – and Jesus suddenly appears. In the midst of their fear, disappointment and darkness He greets them with the words “Peace be with you”. I understand that was a normal way of greeting, like we may say ‘Good Morning’, ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ But don’t you think Christ meant more that the usual greeting? Yes, He may have been wanting to just use the way He had always greeted them – as a surprise, but more than that, did He not want them to receive His wholeness, turn their disbelief and fear into joy? He also then gives them the unquestionable proof that it is He showing them his wounded hands and feet – and the invitation to touch him and then see him eat – proving He was not a ghost or Spirit – but real flesh and blood with a body, and gently dealing with their disbelief and doubt.
Jesus goes on to remind them not only of all He has tried to teach them over the years He has been with them – that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. He also opened their minds to understand the scripture (their Bible – our Old Testament) that says in several places that repentance and forgiveness of sins was to be proclaimed – made known in His name to the whole world – and to all generations.
We know from the book of Acts especially – and also from elsewhere in the New Testament, that at last they understood – and with God working through them in the power of the Holy Spirit they began to preach and teach the love of God – and that because of Christ’s death and Resurrection people could know God; know they were forgiven, and receive strength to live for Him.
(It was not necessarily going to be easy or Hunky-dory: we know that some at least suffered as Christ did – and some were hunted down and imprisoned. But they knew in a new way that they were loved by God – that He would stand with them: they were forgiven and cleansed form the past – and eventually they would have a home with Him in heaven.)
So what of us?
Do we really believe in repentance and forgiveness of sins – for us? Are we carrying around a load of guilt? Jesus offers us complete forgiveness.
In a Communion Service we often greet one another with the Peace saying “The peace of the Lord be with you” and perhaps reply “And also with you” But do we mean it – and do we allow the Peace of Christ flood us, and look to Him to deal with our worries and troubles?
One of the songs chosen by the family for a recent funeral service was “How precious O Lord is your unfailing love, we find refuge in the shadow of your wings”; May we be able to believe it and mean it!