Read John 20:19-31
According to the gospel of Luke, on the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene told the disciples of Jesus that she had just seen him alive and even talked with him that morning. But they didn’t believe her. However, according to the gospel of John, at the end of that day, an incident took place which changed that. The result was that they too believed that Jesus was alive.
According to the gospel of John the disciples were hiding out in a room somewhere in Jerusalem. Their leader had been killed. Their hopes had died with them. They feared that they too might be arrested and executed by the religious authorities. They were hiding out because they feared for their lives. And they had good reason to fear.
In John’s version of this story, when Jesus suddenly appears in the room where they are hiding out, they are even nore afraid. But Jesus greets them with the words, “Peace be with you”. Normally, this greeting “peace be with you”, was the usual greeting used as the Middle Eastern equivalent of our “hello”. But when Jesus greetings his disciples with the words “peace be with you”, it was not a routine greeting. It was a necessary first step toward overcoming their fears. It was the assurance that Jesus was alive and that all would be well. Not that all would be well in the sense that the hostility of the world toward them would disappear, but that all would be well in spite of the danger they faced. They would have the ability to exchange their fear for courage. Instead of hiding out from the world, they wouold receive the power to overcome the world in Jesus’ name.
Do we still need the peace of Jesus today? Some would say no. We don’t need Jesus to overcome our fears, because we already have the power to do away with the causes of our fears. Modern medicine has produced all kinds of prevention and cures. There’s no need to fear disease. Yet all too often once defeated diseases reappear, along with diseases we never knew before. The USA is still the most powerful nation on earth. We have nothing to fear from other nations or organizations. Yet, every day the news media constantly reports of acts of terrorism around the world, including attacks in the USA.
Unless you have been able to totally ignore the bad news that exists in the world in these times, I think that by now you know that there is always something to fear. All of us are to some degree, faced with something to fear – health issues, our financial situation, attitudes and actions toward us by other people, our inability to accomplish all that we or others expect of us, and ultimately, the fear of death. That’s the bad news. But there is also good news.
I believe that there will come a time when there will be nothing to fear. When Jesus somehow returns to the world and the prayer that Christians have been praying for 2,000 years will be answered – “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”. But when Jesus’ disciples asked him when that hope would be fulfilled, he told them that it wasn’t for them to know the timing. Just have faith that in God’s time and God’s way that hope would be fulfilled. Until then there would be many things to fear in this world. But Jesus says to his disciples and followers, then, now, and always “Peace be with you”.
It is important to understand that the peace he is talking about in the present is not the peace which comes when the fear causing problem goes away. Because the problem doesn’t always go away. Jesus is talking about the peace which passes all understanding. The peace which brings internal security. The peace which enables us to exchange fear for courage, as it did with the disciples.
The peace that Jesus is talking about is available and offered to everyone and anyone – right here and now and whenever it is needed. It is a freely given gift. But in order for the gift of peace to be effective in your life (exchange fear for courage) you have to accept it. And in order to accept it you have to honestly say and believe, as did Thomas – “My Lord and my God”.
To put it another way, you can’t receive the peace of Jesus if you don’t believe there is a Jesus to give it. And God doesn’t expect you to believe in blind faith. What I discover in the Bible is that our faith must be based on evidence and God provides whatever evidence is needed to enable a person to believe. Before Thomas would believe that Jesus was alive, much less able to exchange his fear for courage, he insisted on having some convincing evidence. His unbelief put God to the test. And God gave him the evidence that he needed to believe.
Today we can’t physically touch the resurrected Jesus the way Thomas did. But the evidence of the resurrection is within and around us. The witness of others who have written or spoken of their experience with the living Jesus over the past 2,000 years or so. The long and uninterrupted history of the church. The record of the scriptures, such as the story we are referring to in this blog post. Your own personal experience. Evidence of the peace of Jesus is always available. And the peace of Jesus is available to everyone and anyone. You just have to believe.
Do you want the peace of Jesus in your life? Do you want to exchange the fear of the things, people, and circumstances that you are facing for the courage to face and conquer them? Then please be open to receiving and believing the evidence of the risen Jesus that is available to you. Then let yourself experience the peace of Jesus now and in the days ahead. How do I know this is true? Because that’s the way it was and has been with me. And that’s the way it can be with you. There’s nothing special about me. I’m just an ordinary guy from Jersey City, who over the years came to believe in a living Jesus and his words “Peace be with you”. For more information about this you might want to read my free e-book, described at the end of this blog post – Hopes Fulfilled – A Spiritual Autobiography.
Grace and peace, Ray
E-mail address (email@example.com)
We welcome any comments and questions you might want to share with us and others. We expect to publish a new Bible study on or about April 18.
Grace and peace,
Patty Perez and Ray Gough
We have also written an extensive reference – How to Study the Bible – which you can always access by clicking on the “Study Guide” tab above.
You might also find it helpful to view web-sites which contain complete texts of various versions of the Bible, as well as additional material helpful for Bible study, such as (www.biblestudytools.com) and (www.biblios.com)