Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Peace of God

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were locked where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19

Our lives and our times are a heavy burden to carry. It is easy to become overwhelmed with concern when so many terrible things are happening to everyone every day; disease, terrorism, famine. The list is too long to continue. Life has almost always been this way. In the story of life on Earth, we know the separation of man from the presence of God and the entrance of sin into the world begins a long history full of suffering.

Not long after this separation, God starts to inspire a hope for reconciliation and peace between us, the created order, and Him, the Creator. When the Old Testament prophets spoke about this peace they most commonly used that famous Hebrew word- Shalom. Shalom means much more than peace. It means wholeness, harmony, completeness, and tranquillity. This peace is perfectly described in Isaiah 65 where God speaks about a "new heavens and a new earth" where "the wolf and the lamb shall feed together." We see this poetry from Isaiah portrayed in paintings, movies, and coloring books. It inspires in us a feeling of peace and comfort that can only come from the final fulfillment of God's plan where we all share in the glory of all creation being made new.

This very same dream, this longed-for peace was deep in the heart of every Jewish child, and it was in the hearts of the disciples that day when they gathered together after the death of Christ. I'm sure they were told a thousand and more times as they grew up that one day a Messiah would come who would restore the kingdom of God and bring about that everlasting peace so desired by everyone. Yet, here they are, the man they thought was the Messiah has been killed, and they meet behind locked doors out of fear that the very same fate of crucifixion awaits all of them for being a part of the heretical ministry of Jesus. Everything they thought they knew for sure had just been ripped away. They thought they had found the Christ, the anointed One, the King, but could only watch hopelessly while he suffered a horrible death then meet days later to try and decide how they will make it out of the city alive. Instead of the redemption, reconciliation, and peace they were so sure had finally arrived, they find panic and despair.

Then, Jesus appears to them at their most desperate moment, and simply says, "Peace be with you."

I have to say, these are my favorite words of the whole Bible because it's here that everything truly sinks in for the disciples. They thought they were lost, but then their shepherd appears. Christ's words at this moment say much more than simply, "don't be afraid of the persecution you're currently under." With just these four words Jesus says, "You don't have to fear your death. You don't have to fear anything. The kingdom of God is here. I am the Christ. I have fulfilled the law, and I welcome you into the presence of God. Just as Adam and Eve once walked with God so many years ago, so now will you walk with God. The time of separation is over, and you will now know God's grace and His peace."

Then, Jesus breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. They became the living temples of God's presence, just like Paul would later talk about in his letters. Because Jesus had made the perfect, sufficient sacrifice, God's presence could now be with every human. Because Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected we, being redeemed people, could now be welcomed back into communion with God. Much more than a tabernacle inside a tent, more than a temple carved from stone, even more than the Son of God walking and talking with people during his ministry, God's Holy Spirit could now be with everyone everywhere to the ends of the Earth. Hallelujah.

We are redeemed people. We are invited to take part in the peace of God. We are invited to find solace in the fact that there is nothing more we can do to appeal to our God. Jesus has made the perfect sacrifice. It is faith in Him that washes our sins away, and brings everlasting peace by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The disciples left with peace, and kept that peace until their dying days. What was once despair and fear of their death was turned into peace that gave them the confidence to be martyrs for their faith. The disciples found that peace from Christ, and you are welcome to it, as well. You need only to ask God, who gives freely to all.

Peace be with you.

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