"Peace Be With You" – John 20:19-31
The disciples cower in fear. Two days prior, they witnessed their spiritual guide - a man whom they loved deeply and even thought could be the Messiah - executed like a common criminal. Surely the same people - the religious and political leaders - would be coming after them next. Their crime? Believing…believing that Jesus was the son of God - the one sent to free them, their people, and perhaps even the entire world, from the oppressive powers of the world.
The disciples cower in fear. They lock themselves inside a room. They are leaderless, lost, and lonely.
Can you imagine what it must have been like? Of course you can. Each one of us has put our faith into someone or something, only to be left heartbroken, abused, neglected, or cheated. Take a moment to think about a time when your faith was placed in and ultimately betrayed by someone (a family member, spouse, person in authority) or something (an ideology, a dream, an organization).
When this happens, we too, like the disciples, want to lock ourselves inside a room. We feel too lonely to be around others; too beaten to be healed; too embarrassed to take another risk; too heartbroken to ever love again.
Into this environment - this locked room, the air thick with disappointment and fear - Jesus, the risen Lord raised from death, enters. Jesus enters and says four of the most profound, beautiful, and necessary words we’ll ever hear, “Peace be with you.”
The significance of Jesus’ mysterious entrance into the locked room of disciples is more than historical. Yes, it’s important that this happened 2,000 years ago; but it’s even more important that it continues to happen today.
Jesus proves that death is not the end. The end, as we find out, is peace - peace freely given to us from God who willingly endured death in order to show us that death is not the end. Peace is the message we are sent to share, just as it was the message Jesus shared when he walked the earth. “Peace” is how the story ends.
We always want to know how it will all end up.
Take sports, for example. Given the Pacers roller coaster last few months, we wonder how their series with the Hawks will end. And, now that the Colts schedule is out, we’re already wondering how they’ll play, how far they’ll go, and if it will all end with Andrew Luck hoisting the Lombardi trophy high above his head.
Similarly, many of us probably have a favorite TV series that, while we hope it continues for a long time because we enjoy watching it, we really want to know how it all ends.
Certainly there are people among us who have been faced with a medical diagnosis requiring a new prescription, treatment, or surgery. We want to know how it will end.
Maybe we’re concerned about a friend or loved one who is enduring a difficult situation? We ask, “Will it end well for them?”
The end for your favorite TV show or sports team will not always end up bringing peace (as an Ohio State fan I know this all too well!). But Jesus tells us that peace is available to us through all the important stuff - the life and death stuff.
We are as inclined as Jesus’ original disciples to respond to fear and disappointment and death by locking ourselves inside rooms - literally and figuratively. We think peace will come by being alone, by eating more junk food, by plunging ourselves into our work, by buying things that are advertised as bringing peace.
But why would we lock ourselves in a room when peace is available to us even in the face of disappointment and death?
Why would we lock ourselves in a room when locked doors cannot keep Jesus out of our lives?
Why would we lock ourselves in a room when Jesus gives us the power of the Holy Spirit - the power to believe and the power to forgive as we have been forgiven?
Why would we lock ourselves in a room when Jesus has defeated death - the fate awaiting each one of us?
Why would we lock ourselves in a room when we have been given peace and been instructed to share that peace with others?
The only reason we would lock ourselves in a room is if we have forgotten Jesus’ message that everything will end with peace.
As disciples of Christ in the world today, we are called to be people of peace. If we believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit possesses us. And if we have the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to forgive those who harm, terrify, and threaten us. Jesus instructs and enables us to forgive others and create peace in our world.
Why does the world need the Christian Church? Because despite our constant efforts and examples to the contrary, we possess the power to bring peace to the world. Peace, not through domination but through submission. Peace, not through winning but through forgiving. Peace, not through force but through service. That must be one pretty important message, because Jesus rose from the dead in order to tell us.
Even when we experience anxiety and fear, we must remember that we are heirs of grace and peace. May God give us the strength to be agents of peace and forgiveness, so that we may participate in the peace that will be the end for all things. Amen.