“Peace be with you” (John 20:19-23)
Most of the messages about the resurrection of Jesus focuses on the resurrection itself.
However, there are things that we often overlook about Jesus’ resurrection when we don’t pay close attention.
That’s what happened after the resurrection of Jesus.
When we read the scriptures about the resurrection of Jesus and what occurred thereafter, we can observe some features when he appeared to his disciples.
One is how the resurrected Jesus was shown to them, and the other is the reaction of the disciples when Jesus appeared in front them.
First, let us look at how Jesus appeared to his disciples.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples, he looked like a stranger.
The women who came to the grave early in the morning did not recognize the resurrected Jesus.
Mary thought he was a gardener.
The resurrected Jesus did not appear as a familiar figure but as a stranger.
And that’s why when the disciples saw Jesus, they did not recognize him.
Think about it.
If Jesus that resurrected appeared in a grand and fancy appearance, more people would have recognized him and believed his resurrection.
But that was not the case.
Contrarily, he appeared in an unfamiliar figure that only those who spent a lot of time with him would recognized him.
He appeared in such form to the disciples who went back fishing at Galilee and the disciples that were on their way back to Emmaus.
Secondly, let us look at how the disciples reacted when Jesus appeared to them.
The disciples were scared and fearful when they saw Jesus that resurrected.
When we read the gospels, the reaction of the disciples when they saw the resurrected Jesus was not of rejoice or celebration, but they were fearful and scared.
We can easily overlook this part of Jesus’ resurrection story, but this is an important part.
Jesus had been saying all along that he will be persecuted and crucified, but the disciples did not understand nor paid any attention to it.
It seems like the disciples did not have any expectation that Jesus would resurrect.
Moreover, the disciples all ran away when Jesus was tortured and died on the cross.
To such disciples, the news that Jesus resurrected might not have been such a good news, but the news to fear.
They might not want to believe it.
Let’s think about it.
For those who denied Jesus, fled when Jesus was caught, and let the crowd crucify Jesus - for those who thought they were partly responsible for Jesus’ death, his resurrection might not have been such a joyful and welcome news.
It might have been a fearful news.
Do you get it?
Let us imagine that you and I framed an innocent person and convicted him of a crime and he is imprisoned for life.
And then later during his imprisonment, he was found not guilty and released from the prison.
Then for us that framed him and convicted him of a false crime, would that be a good news?
Wouldn’t we be afraid that we might run into him on the street?
Some of us might lose sleep that he might come after us.
The disciples might have feared Jesus’ resurrection for a similar reason.
Jesus that resurrected might have appeared to the disciples and said this.
“Look! You have killed me but I am here! You have betrayed me, and now it is my turn to judge you!”
He could have said that - naturally.
But what happened in the scripture?
What did Jesus say after he resurrected to the disciples that were scared?
It’s in today’s scripture.
He said, “Peace be with you.”
Today’s scripture is about people that are in fear and unrest.
It was the evening on the day Jesus resurrected, the disciples gathered at a house in Jerusalem.
They locked themselves in fear.
They heard from Mary that Jesus is alive, and Peter and John heard from them that Jesus’ body was gone.
Based on such, it was evident that something big happened.
But they weren’t sure exactly what happened.
On top of that, they were scared that the Jews that killed Jesus might rush in anytime to arrest them.
And suddenly, Jesus appeared in front them.
And Jesus said “Peace be with you.”
I am sure they were taken back.
They probably wondered who in the world is this?
I am sure they were more scared now.
Jesus knew this was going through their mind.
So he showed them his hands and his side.
Only then, the disciples realized that he is not a ghost but Jesus that died on the cross, and that Jesus is alive again.
Then Jesus says once again, “Peace be with you.”
Then the disciples are no longer fearful and are in peace.
The point of this story seems very clear.
The disciples that were in fear and unrest gained peace in their heart by meeting the resurrected Jesus.
They were no longer scared and courageously spread the gospel.
Like such, the message is that if we realize that the resurrected Jesus is amongst us and believe in and live with him, then we will have peace and success over obstacles in our life.
Well, it is a simple message; however, we know that it is easier said than done.
So we ask this question.
“Isn’t this just a message to comfort me?”
“If not, why am I still in fear and doubt in reality even if I believe and try to depend on the peace that Jesus provides?”
“I thought faith would do it. Faith would solve it. I hoped to overcome the fear and obstacles with the faith. However, why do I even fail in front of very small hardships?”
“Is the gospel that I will overcome the fear and have peace if I believe in Jesus of resurrection really false?”
We asked these questions.
There is a story about John Wesley.
John Wesley was teaching Theology at Oxford University and decided to go to Georgia as a missionary to the native Americans.
He left for Georgia in the winter of 1735.
At that time, crossing the Atlantic Ocean by ship in the winter season was really hard - battling with storms and rough sea.
The journey across the Atlantic Ocean was treacherous.
John Wesley lost his faith and conviction as the journey continued.
He feared death.
Before the journey, he thought his faith was rather strong.
However, as the ship battled the rough ocean and winter storm and his life was at risk, he realized how little his faith was.
One night, Wesley attended a service of the Moravians traveling from Germany.
Moravians are from Bohemia, and they moved to Germany fleeing the persecution of the Roman Catholic.
When Wesley was having a service with them, the ship was in the middle of a storm.
The ship rocked as if it will flip over.
The passengers are in chaos and scared, and Wesley was not an exception.
However, the Moravians were different.
They were calm and singing hymns.
Wesley was shocked.
He hadn’t witnessed such peace anywhere else.
Wesley was devastated in disappointment with himself.
He was a priest of the Anglican church, theologian and missionary.
But the contrast was clear.
He was shaking in fear of death, and these Moravians - hardly educated or intellectual - were fearless in front death.
Wesley could not help but doubt his faith.
He wrote in his journal that this day was the most glorious day of all.
He considered the day that he realized how small his faith was as the most glorious day, and because of his experience on that day, John Wesley truly gained his faith.
This is the secret that can defeat the greatest fear of man - the death.
The Moravians had such faith.
The problem is that our faith is not strong.
John Wesley thought he had faith, but his faith was not strong and therefore his peace was disturbed easily.
All faiths may look the same, but there’s faith that’s unshaken in front of the greatest fear, and there is faith that shakes like candlelight in front of small test.
Brothers and sisters, how is our faith?
How is the peace in us?
If we say we truly believe in Jesus of resurrection, are we enjoying the peace that he gave?
We should check again our faith and peace.
It would be wonderful if we can stand firm in front of the fear of death.
But what’s the reality?
Let alone the death, aren’t we shaking in front of small troubles.
Jesus told his disciples before his death.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
He reaffirmed his promise by appearing in front of his disciples after his resurrection and saying “Peace be with you”.
Jesus is giving HIS peace to us.
What kind of peace is it?
It’s the peace that enabled Jesus to follow the mission of God through all the hardships and threats.
It’s the peace that enabled Jesus to hold on tight to the faith through the doubts and disturbance.
It’s the peace that enabled Jesus to stand firm in front of the threat of death.
We can easily conclude “Well that is Jesus after all. We are not like him. We can’t do that.”
No! Nothing is impossible in him.
Yes, Jesus was God’s son, but he was also a human, just like us.
He was shaken and tested as he faced the threat of death - just like us.
But he regained his strength and found his peace again, and went on his road to the cross in that peace.
Why should we be any different?
I pray that we have the same peace that Jesus had.
We can get that same peace from the Jesus that resurrected.
Jesus still appears to us today like a stranger and tells us.
“Peace be with you. The peace that was in me, I give you.”
I pray that we all can hear his invitation to his peace and confess to him.
“Jesus come to me. Be my Lord, and be the master of my life.”
If we confess like such and live accordingly, his peace will be deeply planted within us.
We are easily swayed by emotions.
Emotion is a great gift that God gave us, but we can’t let it dictate our life.
Especially when we are faced with negativities, our emotion sways so much.
Our emotion sways in greater magnitude in front of a very small problem or issue.
In that sense, we need to be careful of what we say when we are faced with problems or issues.
We often say, “I’m in big trouble or I have a huge problem.”
But if you take a step back in faith and look again, the trouble is not so big and the problem is not so huge.
Even when the trouble is indeed big and the problem is huge, we should downsize them in our faith and peace.
We should say “it’s nothing to my God!”
I know we all face issues in our life.
Some financial issues, family issues, rebellious children, sickness.
Who could be free of all of these issues?
Yes, more often than not, our situation may feel as the disciples who locked themselves in a little room in Jerusalem - in fear and anxiety.
And here comes Jesus… He appears in front of us and invites us to his peace, “Peace be with you!”
I give you that invitation today, “His peace be with you.”
Let us block our ears to the whisper of our emotion that keeps telling us our troubles are bigger than our peace, and look at Jesus that resurrected and is standing among us, showing his hands and his side.
And let us hear his invitation once again.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid and seek this peace that Jesus gives us.
I pray in the name of Jesus that this peace be with you always and you all live the victorious life as Jesus did. Amen.