“So when it was evening on that day, the first [day] of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace [be] with you.'” John 20:19 [NASB]
As I was reading through the book of John recently I was struck by the greeting of Jesus to the disciples after His resurrection, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19,21, 26). A common greeting at the time, some readers disregard His use of it as inconsequential. As I consider it against the backdrop of all that had just transpired, though, it becomes clear it is far more than a dismissible common greeting.
In the days in between their last meal with Him and this encounter, He had been crucified, died, atoned for the sins of the world, was raised to life again, and defeated death. In that context, His greeting of “Peace be with you” is a multifaceted precious gem reflecting His light in all directions. It’s an open-handed offer of peace that powerfully prevails regardless of circumstances. A compassionate proclamation of the immediate availability of hope and restoration He stands freely offering through Himself.
Peace be with you: When your vision for your life is shattered
Not long before this encounter, the disciples were gathered closely around Jesus, the long awaited Messiah. They knew well the prophecies of Him ruling from the throne of David forever. Surely the restoration of the kingdom of Israel and His visibly reigning over it was at hand. As anticipation built, they likely had very clear and hopeful expectations for their earthly future.
But then, in an instant, everything changed. Jesus was seized in the garden, they were scattered, and their expectations and visions for the future were shattered. Jesus had told them what was about to happen, but they didn’t understand. They did not grasp what was said.
“And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” Luke 18:31-34 [ESV]
I relate so deeply to this. Prior to Sarah’s death I had been closely communing with Jesus, walking with Him daily. Though I embraced my eternal future, I confess my greatest desire was for the future I saw for my family’s little earthly kingdom. I could see and almost touch it. My family intact and thriving as they also followed Him, children marrying godly partners, and grandchildren just over the horizon. But then, in an instant, everything changed. Interlocking dreams and expectations painfully fell, shattering at our feet.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 [ESV]
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 [NASB]
In retrospect I realized He had repeatedly warned me through His Word, just as He had the disciples. And I, like them, just didn’t understand. I would sing about this world not being my home, but in reality it was my home, I had forgotten I was just a sojourner here. I had unintentionally allowed part of my hope to rest on the future and well being of my little earthly kingdom.
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober [in spirit,] fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 [NASB]
Followers of Christ have in Him a sure and certain future. Hope fixed completely on Him and the grace He will bring at His revelation is unshakable hope. This rightly fixed hope is the anchor of our souls and the source of our peace. This peace prevails and passes all understanding, even in the midst of deep temporal suffering. It is this peace that Christ stood offering the disciples, and continues to freely offer today to each of us, saying “peace be with you.”
Peace be with you: When you are afraid
The disciples were meeting behind closed doors when Jesus came to them. John 20:19 specifically records that “the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” As their hopes and expectations fell, their fears rose, they were uncertain and afraid. Their fears were justified, their Lord had just been tortured and crucified, they were likely to be next.
And yet, as they gathered together in fear and uncertainty, Jesus came to them and greeted them with “Peace be with you.” He stood before them, having just paid their sin debt and ours, risen from the dead, and having defeated death. He stood before them having secured their eternal future, and the future of all who have and will believe in Him (Acts 16:31).
Though the trials and sorrows of this life are real and painful, they, like this life itself, are but a vapor (Jas 4:14). We in Christ need not fear, our destination is secure. He is continually with us in the journey, abiding and sustaining, and He will safely lead us Home. Look to Him and freely be liberated from fear today. His compassionate offer remains, “Peace be with you.”
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:28-31 [ESV]
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27 [ESV]
Peace be with you: When you have failed
As the disciples met behind closed doors that night, shame and disappointment likely loomed alongside the disillusionment and fear they felt. Jesus had predicted they would all fall away and leave Him alone the night He was seized, and it had happened just as He said (Matt. 26:31-35).
Peter bore the tremendous weight of not only falling away, but also of overtly denying Him. Peter in his fiery love for Jesus had boldly proclaimed he would die with Him before he would deny Him. And yet in the frailty of his flesh he denied Him, not once but three times, and Jesus knew. After Peter had denied Jesus the third time “the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62).
I’m optimistic after denying Him and weeping bitterly Peter recalled Jesus’ words to him from their last supper together. Jesus had warned Peter that very night that Satan was going to “sift him.” But that warning was followed with a tremendously hopeful Word, Jesus Himself had prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail. He went on to encourage Peter that when he had “turned again” (repented), he should strengthen his brothers.
“‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.'” Luke 22:31-34 [ESV]
Peter’s sinful betrayal of Christ took him to the end of himself. He thought he could serve, follow and stand with Christ in his own strength. Satan’s sifting revealed the insufficiency of Peter’s sinful self sufficiency. As His beloved Lord looked upon him in his denial, Peter’s eyes were opened to his own frailty and depravity. Satan meant it for harm, but God used it for good. Satan’s sifting used by God as a refining flame, sanctified and fortified the faith of Peter.
It is against this backdrop of failure, shame and sorrow that our compassionate Lord Jesus Christ entered the room with His downcast and fearful disciples. His steadfast love clearly displayed as He came to them not with rebukes and chastening in that moment, but freely offering the balm of His prevailing peace.
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:11-14 [ESV]
He freely offers us this same prevailing peace in the midst of our sin, failures and brokenness as we turn in repentance toward Him. Just as He prayed for Peter, He is actively praying for those of us surrendered to Him. Receive His peace today. He is calling, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mat 11:28-30).
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 [ESV]“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16 [ESV].
Peace be with you: When your country rejects Christ
“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” John 20:21 [ESV]
As Jesus spoke to His disciples, sending them out to proclaim the gospel, He prefaced it by saying “peace be with you.” He had already warned them that few would believe, and many would refuse to believe.
“the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” Matthew 7:13-14 [ESV]
He had also warned them that they would be hated by the world, just as He was hated by the world. Yet He gave them the assurance that despite their impending rejection and tribulation, His prevailing peace would be with them.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:18-20 [ESV]
Like the disciples, we who also believe are to be ambassadors for Christ, prayerfully searching for opportunities to fearlessly make known the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph 6:19). Though our hearts ache with longing to see the world around us come to Christ we should not be surprised or afraid when the world rejects Him. Jesus warned us many would.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. … and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:16, 22 [ESV]
As our country and the world at large seem to grow increasingly intolerant of the gospel of Jesus Christ and Biblical truth we should not be afraid or alarmed. Through His strength we are called to fearlessly persevere in boldly yet humbly and lovingly making the gospel known, but we should not fret when the world rejects. He was already despised and rejected by the world as He stood that night saying, “Peace be with you.”
Our hope and our peace are not dependent upon our success [or failure] to influence our government, country or world toward Christ. Our peace is completely independent of the choices and future of our earthly country. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phl 3:20). He alone is the source of our unshakable hope and prevailing peace.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 [NASB]
“…God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar [and] foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. “Cease [striving] and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.” [Psa 46:1-11 NASB]
Peace be with you.
Peace be with you when your vision for your life is shattered.
Peace be with you when you are afraid.
Peace be with you when you have failed.
Peace be with you when your country rejects Christ [and you as His ambassador].
Peace be with you.
“For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.'” Hebrews 10:37 [NIV]
Come, Lord Jesus.