by Sue Duby
I love morning quiet in my comfy chair. Chilly toes buried in a soft blanket. Shutters set just so for a perfect view of Spring’s magic explosion of life in the backyard. Favorite flowered china coffee cup in hand. A moment to exhale. Be still. Wait for a new whisper nugget for the day from Him.
Along the way, I dutifully grab my church-wide Bible reading list. Days behind, slightly guilt-ridden, I quickly begin flipping pages and skimming verses. More to scribble check marks down the page, than to ponder or listen attentively along the way. Suddenly, in the frenzied “doing”, I saw it… just a few words, but they jumped out, blurring all other words on the page… “Peace be with you”.
With Holy week reflection and Easter “Halleluiahs” now past, I’ve never pondered much how to navigate the “after”… the next steps following Easter Sunday Spirit-laced worship, heart-bursting gratitude for His resurrection and a sense of breaking through to the “other side” of Good Friday grief. And yet, Jesus reminds us that our journey with Him has truly just begun… and that we are not alone.
After washing His disciples’ feet (humble service) and sharing a last Passover meal (sweet fellowship), Jesus fills remaining precious moments with a summary teaching (loving encouragement and exhortation). In the midst, these words… “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV). A gift… His peace. A reminder… the world’s peace is not the same. A call to obey… don’t allow your hearts to hold fear. A seed planted for the future. Jesus likely sensed their unease. He knew what anxious times lay ahead. A simple reminder, with greater depth of truth than the disciples then understood.
Fast forward a few days. Triumph over the crucifixion by an empty tomb. Though Mary testified of the miracle, the disciples gathered together… “with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders” (John 20:19 NIV). Then, in the midst, Jesus appears and speaks 4 simple words… “Peace be with you”. Not “Here I am!”. Not “The tomb is truly empty!”. Not: “I am who I said I was”. Not “Why did you not believe Me?”.
Rather, with His deep heart of affection, grace and mercy, just a simple “Peace be with you”. With all that Jesus may have desired to share, His focus zeroed in on his disciples. Knowing their human frame. Understanding that fear blocks understanding, ability to move forward and capacity to process truth. With compassion, He addresses their hearts first.
Curious that Jesus does not reprimand them for their fear. No stern “Why are you afraid? Don’t you know….”. Instead, a first statement of blessing upon them in their weakness. “Peace be with you”. A demonstration once again that He is FOR them and with them. Still present, still speaking, still encouraging.
As we journey this unpredictable, unknown, sustained season of pandemic, l so identify with the disciples. Hunkered down, experiencing varied measures of fear, so very aware of my own humanness and longing to taste His peace in full measure.
Like Jesus did for the disciples, He’s reminded me more times than I can count that He is, indeed, the God of Peace. That He is able to calm stormy waters in my heart. That He is present “in the midst of”… always.
And like the disciples, I need to hear it again… over and over… from His heart… “Peace be with you”. Whether fear over health, finances, continued isolation or unanswered questions, His love wins. He’s offering. I choose to receive the gift with joy and gratitude. “Peace be with you”… now and always.