Summary: What exactly did Jesus mean when he said "Peace be with you"?

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. John 20:19 - 31 (NRSV)

I‘m definitely a Thomas kind of guy. Thomas didn’t want to believe what seemed too good to believe until he had seen Jesus like the other disciples had seen Jesus. It’s not that he didn’t have faith; Thomas had stronger faith than the other disciples earlier – before Jesus was arrested. The Pharisees had threatened to stone Jesus to death, and Jesus announced he was going to Jerusalem to confront them. The other disciples protested loudly that it was too dangerous. But Thomas just said, well, let’s go and die with him. [1] That’s faith!

Thomas was no doubter, but he also had no sense of timing. When Jesus appeared to the disciples on the evening of resurrection day Thomas was the only one of the bunch to miss church.

I’ve often wondered just why Thomas missed meeting with the group on that evening. My best guess is that he was pretty resigned to the fact that it was “game-over”. The Pharisees had won, Jesus was dead, and there was nothing left to do but start figuring-out a life beyond following Jesus, because there was no more Jesus to follow.

And then there’s the other wonderment – why did Thomas come back to the group a week later. It had to be that some of the other disciples went and got Thomas…brought him back into the fold. They had seen the resurrected Lord, and they shared the good news with him. Thomas’ faith had flickered, and his friends brought him back. Somewhere in that there’s a sermon for any church with as many inactive members as active ones!

Today is the eighth-day – resurrection plus one week! We are waiting like the disciples, door shut, Thomas, the backslider has been reclaimed, and we’re remembering the last time we saw Jesus enter the room. We recall his first words, “Peace be with you”. Jesus said those words three times in our text, and each time they brought a different kind of peace…

I. Saving Peace

There is a peace that rescues. The disciples had shut the doors for fear that what had happened to Jesus would happen to them. When suddenly Jesus was present with them, that fear vanished with the realization of victory.

My family watched the movie “The Passion” with its two grueling and graphic hours depicting the arrest, beating, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Afterwards, when Jesus appeared to the disciples, he had the marks of his suffering, but it was obvious those marks didn’t have him anymore.

There is a peace that is surreal when the darkness of disaster and defeat are replaced by the morning light of victory. When Jesus said “peace be with you” he was saying, “I am with you – your victory, your peace…I am here to save.” Even the name “Jesus” means “God saves”. Saving Peace, and…

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