Summary: Resting in the arms of Jesus and being held securely by his love gives Christians the ability to live with contentment and peace
John 20:24-29 “The Path Toward Personal Peace”
It was 1981, and the recently retired couple was concerned about the growing threat of nuclear war. Since they could do nothing to prevent a war, they decided that they would look for the safest place on earth, which would enable them to avoid war. They searched exhaustively for such a place, and eventually believed that they had achieved their objective. In 1982 they said “good-bye” to their friends and moved all of their belongings to the Falkland Islands—just before the Falkland Island War. Peace is illusive.
In 1861, Gustav Valbert calculated that from 1496 BC to 1861 AD, a span of 3, 358 years, there had been 3, 130 years of war and only 227 years of peace—a 13/1 ratio. There were 8,000 peace treaties enacted between 1500 BC and 1860 AD. These treaties were intended to last in perpetuity, but they lasted only two years, on average.
Humanly speaking peace is beyond our capabilities. It is more than we can accomplish if we limit our understanding of peace to merely the absence of conflict. If we expand it to the original meaning of the word, “shalom,” that of total well being, it becomes overwhelmingly impossible.
Thomas made this discovery during the weeks following Easter.
Thomas was a pragmatic fatalist—the opposite of an eternal optimist. He was a disciple of Jesus and devoted to Jesus. He had seen Jesus cast out demons, feed the multitudes, heal the sick, and put the religious leaders, of the time, in their place. He was different from the other disciples, though. They saw the coming of a new age—a heaven on earth. He saw the conflict and strife that such and event would instigate. When Jesus decided to go to Bethany in order to be with Mary and Martha, after Lazarus’ death, Thomas knew that they were headed into enemy territory. He was the one who said, “Well, let’s follow Jesus back to Judea so that we can die with him.”
It is not surprising to read that Thomas was not with the rest of the disciples on that Easter evening. He was probably grieving alone, struggling with the events of the past days and their implication for his life. It is also within his character to doubt the excited words of the other disciples, when they told him that they had seen the Lord. He probably thought that their grief had made them delusional. He nodded, declared his unbelief, and muttered to himself that the others were probably seeing things.
Thomas’ grief, doubt, and confusion did not give him peace. In fact, it drew him farther and farther away from the experience of well being in his life. There was little that he could do. Even if he worked through his grief, overcame his doubt, and discovered some semblance of order and purpose in his life, he still would not have true peace.
Thomas received the peace that he was seeking—the resolution to his personal conflict, and the foundation for well-being—when he encountered Jesus the Sunday following Easter.
The story of Thomas discovering peace in the person of Jesus Christ is repeated over and over in the New Testament.
· The woman, who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years, touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment and not only received healing but also peace. Jesus says to her, “God in peace, your faith has made you well.”
· Simeon, the old man who encountered Jesus when his parents came to the temple to present Jesus to the Lord and to have him circumcised found peace. He prays to the Lord, “Now let your servant depart in peace, because he has seen your salvation….”
PEACE IS ALREADY A REALITY
The peace that we discover through Jesus Christ is not something that we create within ourselves, or that we attain. In fact, the Scriptures proclaim that this peace is already ours—even though we may not know it, or experience it. In Romans Paul writes, “Therefore since we are justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (5:1).” It is important to note that Paul places the possession of peace in the past, perfect tense—a past, completed act. He writes that we “have peace,” with God.
It is the cross of Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, death and resurrection that had given us peace. Through the cross, Jesus restores our relationship with God. We who once were enemies now find ourselves not only friends, but also children of God. Again in Romans Paul writes that, “While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us (5:10).”
The peace that we receive in our relationship with God has a ripple effect in the rest of our lives. Though the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we also experience peace with ourselves, our neighbors, and even nature. The true meaning of peace becomes a reality in our lives.