Let’s be peace-keepers and peace-givers

Mary Copping, 16 April 2023

Acts 2:14a, 22–32; John 20:19–31

It’s hard to imagine what it was like for those first disciples gathered in the Upper Room, fearful of what might happen to them. We’re told they hid there ‘for fear of the Jews’. They were fearful because they’d seen only a few days ago what had happened to Jesus. If such a terrible thing could happen to their leader and teacher, who they knew was completely innocent, then what might the Jewish authorities do to them, his followers.

There must have been many emotions when Jesus came and stood among them – fear uppermost, but also they were so joyful at seeing their dear friend once more. They had heard of, and some of them seen, the empty tomb, but they had no idea of what had happened to Jesus. So the joy of seeing him again must have been wonderful. But also there must have been terrible sadness when they thought of all that Jesus had been through; and perhaps guilt, too, over deserting him in his hour of need. So many different emotions!

In response to all this, Jesus simply said, ‘Peace be with you’. What Jesus did on that first Easter evening was show those frightened disciples the forgiveness and love that he always showed them and that he shows us too. He came and stood among them and simply said, ‘Peace be with you’. And then later, to confirm it was him, he showed them his hands and his side. No wonder the disciples rejoiced to see him! Not only was Jesus alive and among them, but he had also forgiven them for all they had done – and not done – over those last days.

I sometimes feel sorry for Thomas, as he often gets a bad press and is almost always referred to as ‘doubting Thomas’. Yet he was the one who was saying what all the others might have been thinking but were afraid to say. Was this Jesus real (they had seen him die on the cross) or was this an apparition? For Thomas to question and be given proof, which all the others must have seen as well, was good for them all. How often do we want proof of our Christian faith! And although the disciples in the Upper Room still didn’t understand what Jesus’ resurrection meant, they knew that he was with them and filling them with his peace.

In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear of Peter giving a powerful sermon about Jesus, his death and resurrection. This is the Peter who denied Jesus three times, who ran away from Jesus’ crucifixion, who showed great weakness. Yet in the light of Jesus’ resurrection he is a transformed man, speaking with authority and power.

The death and resurrection of Jesus mean that our sins are forgiven, that we have been brought close to God and that death is no more. We are given new life, new hope and a peace that the world cannot give. As Jesus said at the Last Supper, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you … Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.’

Jesus in his life was only able to relate to those people he was with, albeit many thousands. Now Jesus’ presence is with us all and everywhere, as he promised his disciples when he spoke to them at his Last Supper, saying, ‘The advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you – and will be with your forever’. The Holy Spirit is with each one of us, leading and guiding us, sometimes giving us strength to do what we in our own strength cannot do, and above all giving us God’s peace. Sometimes in situations where we think we should be worried and frightened, we are somehow given a supernatural peace in our hearts which helps us to get through. This is God working with us and in us.

Each time Jesus appeared to his disciples he said to them, ‘Peace be with you’. Don’t we all need this peace so much in a troubled world, don’t we all need peace in our hearts as we experience the pain and suffering of life and as we see the pain and suffering around us? It is good to remember Jesus’ words, ‘Peace be with you’, and ask for that peace for ourselves. When we face trouble and difficulty, we can turn to Jesus and say, Lord, please give me your peace.

Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’. Is there something here about refusing to be fearful and troubled?

Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’. Is there something here about refusing to be fearful and troubled and instead turning to God in each difficult situation and asking him by his Holy Spirit to give us his peace. As we receive Christ’s peace, we find we can think more clearly, be calmer and spread that peace to others, not add to the fear and confusion around us.

This world is so much in need of God’s peace. We hear of so many areas where there is conflict and strife. We also experience this ourselves in our relationships with family and friends. As people of the resurrection, perhaps we can resolve to be bringers of peace to difficult situations and to all those we meet, and to pray for God’s peace in a troubled world. We can be peace-keepers and peace-givers, thankful for all that Christ has done for us and determined to pass this on, helped by the presence of Jesus through his Holy Spirit.

‘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) Amen.