What Peace?!

Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!
March 27, 2024
What Peace?!
April 13, 2024
Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!
March 27, 2024
What Peace?!
April 13, 2024

‘Peace be with you’ says Jesus three times (John 20:19, 21, 26) to his disciples; twice as he greets them at the very first meeting after his crucifixion and death.  The third time occurs when Thomas, having refused to believe the other disciples over their claim they had seen the Lord, is confronted by the reality of the risen Lord (John 20:25). 

Grief does funny things when we are overwhelmed by it; when grief settles in for the long term and we can barely remember living without it, or what the world felt like before grief made itself at home.  Conversations become remote, we watch ourselves carefully as we try not to cry when friends express sympathy, coping with life and people is exhausting, and tears are always close to the surface. The absence is physical and shaped by love.

Mary’s grief had already taken hold, as she went to keep vigil at the tomb in the early morning dawn after the sabbath had ended. Instead, she was the first person to see the risen Lord, to have her tears stopped with joy, to be called by name.  Jesus commissioned her as the apostle to tell the apostles, he had risen.

However, they had not believed Mary, nor the reports of the empty tomb from Peter or the other disciple.  The group were behind closed doors, hiding, grieving and not listening.  They were frightened and shocked and Jesus came and stood among them.   Jesus shares his peace: he commissions the disciples and sends them out with the power of the Holy Spirit breathed on them, with the ability to forgive sins.  This is peace. 

Jesus then came and stood among the disciples for a second time, and this time Thomas was there with the others.  Jesus appears to know about Thomas’ earlier declaration, his resistance to the claims of the risen Lord.  Thomas had said:

‘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.’ (John 20:25)

So a week later:

Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said: ‘Peace be with you.’  And then 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.’  (John 20:26-27)

I’ve been reflecting on peace and what faith does to our understanding of peace. I wonder what it did for Thomas and the others and their understanding of what Jesus asks of them. What do you think peace means?  Peace is not an absence of conflict, where everyone is polite and nothing ever changes.  Peace is not someone always getting their own way through controlling and manipulating the community.  Peace is not ignoring injustice and bad behaviour and letting it go, keeping quiet to keep the peace. 

Peace is a jolting, shocking experience, a complete reimagining about the world, of God and the people around you; and a new, fresh assessment of what is and was and will be, as Christ challenges us at every level of our being in God’s kingdom.

What are we imagining when we ask for peace in Gaza, or Ukraine, or Haiti or Sudan? Somehow the weapons will stop being used, the bombs will stop, people can go home, lives resumed and we just keep moving on?  Perhaps we imagine if we don’t talk about it, it will go away, eventually. 

What do we think is happening to our peace as the drums of war escalate around the world?  We’re happy to live with the fruits of those labouring actively for peace.  But I need to ask you: what do you imagine the resurrection is about if it’s not about peace? 

And what about some of the most egregious human crimes in our times: during WW2 with the holocaust, in South Africa with apartheid, Pinochet in Chile, or Peron in Argentina?  What are we seeing today with the closure of a free press in Russia, in Israel, in China, India and in Australia with the issues that become unmentionable as we seek to keep the peace through violent means, by not telling the stories that make others uncomfortable, not allowing the questioning of the basis of our privilege and power, and where power refuses to be answerable?  Is that who and what we are in truth, people without peace?  Is our story the one which says:  Let’s not talk about what peace means, what peace actually is about. Are we saying: let us not talk about the truth in the Word made flesh. Can we imagine what we’re being invited to ignore, to avoid and cover up, as we look away from Jesus’ eyes and his wounds as he offers us a peace we cannot bear to accept.  And what about sharing that peace in places of conflict, horror and pain, standing against the world, its powers and principalities, absolutely based on violence and war, as Jesus’ own body bears testimony?  

Jesus comes to his disciples with his wounds visible and unmistakeable, and Thomas is invited to put his fingers and his hand into the wounds.  God is carrying wounds so obvious and real, they cannot be ignored and, in this reality, they signify the new creation, a new world, a new way of seeing what vulnerable, open peace means.

Jesus says ‘peace be with you’; he offers us peace and then sends us out as his disciples to share his peace. Not peaceful cultural conformity or a comfortable membership through belonging to a humanly constructed world, but the uncomfortable, disconcerting reality of putting our fingers in the wounds of Christ and knowing we killed him and abandoned him and he loves us so much he’s risen to new life and he’s offering us the same.  He’s conquered death, ended the power of death and our imprisonment to sin to let us know we are forgiven and the world has begun again.  We’ve done the worst and God is present in the awfulness of our rejection, wounding and fear.

However, we cannot imagine peace without speaking of God’s Word made flesh as God speaks to us in our grief through his death and resurrection.  It is a peace that ends up separating us from our lives as we lived them previously, because once you’ve seen it and experienced it, you can’t unsee it or unlive it. We are changed.  Our understanding of peace changes, and our lives are forever upended because Jesus has come and stood among us, wounded, forgiving, loving and sharing God’s peace. God calls us through our wounds and brokenness, our griefs, our inability to speak about the reality confronting us, and says: ‘yes you can join me, in the open wounds of broken humanity, we can find peace together in a new creation, in seeing it, knowing it, accepting it and giving it to God’. 

We can share God’s peace in the face of disbelief and brokenness, we can experience it and believe in it and live in it forever.

The Lord be with you.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

Comments are closed.