As we continue to celebrate Easter, we look at the resurrection accounts in the Gospels. This Sunday we look at the Gospel of John, and Jesus appearing to His disciples. As we join the story (John 20:19-31), Peter and the beloved disciple (generally believed to be John) had seen the empty tomb, and the risen Jesus had a very nice chit chat with Mary Magdalen. The disciples are in a locked room, cowering in fear, but He appears to them and says, “Peace be with you.” Clearly, no lock-down can keep Jesus out now. His greeting of peace is important for several reasons. Since they didn’t do such a hot job on Good Friday, they would naturally wonder if Jesus was going to be mad at them, and perhaps give them a serious smiting. Jesus is here to bring peace. This seems very much like what He would do, but we need to consider something He had said earlier, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household (Matthew 10:34-36).” So what are we to make of that?
I would suggest that real peace comes from facing division and healing it, rather than covering it over. That sometimes means that an absence of visible conflict may just mean that there is a problem, but it is kept hidden and not acknowledged. In the Gospels, refusal to recognize one’s sinfulness is a very serious thing. We remember at the end of the story of the man born blind: “Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely, we are not also blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, “We see,” so your sin remains.’ (John 9:40-41).” We also remember the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee did lots of good stuff, but because of that, he didn’t see a need to change, or even acknowledge his sinfulness. The tax collector had probably committed a lot more sins, but recognized his sinfulness and was repenting an on the road to doing better. He came out justified but the Pharisee did not. It’s okay to be where we are, but it’s not okay to stay where we are.
Looking at John 21, we see Jesus and Peter having an important conversation. They have had breakfast, and are sitting by a charcoal fire. This reminds us that on Good Friday, Peter was standing next to a charcoal fire to keep warm when he denied Jesus (John 18:18 and 18:25) We are taught that the sense of smell is the most powerful sense for evoking emotional memories, so imagine Peter, his mind right back there to his moment of failure. Jesus asks three times, “Do you love me?” and counterpoint to Peter’s threefold denial. We notice Jesus didn’t need to rub his face in it (“Gee, Peter, remember when you said you would lay down your life for me and I told you…”). Peter knows, and Jesus knows he knows. Jesus is not looking to prolong the hurt, but to bring reconciliation. He had to recognize where he was, but didn’t need to spend time wallowing in guilt. He would need that energy for doing the work that Jesus was giving him to do. That was where his focus needed to be. A surgeon must cut in order to do good, but tries to cut as little as possible and do the most amount of good.
Jesus brings the gift of peace. We will not know its fullness until the end of our journey (1Peter 1:3-9), but we can get a taste of it when we encounter Jesus. We all are sinners, and we all suffer from others sins. We can look from that pain and say, “Jesus, you can make me whole; you can bring me to peace.” We can live in hope for the complete peace of heaven, and strive for peace now. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:9).”
Blessings, joy and peace,