Not long after the crucifixion of Jesus, a rumor was rapidly spreading in and around Jerusalem and made its way to the ears of the disciples: was Jesus actually alive?! How could that possibly be? And so, the disciples gathered to discuss this puzzling report.
Suddenly, through a securely locked door, Jesus appeared among them. Before they could gasp or allow their imaginations to settle long enough to recognize him, he spoke these famously refreshing words: “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19 NIV).
It is significant that “peace” is the very first word out of the risen Jesus’ mouth directed toward his closest friends. As they sat behind a locked door out of fear, as they struggled to process the events of their traumatic weeks and the tragedy they had just witnessed, Jesus entered right into their confusion with a simple, concise message: Peace.
In our culture, peace is a relatively common word. A simple Internet search reveals what many of us would have naturally guessed: peace is used to describe freedom from a disturbance and a sense of quiet or tranquility. Tangibly for us, peace is the hour after the kids are put down and finally asleep or the sunset on a Friday night after a long workweek.
But, this definition begs a big question: does the resurrected Jesus greet his friends in the midst of their fear, stress, and anxiety with a sentiment equal to putting the kids to bed or watching the sunset? Surely, Jesus had a more compelling message to His disciples than that, right?
"Shalom, the word most commonly translated from Hebrew to English as peace, carried a different kind of weight."
For Jews like Jesus and his disciple-friends, peace was not just a casual word – its profound depth was rooted in centuries of their history as God’s chosen people. Shalom, the word most commonly translated from Hebrew to English as peace, carried a different kind of weight. Shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace.” (Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, 1022). In fact, this word was so significant and powerful that the Israelite capitol city Jerusalem (“yer-oo-shalom”) quite literally means the City of Peace!
In the midst of the disciple’s terror, Jesus did not offer them simply a word to “relax and enjoy some tranquility” or “take a deep breath, it’s all good.” No, what Jesus offered, quite profoundly, was “completeness, soundness and wholeness be with you!” In a powerful way, completeness was standing right before them in Jesus Himself – He had already accomplished everything necessary for shalom to be more than a pipe dream for the future or a distant memory of the past. He offered them shalom that was tangible, but only in and through Him!
A Reality of Peace
Now, let’s get something out of the way. The disciples, sitting stunned and awestruck, definitely had panic and anxiety pulsing through their veins – how could you not when the guy you thought was dead a few days prior somehow gets around multiple deadbolts on the front door? Jesus’ words don’t simply fix their response to what they have endured. Jesus did not chastise or berate them for their feelings. Instead, He offered them a glimpse into a beautiful new reality: peace in the midst of all of it.
Peace is not a replacement or a band aid; it is a reality that can be received even in the middle of an extremely confusing situation. Peace is not something conjured up, earned, or achieved through practice, it is offered simply as a gift from Jesus available right where you find yourself, even if you too are behind a locked door, shaken with grief, anxiety, stress, and confusion.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33 NIV).
Jesus, “the Prince of Peace,” is not simply a happy idealist throwing a peace sign with his fingers to go along with a big smile. He is the one who calls out the common human experience every person can relate to: trouble (and sometimes lots of it) in the world. However, He reminds us that He has overcome and offers us the complete, whole, sound shalom of God.
Are you experiencing circumstances that you feel are preventing you from experiencing peace? Take a few moments to pause and reflect on these things:
1. Be gentle and kind to yourself because God is gentle and kind to you.
The biblical view of peace (shalom) speaks to the ongoing process of all things (including us!) being renewed and made whole in Jesus. We are all works in progress and this redemption project of God will take a lifetime – God does not condemn or shame us, He just asks us to continue to pursue Him, even in difficult times.
2. Feelings & Truth.
Are you having difficulty feeling peace? If you are, you are not a failure! Remember that peace is not just an emotion to feel, it is a reality because of Jesus, whether we feel it or not. We can walk in confidence knowing Jesus has overcome the world, even when we don’t feel peace.
3. Reflect on John 16:33.
We have hope because Jesus states that peace is not an absence of trouble. Have you convinced yourself that you cannot experience peace because you are currently experiencing something troubling? Hold on to this hope and remember Jesus’ words that peace is a gift to be opened, even in the midst of trouble.
Pastor of Student Ministries at Bridge Community Church (Orange, CA).
Andy Franks is passionate about helping others wrestle with big, challenging questions of faith and grow in their relationship with God, especially through seeing and hearing God’s Word in fresh and compelling ways. You can hear more from Andy by checking out his YouTube channel.
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