Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Jesus Easter Greeting: Peace

Jesus' resurrection rightly surprised his friends. When they met him again for the first time, after he'd risen from the dead, they didn't immediately recognize him. Jesus friends didn't expect to meet their old friend Jesus. They loved and remembered Jesus; but he was dead. They had no earthly reason to recognize him or expect to meet him.

Meeting Jesus alive after he was dead defied human reason 2000 years ago. Meeting him in flesh and blood today still defies human reason and experience. Some believed then, just as some believe today, that God has the power to raise the dead. But the day of resurrection seems very distant to us.

Martha, in John 11:24, told Jesus that she hoped to meet her dead brother Lazarus again on the day of resurrection. But that day, in her imagination, was way off in the future. Jesus responded by raising her brother from the dead that very same day. Resurrection came so quickly it caught everyone off guard. We in the church confess in our ancient creeds that we believe in the resurrection of the body. We hope for the day when we are reunited with all believers who are caught up in the great cloud of witnesses. Jesus' friends learned that the resurrection may be closer than they ever imagined it could be; and the very same lesson may be true for us.

We later believers have something to learn from the disciples' reactions: God's resurrecting power is unexpected.

We might want to make fun of Thomas' doubts in John 20 when we ought to be admitting that we our own doubts about Jesus' rising. Thomas wasn't alone in not seeing the full power of God to make the dead rise. In John 20:16 Mary met Jesus risen by the tomb and thought he was a gardener. In Luke 24:13-35 two disciples met Jesus while walking to Emmaus in the afternoon on Sunday but didn't recognize him. They spent a good bit of time together with him walking and talking about the cross and the predictions of the Messiah's dying and rising in scripture; but they didn't recognize Jesus until he broke bread with them.

Looking back this week at Thomas' story and some of the other stories of the resurrection its clear that Jesus' friends weren't expecting to meet him. Maybe the same goes for us. We don't expect to see God and often we don't seem God at work.

This week I am trying to remember that Jesus' friends were witnesses to His death before they were witnesses to the resurrection. They watched his crucifiction at a distance and heard from reliable people that his body had been taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb. Even when trustworthy people told Thomas the Good News it was still to much to believe. This week I am looking for God at work and for signs of new life and I am remembering what Jesus said to his friends. "Peace be with you." He didn't ask them why they failed to believe or doubted. Instead he offered them friendship greeting them with peace.


Nancy Marshall said...

Peace, Unlikely,
I'm a card carrying member of the PAVT (People Against the Victimization of Thomas), too, but...
I think they all should have expected Jesus to rise on the third day. Even the Pharisees were worried that the disciples would make up a story to fulfill Jesus claim.

The Pharisees said: "We remember something the liar said while he was still alive. He said after three days I will rise again." Matthew 27:63

The Pharisees even come up with a conspiracy theory, to pay off the guards to say they saw the disciples steal the body while they were sleeping (they saw while they were asleep?) Matthew 28;12-15

So clearly some people remembered what Jesus had said about rising on the third day.

The disciples, however, were huddled away, behind locked doors, wondering what to do with their lives now their leader was gone and too frightened to set foot on the streets. Did they forget Jesus' claim to rise on the third day? "Forgot" or couldn't believe it.

In none of the accounts do we hear about the women headed to the tomb talking about "maybe he has risen". Instead Mark says they were worried about moving the stone.

In Luke, the Angel tells the women, "He has risen! Remember how he told you he would rise?"
(Ah, now they believe.) It's a believing problem, not a memory issue.

But it's not just the women. When those brave souls who ventured out into enemy territory to annoint Jesus body without a male escort, returned to the men and announced that Jesus had risen and they saw an angel.., the men "did not believe the women. Their words did not make any sense" Luke 24:11

So here's my beef. I'm all for not victimizing Thomas, because they ALL failed to take Jesus at his word. In spite of all the miracles they had witnessed including raising Lazarus from the dead,
the disciples hearts and minds were barricaded with fear, self-absorption, and confusion. They failed to expect a miracle. They failed to believe Jesus could do anything.

And as you said, we have the same problem. "We don't expect to see God and often don't see God at work." We are looking inward instead of outward. Our faith is too small.

That's the downside that we all can identify with. The upside is that Jesus faced their fears, and confusion and self-absorption with "Peace".

In John's account he says it twice. "Peace be with you!"

I like that. It's comforting. Peace.

I also like your ending, "He didn't ask them why they failed to believe or doubted. Instead he offered them friendship greeting them with peace." That's comforting but authentically...Mark remembers a scolding: Mark 16:14

So somewhere in here lies my sermon... when you are barricaded with fear and your own agenda overwhelms you, Jesus offers peace...and maybe a a few firm words to BELIEVE!

Paz a ti,

Nancy Marshall said...

One more thing...as I have been chewing on this I have come to understand that the "believing" that the disciples (including Thomas and the women) failed to do is not the stuff of the Apostles Creed, or Nicene Creed. Yes, later, believing in Jesus came to be believing he is the son of God, born of the virgin, etc.
But in this passage when Jesus looks Thomas in the eye and says Believe... he means something much more concrete.

In your much more succinct blog, you talked about how we run the danger of applying our 20-20 hindsight to the actions of the 1st Century people.

True. And one of those dangers is destroying this very vivid,necessary understanding of what Jesus meant by believing in this passage.

i think he meant to take him at his word, to believe he can do all he says he can do. It means expecting what is contrary to human nature because Jesus said it can happen.

That is powerful and we have to be careful not to confuse that dynamic (dynamo)believing with a recitation of "I believe in..."

Unlikely said...


I've been thinking alot about your replies. You've definitely given this a lot of thought. What I wrote on Thursday and preached Saturday and Sunday were different because of what you said.

The word I honed in on in this text is peace. Maybe it had something to do with a Bible Study I used with a group at church that focused in on Jesus offer of peace http://www.elca.org/~/media/Files/Christian%20Education/Daily%20Disciplship/B/Quarter%202/PDF/2Easter_B.pdf

What ever the source for my interest in the word peoace I thought about the word beef too. I thought about getting after somebody who's been weak in faith. When we have a legitimate beef with someone we want, as best we can to set them right.

I think that Jesus set all his earliest followers right by offering them peace. They were so totally unsettled and not right that offering them peace would really matter. He was offering peace to people who needed it.

Jesus could offer peace and still settle the beef in the process with his friends because his divinity doesn't depend on their belief or any modern person's belief for that matter. He is God and any human who denies God is only fooling themselves. When Jesus came in to meet His friends I think he knew that the doors were going to be barred and He just walked in and loved them enough to offer them peace.

I looked some at the ancient Hebrew greeting. The wikipedia article put it this way, "Shalom aleichem (or sholom aleichem) (Hebrew שלום עליכם shālôm ʻalêḵem; Yiddish שלום־עליכם şolem aleyxem) is a greeting version in Hebrew, literally meaning "Peace be upon you." The appropriate response is "Aleichem shalom," or "Upon you be peace." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shalom_aleichem

In my sermon I told a story about two grown sisters who'd been fighting for years. Its easy to keep fight going if you only see somebody 2 times at Easter and Christmas. Finally one sister decided not to fight. She walked up and just told her sister she loved her. It stopped the old fight. Jesus greeted his friends saying, “peace be with you” and he meant it. His words were transforming then and still are for all d his friends.