Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” John 20:19-23
While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones like you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still could not believe it (because of their joy) and were amazed, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in front of them. Luke 24:36-48
Both Luke and John agree that the risen Jesus greeted his disciples with blessing, “Peace be with you.” “Shalom” is the Hebrew word for “peace.” It was – and is – a customary greeting among Hebrew speaking Jews. Its Arabic cousin “salaam” is used in the same manner. The phrase is present here, however, as something more than a courteous formality. Jesus surely greeted people with the word “peace” on countless occasions in his life. Why is the risen Jesus’ greeting of peace so significant that both Luke and John feel the need to remember it?
As every beginning Bible student learns, shalom is not just the absence of war. Shalom is life as God intended it. Shalom is health and financial well being and freedom and honor and good relations within the family and community and the enjoyment of God’s good gifts in creation.
The New Testament’s message is that Jesus’ presence brings shalom.
When Jesus walked in Galilee and Judea, there was shalom. He healed the sick, cast out demons, fed the hungry, calmed storms, raised the dead, corrected the errant, reconciled sinners and radiated holiness. Jesus’ presence created a small pocket of shalom where God’s intention in creation was restored and renewed.
When Jesus comes again, there will be shalom. God’s perfect intention for all creation will be fulfilled once and for all. Every force that opposes God’s shalom will be tamed or destroyed forever.
And since Jesus rose from the dead, there is shalom within his church. Wherever Jesus is, there is shalom. By his resurrection and glorification, Jesus himself has entered the final realm of shalom, but he has not left us to fend for ourselves. The multiple witnesses of the New Testament agree in the broad strokes even if they differ in the details – Jesus abides with us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you (John 14:18)
- I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
- So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear. (Acts 2:33)
When the risen Jesus bestows his peace, then, it is more than a mere formality. The peace that Jesus brought to the villages of Galilee – and the peace that he will ultimately bring to all creation – is also making itself known within his church and among those who belong to him.
Our vision is too small if we limit God’s shalom to an inner feeling of contentment or fulfillment. As we have seen, God’s shalom is concerned with all of life. Shalom is life as God intended it in all of its facets. It’s not just an individual matter. Jesus will transform the entire world. God wants shalom for me, but he wants it for you, too. He wants it for our neighborhoods and our communities and for every land.
So, for example, when missionaries treat the sick, teach schools and dig wells, they are agents of God’s shalom just as they are when they preach forgiveness in Jesus’ name. It’s not just a trick to get people to come to church. They know that God created our bodies to be healthy and our minds to learn and our hearts to love and our hands to work. What Jesus did for us in his life, death and resurrection doesn’t undo God’s intention in creation, but fulfills it.
How does God’s shalom express itself in your life? To be sure, I hope you know God’s shalom in your heart of hearts. But, how else does God want to create his shalom in you and through you? Can God give the world a taste of the age to come in your labors? In the way you are a neighbor? In the way you love your family?
Peace be with you. God is bringing about his shalom wherever the church gathers in Jesus’ name. This shalom, to be sure, falls short of God’s ultimate shalom. We still live in a fallen world and we are still fallen creatures, but by the grace of God there is something new at work as well. Where Jesus is, there is shalom, and the risen Jesus lives in us and among us by the power of the Holy Spirit.