“Peace be with you” The Peace-making Presence of Risen Christ

Benny Nalkara CMI

“Peace” is one of the greatest blessings that Jesus Christ has given to the world. The Greek word, eirene – peace is used 92 times in the NT and it carries the OT sense of shalom, “total well-being.” It has to deal with the spiritual welfare than the cessation of warfare. Peace is the sum total of all God’s blessings. It means everything which makes for our highest good.

Shalom is the word of greeting exchanged among the Jews when they met each other. Here, Jesus is not using this expression not as a mere greeting. It is the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus during his farewell discourse. In Jn 14:27 and in Jn 16:33, we find Jesus promising peace to his disciples. The use of the clause, “closing of doors with fear” in the apparition story of Jesus denotes that the disciples hadn’t received that peace in its fullness. Peace is the gift of the risen Lord to the disciples and it is the fruit of the resurrection.

We find the expression, “Peace be with you” uttered by Jesustotally four times in the gospels. Except the one occurrence in the Gospel of Luke in the Emmaus episode (24:36), all the other three occurrences are in the Gospel of John. The first two occurrences are in the evening of the Easter Sunday when Jesus appeared to the disciples (20:19; 20:21). The third utterance was after eight days when he appeared again to the disciples including Thomas (20:26). All these occurrences of the phrase, “Peace be with you” are in the post-resurrection scenes in the gospels and pronounced by the risen Jesus. “Peace” is something that stands above the words of greeting or comforting or even encouraging. It is a salvific experience one receives only in the presence of the risen Christ.Forgiveness of the sins, reconciliation and union with God (Rom 5:1) are integral parts of this peace. This union and reconciliation are resulting from the death of Jesus. This experience of communion with the Father is given to the world by the risen Jesus and attaining of this experience help us to have the real peace.

The greeting of the risen Lord, “Peace be with you” indicates that his presence in the lives of the disciples and the effects of his resurrection will ultimately bring peace. It is not merely a gift from him, but he himself is that peace (Eph 2:14). In the fulfillment of the Christ-events, from incarnation to resurrection, the Emmanuel” (God with us) becomes the “eirene (peace) with us.” He has broken down the walls of hostility between nations and made peace (Eph 2:14-18). As the “prince of peace” (Is 9:6), he is not merely the lover of peace but the maker of peace. His birth was announced by the angels as the good news of peace to the people of good will on earth (Lk 2:14). His death on the cross was to make peace by his blood (Col 1:20). When he pronounced the beatitude, “Blessed are you the peace-makers, for you shall be called the children of God,” (Mt 5:9) he was revealing his self identity to the world and was asking to emulate him in peace-making. In his resurrection he made it clear that he had conquered all the enemies and brought out the ultimate and everlasting peace. Resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of this peace.The resurrection is the convergent point of the peace God is giving to the humankind and to the cosmos. Unless peace is not grounded in the peace of the risen Christ, it can be only shallow and short-lived.

The peace that the Risen Christ imparts is the knowledge, the conviction, the comfort, the confidence that we belong to Him. So the greeting that Jesus gives to His disciples “Peace be with you” has a profound meaning for believers of all time. This peace that Jesus gives us is not the peace that the world gives.The peace which the world offers us is the peace of escape, the peace which comes from the avoidance of trouble and from refusing to face things. The peace which Jesus offers us is the peace of conquest-the conquest of sin, and death.The peace that Jesus is talking about is the restoration of the broken relation between the Creator and His creatures.No experience of life can ever take it from us. It is the peace that comforts us independent of our outward circumstances.It is an inward peace that can branch out to establish peace between individuals, families and even nations.

Peace is not something to be taken for granted. It is to be realized by everyone through their effortsby building up healthy and harmonious relationships- relationship with God, others, oneself and the nature. When the risen Lord greeted the disciples with the phrase, “Peace be with you,” what he intended was that his followers must be the peace-makers like Him and share his gospel and work for justice and reconciliation in the earthly society by building up and fostering the relationships and restoring them if they are broken.

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