“…Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” –John 20:19
Sometimes I marvel at the sheer audacity of the man. Seriously. “PEACE be with you”?! Two thousand years of church tradition have domesticated this saying of Jesus (and many others) to the point that we almost don’t recognize the absurdity of it anymore. But put yourself, just for a moment, in the place of those disciples. They’ve followed Jesus up and down the countryside for three years, seen him turn water into wine and heal the sick and raise the dead. They’ve seen the blind receive their sight and the lame walk and the lepers get healed and the storms be stilled. They’ve seen the huge crowds welcoming him into Jerusalem and shouting “Hosanna!” and acclaiming him as king. But that’s not all they’ve seen. They’ve seen the conflict with the religious leaders sharpen. They’ve seen the soldiers and police come with clubs and swords. They’ve seen the flogging and the mocking, and they’ve heard the same crowds that shouted “Hosanna!” on Sunday scream “Crucify!” on Friday. And they’ve seen, some of them at least, the awful, bloody end: beaten and broken and tortured to death between two criminals. And now, strangest of all, that morning they’ve seen and heard an empty tomb.
They’re hiding out in a locked room, afraid that the religious leaders who had Jesus crucified two days ago will do the same to them. And there in that locked room, he shows up and says, of all absurd things, “Peace be with you.” Then he shows them the holes in his hands and his side, and makes that absurd declaration again: “Peace be with you.” In the midst of your confusion and turmoil, peace be with you. In the midst of all of your dashed hopes and unmet expectations, peace be with you. In the midst of your fear and your grief at what was, peace be with you. In the midst of all of your wild wonderings at what might be, peace be with you. Not AFTER the emotional roller coaster ride is over, not AFTER you have it all figured out, not AFTER you get the story written down and turn everything into creedal statements and media strategies and mission plans, but NOW, here, with the stench of death still thick in the air, PEACE be with you.
John tells us that the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. He doesn’t tell us whether they wondered who was crazier, him or them. Maybe the rejoicing came from realizing it’s all crazy, but just so crazy it might just be true.