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Peace to you

You’re probably used to hearing “Peace be with you”. But both Hebrew and Greek use SHALOM and EIRENE, their words for “peace” as both a noun and more importantly as a verb. The words mean “to make complete,” “to repair”, “to restore,” or “to make whole.” More expansively, ‘peacing’ someone expresses love.

Considering peace as a verb changes our understanding  of Jesus’ first words when he appeared to his closest followers after his resurrection.  

The authors of the  New Revised Standard Version of the bible, insert “be” as a verb to make Jesus words make sense in English….Peace be with you. 

But in John’s Greek, peace is a verb. The scripture should read. 

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 
‘Peace to you.’ 

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace with you. 

A broader, looser paraphrases for Jesus’ opening words might be, “Rest your minds”, “Take heart”, “I’ve come back to make you whole”, “Rejoice with me”. Christ’s peace is a broad spectrum concept that ranges from “quiet joy” to “delighted engagement” to “love”.

But peace is still more dynamic than that. It is also a transforming experience that converts the potential of having lived with Jesus into new insights, graced by the Holy Spirit whom he breathed on them. 
Jesus’ peace exploded within and among his disciples and generated growth nourished by the Holy Spirit. The sudden realization that he was alive and well transformed their sadness into joy, their self-recrimination into celebration, their doubt into certainty.


Look at Luke’s account of the encounter with Christ on the road to Emmaus. Two disciples were walking and talking about Jesus, his life and death. Jesus joined them but they didn’t recognize him. He talked with them about scripture being fulfilled. When the two were preparing to stop for the night
They persuaded Jesus to join them

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 

Here’s where they experienced and recognized peace

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They felt the kind of dynamic peace and love that Jesus presence and words brought to his disciples .


Return to the today’s gospel 

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

As these words tell us there is more than personal peace. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ Christ gave his disciples the power to restore and repair relationship with God. He didn’t commission them to judge, but to wipe the slate clean, repair and restore… ‘Peacing’ means that sinners aren’t just told that their sentence has been commuted. God hugs them in reconciliation as the Father of the Prodigal Son hugged his child on his return. 

When God ‘peaces’  us we are altered to the core of our being. The peace of Christ surpasses all understanding and penetrates us thoroughly. 


This gospel gives me one small problem I have trouble believing that the muted words... Jesus came and stood among them … is accurate. They are far too understated for what must have been his explosive and electrifying entrance into the house with locked doors. 

He was coming back to his closest friends. He was fulfilling what he had promised …and after three days rise again. His resurrection was a communal celebration. He was no ghost, passing through walls. 
He was flesh and blood, with scars to prove that it was him, I imagine that he was beaming and that he hugged and greeted each person there laughing and smiling as he went round the room.  
He had to have been thrilled and happy!  

Jesus’ greeting to his disciples is more than his invitation to celebrate.

Peace is also a self-description of what has happened to him. The Father has loved Jesus back into life and wholeness. The scars became signs of both his love and his authenticity.

We have Thomas to thank for the proof of his humanity.

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace to you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 
The mark of the nails and the wound in Jesus’ side prove that Jesus was fully human and that he had triumphed over the wounds.


Jesus’ resurrection also tells us that death is not the end of our lives. That it is a point of transition. Each of us lives in the “sure and certain hope” of resurrection.


But there is more. Peace is not just a theological concept, something for church service sermons. 
It is a rallying cry for us today to restore right relationship between people. A ceasefire in Gaza is not peace. A Russian or Ukrainian victory will not mean peace. Disarming gangs and individuals is not peace
Peace demands reconciliation and love. It demands that we pray and orient our lives toward restorative justice.

Christ’s peace is a call for us to act in our immediate families, in our congregation, community, city and country and the whole world to restore right relationship to rebuild, or build anew, our relationships.
Christ didn’t just send his disciples to bring harmony. He sent each of us To make whole this world in which we live, in which he lives.

Peace to you