The Vicarage

27 Little Tongues Lane

May  Letter 2024

My very dear friends

 

In the resurrection narrative in the Gospels of Luke and John, Jesus greets his disciples in a simple yet striking way.  On four occasions Jesus says to his disciples “Peace be with you.”  Now, in a way that is just a normal Hebrew greeting. Jesus was simply greeting his disciples like anyone else would at that time with the words: “shalom aleichem.”  But there seems to be something more going on here, because he repeats the simple phrase again and again.  Yet before the resurrection we never hear Jesus greet people in this way.  In these four simple words, Jesus is teaching us something profound.

Why is Jesus so intent on offering words of peace?  I think there are three clear reasons why Jesus is offering reassurance to his disciples.

Firstly, he offers words of peace because the disciples were anxious, fearful, even terrified.  They had seen Jesus arrested, tortured, and brutally executed.  They knew when the Passover holidays were over they could be next.  No wonder they were afraid, hiding behind locked doors.

Secondly, they were grieving, but also in a way they may have felt let down by Jesus.  They had travelled together for three years; Jesus had become their Lord and Master.  They were grieving the loss of so heroic a figure in their lives.  Yet at the same time, they probably felt let down by Jesus.  The disciple on the road to Emmaus that first Easter night put that disappointment into words when they said: “We had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21).  They had hoped Jesus would be the Messiah to save Israel from oppression.  Now all their hopes were in tatters.  Their hero murdered, and there was no hope for freedom.

Finally, as well as feeling let down by Jesus they would have also felt that they had let Jesus down.  Their emotions were swinging between betrayal and disappointment.  They had betrayed him.  They had all forsaken him, and fled.  Simon, the one Jesus had called his rock, had betrayed him three times.  They must have felt guilty, sorry, and ashamed.  Now there were rumours circulating that Jesus was alive.  If so, how would Jesus react to them?

Hiding behind locked doors, the disciples must have been anxious, bewildered, and terrified.  No wonder the first words of Jesus are that simple Hebrew greeting “Peace be with you.”  Before the disciples get chance to apologise, explain themselves, or ask Jesus anything, he reassures them immediately with those four little words “Peace be with you.”

Jesus is offering peace to the disciples who are anxious, to the disciples who feel guilty, to the disciples who feel betrayed.  In the midst of the Easter season, he offers that same peace to us.

So much of our news leaves us feeling terrified.  We are so anxious about Ukraine, about Gaza and about climate change.  Stress and anxiety are rooted in our culture today.  We feel afraid of the authorities, afraid who will gain power in our world, afraid of the future.  There is so little hope or optimism.  In the midst of this uncertainty Jesus offers us his word of peace.  Jesus says to each of us “Peace be with you.”

Many of us are grieving.  Grieving the loss of husband, wife, or child.  Grieving the loss of parents or siblings.  We grieve the loss of our health or independence.  We don’t seem to be able to do the things we once did.  We’re frustrated and grieving.

So, when Jesus appeared to his disciples on Easter Sunday evening, and showed them his scars and offered words of peace, he was showing them and saying to them that he had gained the ultimate victory.  The empty tomb shows that Jesus has even conquered death.  He can offer peace to his petrified disciples because their biggest problem has now been solved.  He has overcome even death.  If you are grieving today, know that Jesus has the ultimate victory.  He can offer you his gift of peace, through faith and trust in him.

Finally, Jesus offers peace even when we have drifted away from him, even if we have forsaken him.  Sometimes, in the twists and turns of life, we may drift away from faith.  As you read this letter, know that like the son in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus longs to embrace you, welcome you back to faith, and offer you deep down and lasting peace.  Jesus longs to offer you a peace that the world cannot give.  Jesus longs to offer a peace that passes all understanding.

And so, no matter who you are, no matter how much anxiety you’re carrying, or guilt you’re carrying, how many doubts and questions you have, Jesus is offering you the same gift he was offering to his broken, doubting, fearing disciples.  Jesus offers you this Easter season peace, wholeness, joy, and love.

Today, may you hear the words of Jesus: “Peace be with you”!

Bless you as we continue in the joy of this Easter season!

Fr Peter