READ: John 20.19-31
I miss being a child sometimes. It’s not just the carefree life, the life without jobs, responsibilities or having to be self-dependent as we are as adults No, it’s the sense that the world is at peace. It was for me, at least; I had an amazing childhood. I know we cannot all say the same thing, and my truly heart breaks for those whose childhoods were marred with fright, struggle and stress. No child should feel fear, and every child should experience the peace and security a good home affords. I felt that growing up. It wasn’t that we were wealthy or that we lived in an awesome place. It was just that the days were as carefree as a Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. Meals were always there. Security and safety was never a concern. Friends were abundant. I had an awesome family. Somedays, I’d love to go back and live just one day all over again. Because as adults, we don’t often experience that kind of peace — the peace experienced through the innocent eyes of a child, and felt in the heart of a child who doesn’t yet know the pain and suffering that’s in the world. For a child, life should be peace — what we would call shalom. Shalom What is shalom, really? We know it’s still a common greeting among most Jews and many Christians as well. But Shalom, as many of you know, means peace. But the word “peace” doesn’t really do Shalom justice. Shalom in the Hebrew or Eirene in the Greek is a sense of such wholeness and completeness that full, blissful peace ensues. Something can be shalom: When Solomon put the last brick in the Temple for God, he shalomed it. He completed it. But the temple wasn’t shalom simply because it was done; it was shalom it was so complete and so perfect — Not just a peaceful place, but peace itself. The kind of peace that the Hebrews felt when they witnessed the Promised Land; The kind of peace David felt when he danced in unabashed and outward love for God; The kind of peace once felt in the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the fray. Shalom. This is why our Jewish brothers and sisters use the word shalom for both “hello” and “goodbye”: It’s a wish — a prayer — that the people whom they are with come in peace, are in peace, leave in peace and live in peace, always. Thus, it’s one of my favorite words. Christ’s visit In our reading today, the apostles are together behind locked doors. They are certainly not feeling shalom. They’re afraid that they’re next to be punished or even killed by the Jewish leaders who executed Jesus. And their doors are locked because their faith has waned; they had forgotten what Jesus had told them; they are not expecting Jesus to return. Of course, Jesus, who has just risen, stops by for an evening visit. What does he say in Verse 19? “Peace be with you.” In Greek, that would have been eirene. And of course, as we said, that Greek word means shalom in Hebrew. Jesus isn’t just saying “hello.” He’s saying “Be at peace. Be peace. Be peaceful.” Do you see the difference? And they are surprised to see him now: It’s JESUS! Who has risen from the dead. JESUS! Whom the women said they saw and the apostles didn’t believe. IT’S JESUS! And immediately, Jesus wants to put the disciples at peace. He doesn’t want them to think they were seeing a ghost or a spirit. And to show them this, John tells us he breathes on them. And when they feel his breath upon them, they not only know he’s truly resurrected; but they feel the Holy Spirit poured into them. And they are overcome with peace — shalom. Jesus brings shalom to the disciples. Thomas Ah, but not Thomas… See, Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when Jesus visited. And when they all tell Thomas they’ve seen the Christ, he doesn’t believe them. Poor Thomas… Ever since known as “doubting Thomas.” Thing is, all the disciples were doubting. None of them believed the women when they reported on Easter morning that they had seen the Christ. Doubting Peter, Doubting Matthias, Doubting James and Doubting John and so on… Thomas wants to see the wounds on Jesus’s hands and in his side before he would believe. But a week later, Jesus catches up with Thomas, who is with all the disciples now — and with the doors locked… And Jesus appears. Vs. 26 ff: “Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you. Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!’” Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” And Thomas — because he has seen — believes. And because he believes, he experiences shalom. Peace. You see, the shalom — this kind of perfect peace — is brought through the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? We have to have faith to experience shalom. We cannot be at peace unless we are filled with the Spirit. Augustine’s famous quote: “My heart is restless until it rests in you.” This is what Jesus brings when he gives them the Holy Sprit. Their eyes are open to the truth. The resurrected Christ. And the faith that comes through the Spirit. God’s presence within those who have faith to receive it. That presence is Shalom, eirene. Complete peace. But then Jesus says: “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” Seeing is believing is Seeing When we receive the Holy Spirit by confessing Jesus is Lord and seeking forgiveness for our brokenness, we are able to experience that peace. We don’t see Jesus; we aren’t able to touch his hands or the wound in his side. We are like the so many broken and sick whom Jesus healed — not by touching them; but because of their faith. “Your faith has made you well,” he tells blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10.52. Jesus tells Bartimaeus, “Your eyes are healed because of your faith.” Again, in Luke 17, we see 10 lepers asking Jesus to heal them. “When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. And in Luke 7, Jesus heals a Roman centurion’s servant after the centurion says not to be troubled with a visit to the sick man, but “…say the word, and let my servant be healed.” Jesus replies: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And the centurion’s servant was healed. You see, it’s faith that makes us whole. Not the touching… but the complete belief. The shalom. Our turn So now we’ve seen that just as the disciples have received shalom, we too ca receive shalom. We can be shalom. But watch: Just as the disciples receive shalom, they are called to give shalom to the world: Verse 21: “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace — SHALOM — be with you. ‘As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.’” See, the disciples receive shalom, and then they are told to give shalom. In fact, Jesus tells them: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.” (Verse 23) Bring peace and give peace. Put people at peace. #### When was the last time we brought someone else that kind of peace? Not just a good thing, a place of peace; Truly making their lives peaceful. As peaceful and secure as a child’s. Isn’t that wonderful feeling? * “Listen, I know you’re suffering this trial; don’t worry. I’m with you every step of the way.” I know you’re having a tough time and losing sleep. But you’re not going to lose your house/car/job/kids… I’m going to take care of it for you. I understand the illness you’re suffering and that you’re scared right now. I promise: I’m not going to leave your side until you tell me it’s okay to.” See, when we’re children, we know we will have food on the table, a parent to hold our hand, someone who is looking out for us, and even will fix things when we break them. And, again, maybe we didn’t all experience that; but we can now. We can with our heavenly Father. Who would do anything for the peace — the shalom — of each and every one of us, and you know what? He already did. How does God give us this kind of peace? Through His grace. Think about it: We had this sickness, this burden, this bondage. And he sent his only son to come to the earth and not just teach us shalom, but to die in perfect obedience to the Father in trade for our perfect disobedience to the Father. And through Christ’s death and resurrection, we have been healed, released, freed… And promised that we will be resurrected, too. We will live forever in this shalom. The presence of Jesus is the presence of peace, of shalom. Jesus is shalom. The acceptance of God’s perfect shalom empowers us. And it causes us to act. Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon us and just like the disciples locked away behind that closed door and cowering in fear, he gives us a task: To go out into that broken world and live as a people not only sent by Christ, but resurrected by Christ. To bring justice, to pull those suffering in the margins, to give of ourselves, to sacrifice, to love as Jesus loves. To bring shalom. True peace. Lasting peace. Everlasting peace. Shalom.