Second Sunday of Easter 18 April 2020 – Revd Mduduzi Mathe (Video and Audio)

John 20:19-31

Peace be with you

What does this statement mean, and why does Jesus say this to his disciples? Firstly in order for us to understand this, we need reflect on and look at the occurrences of Good Friday as portrayed by the Gospels. The disciples had just witnessed the brutal execution of their friend and master. They had run away in fear of facing the same fate. What made them fear such fate could have been that wherever Jesus was they also were there. They might have feared that they would be triad as a result of their association with Jesus.

One can imagine that they felt guilty that they had just watched on and did not try and help him when he met such a fate. In the gospel reading of the day of the resurrection we find Mary Magdalene going to her master’s tomb. I am amazed by the courage that this woman displayed by leaving a secure and safe place while the disciples stayed in hiding in fear of the Jews. When Mary Magdalene reaches the tomb she finds that it is empty; she then rushes back to tell the other disciples that their master’s body is not there it has been taken.

Not only are the disciples’ minds shaken and not at peace because of their master’s crucifixion and execution but their master’s body looks as though it has been “stolen”. So the disciples rushed to see for themselves and when they reached the tomb they did not find Jesus and out of fear they ran back into hiding but, Mary Magdalene waited there and wept and it was then that Jesus appeared to her first by the tomb. She then ran to inform her male counterparts that their master had risen. They are filled with disbelief and they are arguing amongst themselves, whilst Thomas is not there, and Jesus appears to them.

The first words that He utters to them are “peace be with you” and he might have used the common Hebrew greeting “Shalom”. The reason why Jesus did not just say peace but I suggest that he said shalom means more than just peace. Shalom is used also to greet and to bid farewell. Perhaps he was greeting them with a familiar greeting. Shalom also means a complete peace. It is a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness well-being and harmony. This is peace which passes all understanding and a sense of tranquillity. Shalom is a complete peace which can only be received from God who created and put all things into place. Yeshua (Jesus) is called Sar shalom which means Prince of Peace. This is a perfect description of the ministry and personality of their Messiah (Jesus). This was the best person to pronounce this peace upon the disciples He is the Prince of Peace.

Jesus’ use of Shalom is appropriate in this situation that they are in. This sense of fear and being uncertain of what the future has in store for them. He pronounces Shalom and in essence what He actually says to them is May your minds receive tranquillity and may this peace that surpasses all understanding. They should not be fearful because all brutality that they had witnessed had not prevailed and he was there amongst them and that he has indeed risen.

Now they knew that this not a dream, but I am sure that what might have crossed their mind is that they were in the presence of a ghost because the scripture makes us aware of such. This passage does not tell us whether Jesus knocked but it simply says that he appeared and stood amongst them. What is clear though is the fact that they had locked themselves up in the upper room because they were still overwhelmed by fear.

So some of you are asking yourselves “mfundisi, what does this mean to us today? And what does the peace the Jesus speaks of or pronounces to his disciples have to do with us? We too today in this time of panic, this time of illness, fear and uncertainty are in need of the peace that Jesus speaks of. The Corona virus has driven us into seclusion, to be on our own by ourselves. This has made us go into a panic, make us live lives that are foreign to us. This has filled us with fear and uncertainty that the disciples suffered from; as a result of the crucifixion of their master. As the church community we are in diaspora like the Ancient Church and are unable to celebrate together the commemoration of the Easter festival. This feeling of unsettlement, depression leaves us without the peace that Jesus speaks of, this peace that surpasses all understanding.

Jesus the risen Christ who is the Prince of peace pronounces this peace upon us today and says to us let all this fear that fills our hearts and the panic be settled. He says may the piece be with us all
It is this peace that Jesus speaks of that will set all our minds at ease and make us trust that even in this time of fear and uncertainty, the Risen Jesus comes to us today and pronounces this peace to us that peace which he pronounced to his disciples. So as we are in this Eastertide and as we await the end of this lockdown, as we pray for things to be back may I offer you this blessing and may it bring you peace.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit remain with you always.

Please also see – Message of Hope from Dean