Jesus went into the room with his disciples and said, ‘peace be with you.’ What seemed to be on the surface a simple gesture was a most radical act. The Gospel tells us that the disciples were afraid. The world of Jesus was ruled by the Roman Empire. It ruled the world at that time by its great army and worked on the principle that order could only be maintained by acts of violence. It kept order by threatening people with the greatest instrument of torture and that was the cross. People were publicly put to death on a cross in full view of everyone to show them ‘this is what will happen to you if you try to rebel against our authority.’ The values of that world were right order could only be established and maintained by domination. In going to the cross Jesus’ closest disciples had betrayed, denied, and deserted him. Therefore, when Jesus appeared to this same group of disciples, they must have thought that he was back for vengeance. Instead, he offered them his peace and in doing so showed that in contrast to the world of his time, that he operated on a completely different set of values.
Sometimes it is possible that we associate peace purely on what is happening externally around us. We can blame others for the lack of peace in our lives, our spouses, our children our parents, lack of money etc. At those times we can think ‘if only I had a little bit of peace.’ In other words, peace is only possible if I have control over everything in my life and are free of any tensions and problems. Yet the peace that Jesus has already given to us as a gift is not like that at all. For example, when Jesus extended his message of peace to his disciples it was not accompanied by a promise that in the future they would have complete control over all the circumstances of their lives and that they would not have to face any challenges.
Therefore, what kind of peace was Jesus offering? He was saying that it is still possible to attain peace even when we are not in control and our external circumstances are proving to be difficult. By rising from the dead and appearing to his disciples Jesus showed that peace is established by surrounding and absorbing hatred by love and overcoming aggression with forgiveness. Love not domination establishes right order. That only becomes possible for us when we are prepared to let go of wanting to be in control all the time and decide to operate on the same set of values that Jesus did.
The way that we can cultivate peace is to truly believe in the Risen Jesus. The disciples had been slow to believe. Initially they thought that if Jesus had risen it could only be as a spirit. That is why Jesus invited them to touch him and ate before them. Are we sometimes slow to believe the full impact of Christ’s resurrection? The resurrection of Jesus shows us that this world, although as good as it is, is not all that there is. There is more to life than meets the eye. God’s love is greater than anything in the world.
What determines our values? Is it simply by the way the rest of the world operates or is it determined by our faith in Jesus as Risen Lord?