Last week it was Mary. Jesus continues the one word greeting with Peace. The disciples certainly need His peace. They are behind locked doors, talking about what they had seen and heard that day of resurrection. Perhaps they are comparing notes and coming up with a compilation of activities. Jesus is not in the tomb. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, disappearing from their sight after He breaks the bread. Now He appears with ten of His intimate disciples, showing them His hands and side and greeting them with Peace.
A greeting earlier that day brought in the peace of God. The good news of The Lord is risen! revived them again and fanned the almost doused spark of faith. The little while Jesus told them about on the night when He was betrayed was over, though another little while would begin after His ascension to His Father. They saw their Savior, just as He promised, with wounds still in His hands and side. He Who once was dead is now alive and lives to all eternity.
You can only imagine how the Ten disciples behind locked doors felt when they saw Jesus appear among them without using a door. Some once were angry at Him. All fled Him. One even denied he knew Him. Jesus thought nothing of it. There was no anger in His word of Peace. Granted the disciples had heard this greeting many times, as it is a common greeting among Jews. We even hear it now and then today: Shalom. This greeting of Peace, though, is no mere greeting. Jesus is not merely saying, “How you guys doin’!” His Peace conveys what it says. Jesus announces His peace upon His disciples.
It is as if Jesus tells them again that all their sins are redeemed. He comes among them not as an angry judge, but as their Savior Who brings them the peace of God from His grave. This is why Jesus shows them His hands and side. He wants them to see, even to touch, the source of their peace. Once they saw their Lord and touched His wounds, Saint John says the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Ten of the disciples were glad that night. Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. Thomas spent eight extra days in his sadness, stuck in his doubts and unbelief. Why did he not believe the unanimous testimony of the other ten men present that night? Perhaps he needed to see it for himself. Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.
So it remains today not only with those outside the Christian faith, but even among us. The mere proclamation of peace with God through Jesus’ blood and righteousness is not enough. Give me Jesus. The proclamation and distribution of the Gifts of forgiveness and life is not enough. Where are the bones? Where is the flesh? I need to hear that voice, preferably in English and not in Aramaic or Greek or Hebrew or even Latin. Simply saying Shalom won’t cut it. Bring Jesus to me, let me make sure He isn’t some illusion, let me hear Him talk to me, and maybe even perform some sort of sign, and then I’ll weigh the evidence and make my judgment. He’s got a 50/50 shot in my faith.
That’s what happened with Thomas one week after the resurrection. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe. That’s all it took for Thomas. My Lord and my God! he responds. Jesus then adds, have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
Jesus adds the last two sentences for you and me. The heavenly sign of peace of the Risen Savior is for you as well. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews says in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things. The Son speaks to us in the Preaching Office, the office that proclaims reconciliation. The Preaching Office is not confined to one man in one place. This office has servants placed there by God Himself to give the Gifts that Christ gives His Church. Jesus is careful not to leave His reconciliation in the hands of servants who are sent to proclaim His reconciliation. This is why our Lord breathes on His disciples and tells 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.
It’s easy to see why so many have doubts about how Jesus administers His peace to people. The smart money is on some sort of direct relationship between the sinner and the Savior. Somehow, someway, we think we have to do something or say something in order to feel His peace. Our Lord does not want doubt brought into the picture. Where there is feelings and sentiments, there remains a hint of doubt. How will you ever be sure you have obtained His peace? Maybe you think you have it but you’re not sure, especially when another Christian claims to be sure.
Jesus puts His Gifts with something that is able to be seen, heard, smelled, touched, and even tasted. He brings His peace in words, in water, in bread, and in wine. He sends sinful men to distribute His peace in His stead and at His command. The bringing of Christ’s peace does not rest on the man who brings you His peace. Christ’s peace is there, in what His errand boy gives you. The man can change, as we see when a pastor takes a call elsewhere and is replaced by another man. The message and the Gifts, however, never change.
The same peace revealed to Peter, to Mary Magdalene, even to Thomas and later to Paul, is the same peace you have in the Good News of sins forgiven and new life bestowed. You are free. All your debt is paid. Behold His hands and side. Washed and fed in His peace, you need not fear death and hell, for Jesus has gone before you into those places and suffered what you deserve. All that’s left is Peace for you.