By Robert F. Hull Jr.
According to the Gospel of John, it was at his last meal with the disciples that Jesus offered them the gift of his peace and told them not to be afraid (John 14:27). But that was before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
A few days later they were huddled in a room with the door locked, very much afraid and not at peace. Suddenly the risen Jesus stood before them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19). He showed them his hands and his side, and said again, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (v. 21).
That’s a commission to the disciples. Call it “the peace commission.” That is, if you want to be truly at peace with God as a follower of Jesus, you need to consider what Jesus did as an emissary from his Father: what he taught and how he taught it; how he brought the good news of God’s love and healing to all kinds of people. It is the commission of the church to be for the world what Jesus was to Israel—a bringer of light, a pointer to the future God has for the world when people are reconciled to God and each other.
We don’t feel adequate for such a commission; neither did the disciples. Maybe that’s why Jesus then breathed upon them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v. 22) and told them it was within their power either to offer forgiveness of sins or to withhold this message.
Sobering commission, isn’t it? When Jesus offered his peace yet once more, this time to Thomas, he showed his wounded hands and side to Thomas. At this table, we remember those wounds, the cost of the peace we so freely offer each other every Lord’s Day, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Prayer: O God, who, by the death of your Son on the cross, brought peace, hope, and love to a world of dead ends, empower us through the Holy Spirit to embody the love of Christ in our lives. To this end, bless to their intended purposes this loaf and cup we now receive. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Robert F. Hull Jr. serves as professor emeritus of New Testament with Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Johnson City, Tennessee.