Monday Morning Devotional

Week of April 22, 2019

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” --- John 20:19-21

As I write this devotional, the world is continuing to watch the images of the devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. At the end of my junior year at Gardner-Webb University, I had the privilege of traveling to Europe with the University’s Concert Choir. My two favorite memories from that trip were visits to places of worship, namely the Westminster Cathedral and the Notre Dame Cathedral. The massive fire, which engulfed one of the most famous churches in the world, is a devastating loss. An editorial in The Guardian stated, “It feels as though the very heart of France and the soul of Europe have been suddenly and viciously ripped out.”

As I write this devotional, I am reminded that Holy Saturday coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in which two students shot and killed 12 of their classmates and a teacher. Families, students, teachers, and first responders not only have had to deal with the devastating loss and emotional trauma from the shooting, but also with people who have become consumed with it. On the heels of the 20th anniversary, the F.B.I. and law enforcement officials were searching for a woman, infatuated by the Columbine attacks, who was considered to be armed and dangerous. The news prompted lockdowns and the closure of schools in at least 10 school districts.

Today’s reading often gets overlooked in the twentieth chapter of John’s Gospel. The first eighteen verses tell the exciting story of Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb, running to tell Simon Peter and presumably John, as well as her encountering two angels and eventually Jesus as she remains at the empty tomb. Later, in that same chapter, Jesus appears to Thomas, dispelling any doubt about the resurrection by allowing Thomas to put his finger in the mark of the nails and his hand in his side (v. 27).

But in between these resurrection stories, the disciples are in a locked house continuing to fear for their lives. The reality of the resurrection has yet to emerge with full conviction among these followers of Christ. In the midst of their fear and uncertainty, the resurrected Jesus comes, bringing peace. “Peace be with you.” It is the familiar Hebrew word of greeting – Shalom. While it does mean peace, it means much more than simply the absence of stress or fear. Embedded in shalom is the idea of completeness, wholeness, harmony, and fulfillment. And this is Jesus’ first word to his small band of followers after his resurrection. George Beasley-Murray writes, “Thus his ‘Shalom!’ on Easter evening is the complement of his ‘It is finished!’ on the cross, for the peace of reconciliation and life from God is now imparted” (John, Word Biblical Commentary, p. 379). Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, peace in all its fullness is now a realizable blessing.

Jesus not only brings peace and forgiveness, but he commissions us to be ambassadors of that same peace and forgiveness. “As the Father has sent me,” Jesus says, “so I send you” (John 20:21).

Prayer: Lord, as we live in the light of the crucified and risen Christ, help us be bearers of your peace in a troubled world.