“…. What kept Jesus’ disciples barricaded behind their locked doors that first Easter night was a very real fear for their lives. If they went out in public, someone might say, ‘There he is! He is a follower of Jesus, a friend of Jesus, crucify him too!’ They had seen what had happened to Jesus and they had every reason to fear the same kind of fate. And yet, in an unexpected place, perhaps one of the most unexpected places in the world, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, stands behind the locked doors with them. He tells them: ‘Peace be with you.’ Such an ordinary greeting. We say it every week here, and yet it is an extraordinary gift. What is this peace that Christ offers as they dealt with a world of fear and doubt? What is the peace Christ brings into our world now that is often in such turmoil? It is a peace that is both a respite from anxiety and fear, and a catalyst for action in the world. The peace of God is rest, the gift of no anxiety or fear or doubt, and it is also something that motivates and calls us to action. The peace of God as rest and relief from anxiety is not something the world can deliver. It is not the ‘self help’ kind of peace nor is it the ‘deep meditation’ kind of peace. Those are just fine, but the kind of peace Jesus is speaking to his disciples and to us is something more than this. It is a peace that turns us not inward to an internal and self-focused place, but outward. In our peaceless world, it is the very thing we need the most. Before the crucified and risen Christ sends his terrified disciples, and for that matter, you and me, out into the world, he gives us something. First, Jesus gives us the gift of himself. ‘Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hand and his side.’ These first disciples Jesus speaks with may not have spoken Thomas’ words of doubt—I’m going to have to see it to believe it—they still needed this gift of his actual flesh and blood presence.
There are times in life when we want to say, ‘Where are you, God? Where are you when it hurts?’ The wounds of Jesus’ crucified and now very much alive body give us the answer. God is not missing in our pain and fear and loneliness any more than he is locked out of the places we do not expect him to be. Instead, Jesus is right in the middle of it all. One of the great truths of the cross is that Jesus is with us right in the middle of our suffering. As surely as he was present in the room with the disciples, not knocking on the door waiting to be let in, not on the edges supporting them, encouraging them, cheering them on as THEY struggled, but right smack in the middle of the room, right in the middle of the fear and doubt. Through Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection, God is united with us and present with us in all the pain and suffering we experience…..”