TOPIC: THE EASTER SALUTATION.
TEXT: John 20:19-23.
Today’s message is a follow-up to last week, which was titled “The Easter Guest”. No doubt, today is not another Easter day, the reminiscence of the return of Jesus Christ to life after His death. However, the declaration and greeting from the mouth of the risen Lord on the first Easter day is still very relevant to us in the face of COVID-19 that is terrifying our world. The deepest desire of God for His children in a chaotic world is peace and we should appropriate it. Thus, the first spoken word of the risen Lord to His disciples is a simple declaration “Peace be unto you”. It remains His desire for us as well.
NOTABLE HABIT OF THE RISEN LORD.
The notable habit of the risen Lord is the habit of greeting. As He appeared to His disciples, He greeted them “Peace be unto you” – Luke 24:36-37; John 20:19. Greeting is a known courtesy in every human culture and it is christianly too as we can see from the risen Lord. No one therefore, can be too holy or spiritual not to have this courtesy. It is advantageous to establishing good relationship with people and to set positive tone for conversations. It becomes more advantageous when a little smile is added to a sincere greeting. From what is gathered from the medical personnel, it helps to improve health, reduce stress, and boost immune system and to lower blood pressure. What a good lesson of Easter we need to put into practice in our day to day life to enjoy peace in chaotic world.
PEACE BE UNTO YOU.
Appearing to His disciples in a transformed body, a foretaste of a body awaiting believers in the future (1 Cor. 15:53), the risen Lord greeted them: “Peace be unto you.” Peace or “shalom” in Hebrew language is a common day to day greeting among the Jews. However, from the mouth of the risen Lord here, it is more than a wish. The following are some of what it represents:-
1.Declaration of His Personality: It is a declaration of his personality or who He is that the disciples needed to know or be reminded to experience a peace in a world they would operate that might not be friendly to them. Isaiah mentioned this aspect of His personality in his prophecy (Is.9:6) . The angels mentioned it when they announced His birth to the terrified shepherd on the field (Lk. 2:14). We are also faced with situations or circumstances that seem to target our peace. However, peace is not just an absence of trouble but an awareness of the presence of the risen Lord, who is our peace himself (Eph. 2:14). Because we know that the Prince of peace is alive, we should not allow the happening around us to jeopardize or control our peace.
2. Expression of His Love and Affection: Peace be unto you from the mouth of the risen Lord is also an expression of His love and affection for the disciples in spite of the fact that they had disappointed Him. They might expect that their behavior of disappointment the previous Friday would attract rebuke and censure from their Master , instead, He showed them love and affection. Christ loves sinners and would wish them to accept His love and refuse to continue to disappoint Him.
3. Proclamation of Victory: Peace be unto you from the mouth of the Lord was more than a wish but also a proclamation of victory already achieved for his disciples and for us. He showed them both his hand and His side as a proof of victory that makes true peace possible and attainable. His death made true peace possible (Isaiah 53:5).Peace is knowing that it is going to be alright even in the face of seemly hopeless situation. By the risen of Christ’s death and resurrection, we also have the assurance of victory over COVID-19 and any other challenges of life.
4. Meant to Calm their Fear: The greeting was meant to calm the fear that had already imprisoned or kept them in a room. The risen Lord with the transformed body was not hindered from getting to them. Each of His resurrection appearances fulfilled a special purpose. For instance that of Peter and the beloved served the purpose of proclamation of victory while that of Mary served the purpose of satisfaction of love. His appearance to the rest of the disciples in today’s text was for the purpose of calming their fear (John 20:19-20). The greeting, “peace be unto you” is also meant for us. The risen lord can set us free from any bondage of fear and its consequences.
5.Evidence of the Truthfulness of His Promise: It shows the Saviour is not a liar and His words are as He said them or as we read them today. In this appearance, He fulfilled about five different promises He made to the disciples in chapter 13-17 of the book of John before His death. The promise to come to them (14:18) was fulfilled when He stood among them in john 20:19a. The promise of giving them peace (Jn. 14:27) is fulfilled in John 20:19b. The promise of seeing them again to cause their heart to rejoice (Jn. 16:22) is fulfilled in John 20:20b. The promise of sending them to the world (Jn. 17:18) is fulfilled in John 20:20. The risen Lord and His words as we read them in the Bible can be relied upon.
6. Meant for their Transformation: The disciples were transformed with the Lord’s appearance to them from the fearful to peaceful, powerless to spirit-filled and spectators to the position of witnesses. We can also pray for and experience the same transformation in our lives.
THINGS TO NOTE.
– Peace is a gift from the risen Lord – The risen Lord is the originator, bearer and giver of peace. The peace that the disciples lost as a result of their Master’s death was given back to them at His appearance. We can also regain peace that we may have lost due to a trying situation.
Peace is a Choice- You chose peace by choosing Christ while you choose crisis by rejecting Christ. You can choose to be fearful if you allow your heart to wander and you can be at peace inspite of the happening around if you allow your heart to stay on Christ(Isa. 26:3).
-It is Christ’s Expectation of You– He expects you as His child to be a bearer of His peace in a chaotic world(Rom. 12:8; 1 Pet.3:10-11) . Peace also denotes neighborliness. Try to make life easy for people around you particularly at this difficult time in the land (COVID-19).
– Don’t Write People off for their Mistakes– The people you write off or condemn may be those you will later need in the nearest future either to promote you or to take your pursuit beyond where you can reach. Jesus would not write the disciples off because He knew they were the people He needed to carry the assignment beyond where He stopped. After calming their fear He infused them with power (John 20:23) and thereby commissioned them. The impelling Holy Spirit turned or changed them to fearless public witnesses of the Master.
CONCLUSION-Peace is the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22) and it also summarises the Gospel message (Acts 10:36). Those who already have peace with God must seek to share it with others. Finally, peace results from God’s forgiveness. Thus for sinners, there must be peace with God first through confession and removal of sins. Then, the inward peace can follow unhindered by the world’s troubles (Jn. 14:27; 16:33).
Rev’d J.A. Abegunde