Thursday, January 26, 2012

"It is finished...Peace be with you."  John 19:30; 20:19

The last words that Jesus speaks before His death are, "It is finished."  And the first words He speaks to His disciples following His resurrection are, "Peace be with you."  Jesus came to proclaim and demonstrate God's love.  And not coincidentally, He came to bring us freedom and peace.  He died to demonstrate the power of love over hate, submission over revenge, and peace over fear.  He came to talk about these principles, and He came to live them.  Did the power of love back up His message?  Yes!  Death didn't have the last word.

But I wonder, how many Christians who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus actually have peace?  When Jesus appeared to His disciples in that locked room, they were terrified.  They were hiding-out, and with good reason.  They had seen Jesus be crucified, and they feared they were next.  Fear is the absence of peace, and when He appeared to them in their confused and terrified state, He offered them what they needed most.  

"Peace be with you," He said.  And then He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."  He wasn't offering them a momentary peace, but a lasting peace: the promise that God would always be with them.  It was finished.  The work had been done.  The full extent of His love had been shown, and the way of love had won!  There was nothing more to fear.

Jesus offered them peace, and He also informed them of their mission.  "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."  Jesus came with a message of love and peace, and He was appointing them to go and do likewise--with His peace, presence, and power going with them.  He had lived the glorious path of completing the work the Father had for Him, and He wanted to help them do the same.

His first and only "assignment" for them, if you will, was forgiveness.  "If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven."  He commissioned them not to merely tell people God had forgiven them, but to demonstrate that unconditional love by being forgiving people.  He sent them with a message that was meant to be lived-out.  To not hold on to how others had oppressed and persecuted them and would do so in the future, and to not fear them or anything in this world.  Letting go of their anger and fear would bring peace.

How much of that reality are you experiencing?  Are your daily thoughts and actions rooted in fear, confusion, hopelessness, or anger?  Or is your heart and mind consumed with peace, love, and forgiveness?  Are you living-loved, or living-scared?  Living-loved, or living-stressed?  Living-loved, or living-bitterness?  

"It is finished...Peace be with go."   

The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)