Keeping the main thing the main thing
Executed dead men don’t stand among you and offer peace.
Three days earlier, Jesus hangs naked and nailed to a tree. Exposed, abused and degraded. Nothing special about this crucifixion. It’s simply one of thousands… Except at this one, the One who created the cosmos is crucified.
It’s evening on the third day. The disciples are together in Jerusalem excitedly piecing the story together from each other; Mary, Peter, Clopas and Simon. None of it makes sense, could it be? No, that can’t happen. Is it true? He’s alive! He’s alive! Is it true?
Then the risen Jesus appears, “Peace be with you”.
These are words of greeting, but they are more. God's words do what they say. When Jesus says to these confused humans "Peace be with you", Peace is with you.
Because the Prince of Peace is with you. The One who speaks to storms and they are stilled is with you. The One who tells limbs to grow and they grow is with you. The One who tells trees to wilt and they wilt is with you. The One who tells demons to leave and they leave: He is the One who is with you.
The One who is peace is with you. The One who won the peace for you has said "peace be with you"… the One who has made peace between you and God is with you. Peace is a person and he is with you.
I can feel the level of disbelief, confusion and doubt in the disciples; they are startled, confused and doubting. They jump to the wrong conclusions instantly, but honestly, would I be any different?
Peace may not be the word you’d use to describe the space you are in; juggling church leadership, work responsibilities, and family commitments...s not easy at the best of times. Throw in a pandemic, its economic impact and global upheaval, and peace may not describe the state of our hearts.
Into this Jesus says: "Peace be with you".
How do I take hold of the peace Jesus holds out? How do I allow Jesus’s peace to take hold of me?
See who matters
Jesus says to them: "Look at me, my hands and feet". He says: "Look at me, touch me". He eats fish. He is saying: look at me, see me, watch me.
All to show us what really matters.
What matters in this moment is that they see Jesus risen bodily. He has defeated the power of death. He has defeated the power of sin. He has defeated the power of evil. Rising bodily from the dead he shows his own power over every power; in nature, in society, in politics and in the spiritual realm.
In the midst of this worldly injustice and hurt, of confusion and chaos, the risen Jesus says, 'Look, look closely, look intently, look carefully. You won’t find peace unless you look at me and look to me. You won’t grasp what’s going on unless you see me.'
Am I seeing what matters?
Read what matters
I asked a mentor at the beginning of the pandemic what should I be reading. He said it’s a seminal moment in world history, I’d be reading seminal books.
Here, as the risen Lord Jesus addresses his disciples, he says something similar. Read what I read. Read what is most important to me. Read that which points to me (Luke 24:44-47).
To see what matters we must first read what matters.
The peace of Jesus comes from the person of Jesus. To see the person of Jesus we need to read Scripture. We need to read what matters to Jesus: Moses, the prophets and the psalms, the gospels, the letters, history, poetry, wisdom...
Listen to Jesus, how much weight he put on these words, 'Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me.'
History is a story, and Jesus is its main character, if you don’t understand the main character you are not going to understand the story and your place in it.
The Bible takes 80 hours to read. 40 of the 66 books can be read in less than hour. If you read four chapters a day (about 20 minutes) you’ll read the Bible in a year.
Am I reading what matters?
Wear what matters
Jesus promises the Spirit of God. He will 'clothe you in power'. The Holy Spirit is a number of times called the 'Spirit of Jesus'. The Spirit of Jesus clothes us in the character and gifts of Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus illuminates Scripture so we can see Jesus more clearly.
Am I wearing what matters?
At the end of Luke's gospel, Jesus leaves his disciples to face a hostile empire. He leaves them to face the religious leaders responsible for his own death. And he leaves them with a message that challenges them both to the core.
Jesus leaves his disciples to lead. He leaves them to lead the Church and local churches. He leaves them to lead the Church into the heart of the Jewish population, the Roman Empire and the people groups of the world.
But he leaves them with peace. With Peace.
He invites the disciples to concentrate on him, to be taught by his Word and be led by his Spirit.
As elders and leaders in local churches, we are just like the disciples, we need peace, focus and direction. We find all three by concentrating on Jesus and his death and resurrection, through his Word, by his Spirit.
It's this that equips and enables us to live and speak into all the challenges and opportunities of this unsettling time. It's this that allows us to live and speak in grace and truth in the here and now.