I have been looking at the “first words” spoken by the Lord Jesus to His disciples after His resurrection.
“Peace be with you” (John 20:19)

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’.” (Luke 24:36)

Elsewhere in the gospel of John, Jesus was recorded to have said:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 TNIV)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

In John 20:20, after He said “Peace be with you”, Jesus showed them his hands and side. Some may conclude that by doing this, He sought to identify himself. But in all probability, He did it so that they would see the nail prints in his hands and the spear wound in his side and be reminded of what He had suffered on the cross in order to make for them the peace that He was now bringing to them. We must remember that Jesus paid a great price to give us this peace and in verses 19 and 21 of John 20, he repeated the words “Peace be with you” indicating the significance and importance of the meaning the Lord wanted His disciples to understand regarding this ‘peace’.

‘Peace’ (Shalom in Hebrew; eirene in Greek) is one of the great Bible words that encompasses total well-being and happiness. It means, to start with, peace with God (reconciliation), sin forgiven, guilt gone, our person accepted. It also means peace with ourselves; if God has forgiven us the terrible things we have done, we must learn to be at peace with ourselves now that we are at peace with God.

But it also means peace with our circumstances too; if the Lord God of circumstances is at peace with us, we can be sure that He orders and controls all circumstances for our good.

This explains why the Lord Jesus said that this peace can be with us even though in this world we would have trouble; we need not be troubled and afraid, for this peace is His peace – it was secured by Him when He defeated the evil one and death at the cross – it is a peace ‘IN HIM’, not a peace that the world offers which is transitory and like the mist, it would soon be gone.

The peace Jesus gives us is independent of circumstances; in other words, even though the circumstances may be dire, disturbing and painful, this peace remains in us if we remain in Him. The picture of Jesus sleeping in the boat in the midst of a storm speaks of such peace; it remains even in the worst of storms (also storms of life) when even seasoned fishermen like His disciples panicked.

This is particularly relevant for believers today. Today, like never before, we are seeing so much suffering, pain, and death in calamities of war, climate changes, famine, drought; and in the evil started and perpetuated by man, in persecutions, human trafficking, exploitation of children, women, and vulnerable individuals. We must not forget the ‘ravages’ of diseases, epidemics, lives distorted by disabilities, paralysed by fear and physical severe malnutrition and disfigurement. Also in the church, when we look for love, care and concern, we often see instead jealousy, envy, backbiting, pride and self-centeredness prominently displayed.

How can we have peace in such circumstances and situations? Is it truly possible with so much evil and sin all around?

As we study the Bible, we see the interaction between God and evil summarised in the following manner: God permits evil; He punishes evil with evil; He brings good out of evil; He uses evil to test and discipline those He loves; and one day He will redeem His people from the power and presence of evil altogether.

Christians are never in the grip of blind forces (like fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens is divinely planned and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice, knowing that all is for oner’s eternal and spiritual good (Romans 8:28).

God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are both taught in the Bible. How we reconcile them may be beyond us, for we are finite. But we can be assured that whatever we need to know for our salvation and life in this world has been revealed to us by God, but the ‘secret things’ belong to God and we may not even understand them even if they are revealed to us.

So what Jesus told the disciples stands: His peace can continue to remain in us even in the most complex and perplexing circumstance of life on earth; but the time would come when there will be no longer, death, suffering, pain, and all things would be made new.

In the meantime, we can continue to trust and obey, and also rejoice that He is in control and nothing can happen without His permission and when He allows it, it comes from a heart of perfection (perfection in love, wisdom, holiness and majesty). What assurance for peace, rest in Him, and joy, in the face of all that seem contrary to such a stance!!

“Peace be with you; my peace I give to you… Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world”.