by Russell Brownworth
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. John 20:19 – 31 (NRSV)
I‘m definitely a Thomas kind of guy. Thomas didn’t want to believe what seemed too good to believe until he had seen Jesus like the other disciples had seen Jesus. It’s not that he didn’t have faith; Thomas had stronger faith than the other disciples earlier–before Jesus was arrested. The Pharisees had threatened to stone Jesus to death, and Jesus announced he was going to Jerusalem to confront them. The other disciples protested loudly that it was too dangerous. But Thomas just said, well, let’s go and die with him. That’s faith!
Thomas was no doubter, but he also had no sense of timing. When Jesus appeared to the disciples on the evening of resurrection day Thomas was the only one of the bunch to miss church.
I’ve often wondered just why Thomas missed meeting with the group on that evening. My best guess is that he was pretty resigned to the fact that it was “game-over”. The Pharisees had won, Jesus was dead, and there was nothing left to do but start figuring-out a life beyond following Jesus, because there was no more Jesus to follow.
And then there’s the other wonderment–why did Thomas come back to the group a week later. It had to be that some of the other disciples went and got Thomas…brought him back into the fold. They had seen the resurrected Lord, and they shared the good news with him. Thomas’ faith had flickered, and his friends brought him back. Somewhere in that there’s a sermon for any church with as many inactive members as active ones!
We are waiting like the disciples, door shut, Thomas, the backslider has been reclaimed, and we’re remembering the last time we saw Jesus enter the room. We recall his first words, “Peace be with you”. Jesus said those words three times in our text, and each time they brought a different kind of peace…
I. Saving Peace
There is a peace that rescues. The disciples had shut the doors for fear that what had happened to Jesus would happen to them. When suddenly Jesus was present with them, that fear vanished with the realization of victory.
My family watched the movie “The Passion” with its two grueling and graphic hours depicting the arrest, beating, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Afterwards, when Jesus appeared to the disciples, he had the marks of his suffering, but it was obvious those marks didn’t have him anymore.
There is a peace that is surreal when the darkness of disaster and defeat are replaced by the morning light of victory. When Jesus said, “peace be with you” he was saying, “I am with you–your victory, your peace…I am here to save.” Even the name “Jesus” means “God saves”. Saving Peace, and…
II. Sending Peace
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
This second kind of peace Jesus brought with him is sending peace. The Father sent Jesus into the world to seek and to save that which was lost–us! He told the disciples, and he also tells us, that in the same way the Father sent him to the mission of reconciling all people to him, Jesus sends us to that same mission.
A story is told of a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart, but was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. She would read the papers and get depressed.
One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she’d seen on holy cards and devotional pictures. She finally got up her nerve and asked, Excuse me, are you Jesus?
Do you work here? No, I own the store.
Oh, what do you sell here?
Just about everything, Jesus said. Feel free to walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is you want and then come back and we’ll see what we can do for you.
She did just that, walked up and down the aisles. There was [for sale] peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources. She wrote furiously. By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list. Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up at her and smiled. No problem. And then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, stood up and laid out the packets.
She asked, What are these?
Seed packets, Jesus said. This is a catalog store.
She said, You mean I don’t get the finished product?
No, this is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.
Oh, she said. And she left the store without buying anything.
Sometimes it is easier to dwell on saving peace than on the peace which compels us to “go into all the world” with the good news.
But he said “peace” to them once more…
III. Symbiotic Peace
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
This was the eighth day…a whole week later than the first time Jesus said, “peace” to them. This time he came back when Thomas was there. Thomas may have felt pretty second-class as a disciple. But Jesus came back and spoke the same wonderful word to him…. “Peace”!
We all come to Jesus at different times and in different walk–but his peace is still his peace. Symbiosis is: a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship between two people or groups.  To be “symbiotically-peaceful” is to get along with each other in the kind of love God planned for us.
Three times Jesus said “peace” to his followers–
• Saving peace that covers our sins and saves us from hell
• Sending peace that commissions us to go bring people to the fold
- Symbiotic peace that conjoins us and holds us together in a bond of brotherhood and the selfless love of God.
Together this saving, sending and symbiosis-making peace is the whole point of the resurrection. It is what Paul meant when he told us that God was in Christ to reconcile the whole world to himself– and has given us that very same mission.
Peace is the work of reconciliation–first I am reconciled to God with his saving peace, having been rescued from my sins. Then I take part in rescuing others because of his sending peace. And I am taught to live in symbiotic God-love, the peace that passes all understanding.
It is a matter of living in peace.
In Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s little book, The Gift of Peace….there is a gripping and moving account of his meeting with Steven Cook, the young man who had accused Cardinal Bernardin of sexual abuse….In 1993, the accusation became public, and Cardinal Bernardin had to live in the blare of public curiosity, constant media attention and the deep pain of experiencing his credibility and integrity questioned by many people who simply assume that an accusation is the equivalent of guilt. And then, over time, Mr. Cook acknowledged that the charges were false, and the case was dropped. The Cardinal plunged back into his busy schedule but he kept thinking about Steven Cook, his accuser, now critically ill with AIDS, living alone.
So Cardinal Bernardin did the most remarkable thing. He located Mr. Cook and invited him to meet at a seminary outside Philadelphia.
Cardinal Bernardin explained that his only reason for wanting to see Mr. Cook was to tell him that he, Cardinal Bernardin, harbored no ill feelings. He wanted to pray with Mr. Cook.
Steven Cook accepted that invitation and said that he wanted to apologize for the hurt and embarrassment he had caused. When the meeting happened, Mr. Cook told his story, including his alienation from the church. They talked for awhile. The cardinal said what he had come to say, and he gave Mr. Cook an inscribed Bible and offered to celebrate Mass. Mr. Cook hesitated at first. Cardinal Bernardin took a 100-year-old chalice out of his case. Steven, this is a gift from a man I don’t even know. He asked me to use it to say Mass for you some day. Please, Steven responded tearfully, let’s celebrate Mass now.
Afterward, Steven Cook said, a big burden has been lifted from me today. I feel healed and very much at peace.
Cardinal Bernardin reflected, as we flew back to Chicago that evening, Father Donohue and I felt the lightness of spirit that an afternoon of grace brings to one’s life.
This is the sum total of what saving, sending and symbiotic peace means in the human family.
And so…brothers and sisters….take a moment and pass the peace; take this lifetime and pass the peace!