Week of April 8: The peace of Jesus - for his disciples then, and now

3/18/2012

By DOREEN SMALLS
Scripture: John 20:1-10, 19-20
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I remember this adage from my childhood. It indicated that words did not have the same power or cause the same pain as a physical injury. While they may not cause physical suffering, they can lead to emotional pain and distress. Words do have power and they can bring harm.
But there is also the word of God that can bring life, hope and peace. A few weeks ago, we explored the Incarnate Word, expression of God in Jesus Christ, alive and among us. During holy week we are reminded of the brutality of the crucifixion and the sting of death of the Incarnate Word. And when it seemed like all hope was lost, Easter morning brings us good news. Christ is not dead but he lives!
 Mary’s word
 John’s Gospel records that very early before the sun had come up on the first day of the week, Mary went to Jesus’ tomb. When she arrived, she discovered the heavy stone had been removed from the entrance (John 20:1). She thought that tomb had been robbed and someone had stolen Jesus’ body. In great distress, she ran back to town where the disciples had been hiding and told Simon Peter and another disciple, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb” (John 20:2).
Mary was convinced that someone had stolen Jesus’ body without even looking in the tomb. She assumed the worst possibility without a second thought and she was able to convince Peter and the other disciple to come and verify her findings. In the words of Randy Cross, Assistant General Secretary for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, she “poured her anxiety into an already anxious environment.” She was fully persuaded of her findings, her “mis-truth.” Her words to the disciples expressed her fear and disbelief.
Most of us have experienced situations where we were quick to believe the worst instead of the best. We, like Mary, allow our initial thoughts to be filled with anxiety and apprehension instead of assurance and peace. Also like Mary, we are also quick to share our feelings with others.
How do you respond to life’s events so that you point others to hope and life and truth?
 The disciples’ words
 After Mary told Peter and the other disciple that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb, they ran toward it. “Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first” (John 20: 3-4). While the other disciple did not initially enter the tomb, Peter went in the tomb and saw the linen wrappings and the cloth that was around Jesus’ head.
The remaining articles should have raised some doubts about Mary’s story. How often does a thief take the time to remove clothing and fold them carefully? I believe if the body were taken, they would have taken the clothes and all.
They both looked in the tomb and believed Mary’s account. They believed the body was stolen. They believed the hopelessness; they believed the wrong thing. They “did not yet understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:10).
 After they left the tomb, they returned to their homes. How do you respond to the disciples’ hopelessness? How do you respond to a situation that appears hopelessness?
 Jesus’ word
 Our lesson takes us to Jesus entering the house where the disciples had met. They were locked in a room because they were fearful of the Jews. They had already killed Jesus; the disciples thought they could be next (John 20:19).
The risen Savior came through the locked doors and stood among them. Then Jesus said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). The words of Jesus were meant to calm the fear of the disciples. The peace Jesus offered was not limited to the disciples in this room; this gift is offered to the world. Peace is always available to us but often we reject it in search of peace in other places. Joseph Scriven penned the words, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit.” Peace is ours for the asking. Our peace is found in the resurrected Christ!
Who needs to hear and receive a word of peace from you?
 Rev. Doreen Smalls is an associate director at the Office of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at doreen@sgaumc.com.


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