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“Peace Be Unto You”

(John 20:19-29)

The words of our blessed Lord were always “pure words,” always suited to the occasion—words of kindly love to the repenting sinner, of solemn warning to the wavering, of awful denunciation to the proud, careless, and self-righteous. We may be sure, then, that whenever He opened His mouth it was to utter that which was not only true, but also the appropriate and needed truth for the occasion.

It was after the resurrection that He three times pronounced the blessing upon the disciples, “Peace be unto you.” How appropriate it was that these should be His first words to them gathered together. They had just seen their beloved Lord and Master snatched from their midst and delivered up to death. They had heard from His own blessed lips the cry that He was forsaken of God, as well as persecuted by man. The darkness, the earthquake, the awful accompaniments of that death—the death of all their hopes too—spoke of sorrow, anguish, despair, and divine displeasure. How fitting, then, that the Lord Jesus should greet them in blessed contrast to all their fears—“Peace be unto you.”

In this greeting, three times repeated, we have the fullness of blessing suggested and most fittingly applied to our need upon earth. Each greeting suggests a truth, and they are found in the order in which we need them.

The Ground of Peace

In the first, the ground of our relationship—peace—is fully and forever established. “Peace be unto you. And when He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side” (vv. 19,20). This is the starting point of the enjoyment of true peace. Christ’s person, His earthly ministry—words and works full of blessing—all these can only be truly appreciated after we see the work by which peace has been made, by which God’s righteousness has been declared, and His love manifested to guilty rebels. His hands and side remind us of that wondrous cross of the substitution of the spotless lamb for the defiled sinner. The wounds tell us that “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). God has been glorified by that death, and every righteous barrier to perfect love manifesting itself to the lost has been removed. There is no wrath now, and there can never be wrath again for those who have availed themselves of those wounds. Can conscience trouble? No, for God is greater than conscience, and He is satisfied with that atoning death. Can Satan accuse? To what purpose, when the finished work of Christ confronts him? He can but read his doom there, and nothing else.

Should these lines be read by a timid believer—fearing to call himself a child of God and to look up into His face with thanksgiving—let him hear this benediction and see those wounds, and he cannot doubt that peace is his. We cannot dwell on our experience: it is but a poor and a humbling thing to think of—utterly valueless to contribute to our peace. Nothing but the work of Christ is the ground of peace for us: not feelings, not attainments—nothing but the work of Christ. Nothing can change that work. How blessed it is to know this! The future may be dark; we may have many trials and many temptations; we may stumble; but nothing can affect the value of the cross. It is most important that the young Christian should fully grasp the blessedness of this truth. Wherever we go—bright and joyful or depressed—this benediction and its ground are ours.

The Power For Service

In the second benediction, the power of our walk is given. “Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (vv. 21,22). Here we see that we are Christ’s representatives on earth. The conscience is at rest and we are now to live for Him. What a dignity this is! To represent God’s Son; to show in our life and by our words how He would speak and walk. This is the standard of Christian holiness: none dare make it lower. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

If we realize the privilege and responsibility this conveys, we will be filled with a sense of the dignity of our mission; nothing, not even the smallest step, the most lowly service, will seem trivial. Because of this, we will feel the need of a power not our own—and this is just what we get: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” Who could be weaker to meet the religion of the Jew and the culture of the Greek than those “unlearned and ignorant” Galileans? Without the Holy Spirit they were indeed utterly helpless, but in His power they could “preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews … and … Greeks … Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Their speech was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” This is our power, too: a present, acting Person, using us, helping our infirmities, in prayer, in praise, in preaching—giving us strength to follow Christ. This is our only power. In ourselves we are utterly weak, the easy spoil of Satan’s wiles, but “strengthened with might by His Spirit” we can “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” How careful then should we be to see that the Spirit is not grieved by a loose and careless frame of mind in us.

The Means of Recovery

Lastly, we have in the interview with Thomas a most touching illustration of the care of the great Shepherd for His wandering sheep. It is introduced by the same unchanging words, “Peace be unto you” (v. 26). Thomas had been away from the place of blessing, and so had been overcome by unbelief. The Lord meets him in his unbelief, and shames him by giving him the very proof he had demanded. Most suggestively we find the Lord doing for Thomas what He had done for all before: He shows His hands and side and invites him further to thrust his hand into his side. He goes back to the beginning with him. He needed to be established in the truths taught by the pierced hands and side. Thomas got a sight of Jesus’ wounds and cried, “My Lord and my God.”

When we have gone astray, what is it that restores us? Not high truth, so-called, but the simple great foundation-truths of the atonement. Have we grown worldly, cold, and gotten away from close communion with the Lord? He recalls us by the same precious truth that first won us to Himself: “Peace be unto you.”

Help and Food, 1893