John 20:19-23 (NRSV)
19When 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." 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
First words are important! Parents listen for their child’s first words. Will it be “Mama” or “Dada”? Do you remember the first words of Jesus in the gospels? Take a moment to look them up—Matthew 3:15, Mark 1:15, Luke 2:49, and John 1:38. None are the same.
Three of the gospels quote different first words for the risen Jesus as well. John records the risen Jesus’ first word, “Mary,” to the distraught woman at the tomb. Soon Jesus says to the grieving, fearful, puzzled, locked-up disciples, “Peace be with you.” When our best friend has died, when our hopes have shattered, when our future seems very uncertain, when our normal routine has become weird, like those first followers of Jesus we need to hear, “Peace be with you.” Chaos, clouded futures, broken dreams, and even death do not have the last word. Jesus knows death, broken dreams, clouded futures, and chaos. “Peace be with you. Peace. Receive the Holy Spirit!”
Risen Jesus, you know me, my dreads, my dreams, my fears, my fantasies, my doubts, my joys, my questions. Yet you come and stay with me no matter what. You speak what I need to hear: “Peace be with you.” Open me up to receive your peace again today, through the gift of your Spirit. Amen.