There is a classic Dionne Warwick song that says “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” This is biblical. This will preach. This is a timeless reminder that God is love, and the world needs him now more that ever. Fight me on this.
But I also contend that what the world needs now is peace. Peace is a by-product of love, of course, and so it follows that if we have love, we can find peace. But warring countries can agree to peace without loving each other. Warring spouses can find peace when love is thin. Warring siblings can set aside ego and unmet needs in the name of peace. You can have peace without love, because peace is a choice. It’s an attitude. It’s a relinquishing of self for a greater good.
Now we are going to talk about a well-known and well-loved passage without focusing on the person in the story. This borders on the blasphemous, but hang in there with me. This is the story of ”doubting Thomas” and he deserves the spotlight.
But today, I want us to focus on what Jesus says…three times. Once to introduce the idea, the second for repetition, and the third to drive home the point in case you missed it the first two times. Can you spot what Jesus says three times?
John 20 (Common English Bible)
19 It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.”
20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”
Jesus appears to Thomas and the disciples
24 Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”
But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”
26 After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.”
Peace be with you. That was the message Jesus drove home above and beyond the message of doubt vs. faith, miraculous signs, Thomas’ awakening, and believing without seeing. Those are important teachings, there is no doubt. But why do you suppose Jesus repeats, “Peace be with you” three times?
He understood then and understands now that his absence brings a lack of peace. He knows that in those days when the disciples were locked behind a door, unsure of what had happened and scared to death, they would have no peace.
Neither do we, when we are locked behind doors of addiction, betrayal, abandonment, depression, grief, frustrations, and hardship. In the absence of alleluias, in the void that his departure created, in the confusion of life without him, there is no peace.
It is the same for us. When we turn our backs on our faith and wander away into oblivions of our own making, we notice the absence of any form of peace in our minds.
But Christ calls us back
He invites us to touch, see, and feel him. He invites us to enter into his presence. He challenges us to believe, even when we can’t see the blessing of his presence in our situation.
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”
28 Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.”
30 Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. 31 But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.
We are invited to have life in Jesus’ name. It is the only way to have hope, salvation, eternity in heaven, and peace on earth.
What changes do you need to make to have peace? Where is God calling you to lay down “self” and embrace his Son? Can you believe without seeing?
Peace be with you.