Peace be with you.
Well it’s almost the end of the story. Jesus has been crucified and entombed. Now, Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and gone to Galilee, just as he said he would.
All of the Gospels have a different spin on the resurrection. The only common descriptions are that one or more women find an empty tomb and Jesus later appears to the disciples.
The Book of Mark, presumably the oldest, has the strangest description. It’s clearly defined as an addendum to the original manuscript:
After Jesus rose from death early on Sunday, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. She went and told his companions. They were mourning and crying; and when they heard her say that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe her. After this, Jesus appeared in a different manner to two of them while they were on their way to the country. They returned and told the others, but these would not believe it. Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive. (Mark 16:9-14).
Then there is another “alternative” ending for Mark (weird…) that’s considerably terser:
The women went to Peter and his friends and gave them a brief account of all they had been told. After this, Jesus himself sent out through his disciples from the east to the west the sacred and everliving message of eternal salvation. (Mark 16:9-10).
You get to choose. In the Book of Mark Jesus doesn’t really say anything after he is resurrected, although it does say that he scolded his disciples. It makes it sound like he was kind of grouchy. Or maybe he was teasing them. Either way it seems a little terse. Not really a very inspirational description.
The Book of Matthew, which was written shortly after Mark and uses that narrative extensively, adds some very dramatic elements like an earthquake and an angel:
After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake; an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men.
The angel spoke to the women. “You must not be afraid,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying. Go quickly now, and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from death, and now he is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!’ Remember what I have told you.” So they left the tomb in a hurry, afraid and yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Peace be with you.” (Matthew 28:1-9).
The Matthew version is a lot more satisfying. The accounts written later in Luke and John are even more elaborate. I think I was most familiar with the John one growing up, and Luke has the famous Walk to Emmaus. Both are lovely, but I still find myself attracted to Matthew’s earlier account. I love the symmetry of it all.
Most of all, I love those words “Peace be with you” (which are also used in the Book of Luke). Right at the start of his ministry, on Day 13, as part of the Beatitudes, Jesus says, “Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children.” His deep belief in the importance of peace is also expressed in his exhortations to love our enemies and to “turn the other cheek.”
Second, those are the words that he told his disciples to use when they greeted people on their mission trip on Day 86: When you go into a house, say, “Peace be with you.” (Matthew 10:12). This is how he said that we ought to greet each other.
Finally, those are the words that were spoken by Judas when he betrayed Jesus on Day 240: Judas went straight to Jesus and said, “Peace be with you, Teacher,” and kissed him. (Matthew 26:49). You might have thought that these words would be tainted because Judas was probably the last person to greet him in this way. Judas might have spoiled this greeting for Jesus.
So here in Matthew, the Gospel I’ve chosen to study, Jesus’ first words after the resurrection are a blessing. When you think about it, peace is about as good as it gets. Love has its ups and downs, but peace is always sweet. Inner peace, world peace, it’s what we all really want. A little peace.
The resurrected Jesus here in Matthew says, “Peace be with you.” Not I told you so. Or now I bet you’re sorry. Or you should be ashamed of yourselves. Or it all worked out no thanks to you guys. No, he doesn’t criticize, or boast, or shame them, or gloat. He’s not grouchy like he is in Mark. His words kind. No hard feelings, even about Judas. All is forgiven. It’s all good. Peace, my friends, peace.
What does this scripture say to you?