The world loves the peaceful Jesus: the Christmas baby in the manger, the wise and humble teacher of the Sermon on the Mount. Gentle Jesus meek and mild … or so we think. But a careful reading of the Gospels reveals someone who seems at times to go out of his way to provoke his listeners. Did Jesus really mean it when he said he came to bring peace? If so, what kind of peace was he talking about? And what exactly did he mean when he spoke of “my peace” and of giving it “not as the world gives”?
Furthermore, how could Jesus say these things on what must have been the most troubled night of his life? Just a short while later he would fall on his face in Gethsemane, praying to his Father about the fearful events that would soon overtake him. To his lethargic and prayer-less disciples, Jesus described his soul as being “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). He knew, though they did not, that in just hours he would suffer arrest, abandonment, and death. How, then, could he speak of peace and of having so much of it that he could give it away?
The very first words Jesus speaks to his disciples after his resurrection, when they are gathered together, are these: “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19, 21), as if he knows precisely their need, terrified as they are by the Romans and by the religious leaders who conspired to murder their rabbi. They are in profound turmoil because everything they believe has been called into question by his death.
Noting the wounds in his hands and side and seeing him alive again, his disciples would have known that this was no dreamer. Truly he was the long-awaited Messiah. This shocking realization must have produced in them a new and deeper kind of peace, one they could never have imagined. Instead of wishing his disciples peace in an ordinary, everyday kind of way, Jesus was actually delivering peace in person. He continues to deliver this same kind of peace to us today.