After his resurrection, Jesus entered a room full of frightened disciples who had been in hiding since his crucifixion and said, “Peace be with you (John 20:19).” These words were not a greeting, like saying good morning or good afternoon. His words were a profound prayer and expression of hope. Through these words Jesus was praying that the disciples would find peace. They were words of assurance that he would be with them in the future. They were a source of tremendous strength for the anxious disciples.
Jesus says, “Peace be with you” to us too. As they were for the disciples, his words are a prayer for us, his sometimes panicky disciples, to be at peace with the assurance that he is with us. His words also beckon us to do more than simply greet each other with hello or how are you. Like Jesus, we are called to say “Peace be with you” to others as a prayer, as a declaration of our hope that the other person knows the presence of God in his or her life.
In this spirit, what else might saying “Peace be with you” mean? Perhaps it means, “Peace be with you…I want to talk, I know I have avoided some tough topics, now I’m ready to face them.” “Peace be with you…I’ve changed my mind, you were right, I was wrong.” “Peace be with you…will you forgive me?” “Peace be with you…I forgive you.”
What could saying “Peace be with you” to the world mean? “Peace be with you…I’m finally willing to acknowledge that violence is not stopped by acts of violence.” “Peace be with you…I want to change my aggressive behaviors.” “Peace be with you…I’m willing to take another look at my negative attitude toward people from other cultures and religions.” “Peace be with you…I want to consume less and share more.” “Peace be with you… (now you complete the prayer and hope).
It is likely that we will have many more opportunities to greet others with a hello or how are you. The resurrected Jesus invites us to match our greetings with a prayer and a hope. Peace be with you!