Peace (Part 3)

bouquet of tulips flower

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”    John 20:21

With the familiar Jewish greeting, peace be with you, Jesus answered the worst fears and rekindled the fondest hopes of his disciples.  And now, well, now Jesus would always be with them, right?  Nothing could ever go wrong again. This joy they felt would go on and on.  I wonder if they forgot what he’d told them just a few nights earlier: “I am going to prepare a place for you. . . If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father. . . Peace I leave with you.”  Peace didn’t mean that he’d be there physically to still their storms and multiply their bread and put threatening forces on their backsides with a word.  Peace meant that because he had died for their sins and rose again for their justification, God was on their side no matter what.  Peace meant that it was going to be OK, even when their anxiety was elevating and their situation was deteriorating.  Peace meant that the Holy Spirit would remind them of Jesus’ promises, answering their fears and doubts.  Peace meant that Jesus would ascend to the Father in order to govern their world on their behalf.

Just when the word “peace” had calmed their nervous nature, Jesus ramped up the anxiety again. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you,” he said.  Not safety and security, but the pressure and uncertainty of the same mission that had brought Jesus to earth. Jesus was sending them to bring the Gospel to the world. They wanted to stay with Jesus. He was telling them to go.

Do you know the difference between a disciple and an apostle?  A disciple is a learner, a follower, a student.  An apostle is a teacher, a leader, an ambassador on a mission.  Not much is expected of a disciple, just pay attention and learn.  The teacher handles the hard questions and solves the big problems.  A lot is expected of an apostle, from doing the right thing to taking the heat and assuming responsibility for the work.  A disciple sits.  An apostle goes.

Would you prefer the “peace” message from Jesus rather than the “send” message?  The promises of God are easier to embrace than the commands of God.  Comfort and joy make sweeter music than trials and tasks. While you are always a disciple, you are also an apostle — sent into a community, a workplace, a family to represent your Savior and share his love.  You get to deal with the tough questions of unbelief and anger.  People will watch you to see if you mess up and confirm their suspicion that Christians are hypocrites.  Some people will look to you for comfort and others for direction.  Actually, the “peace” message and the “send” message are perfectly compatible.  Peace disintegrates into boredom when there’s nothing important to do.  Peace accompanies Christians who have a sense of mission about their lives.

Not long after college, I volunteered to spend a summer making evangelism calls for churches in northern California.  I met the pastor who was my mentor, and he gave me a stack of cards – names and addresses of “prospects” who’d been referred to the church.  I drove to the first address and sat in my car for what seemed like an hour, scared by an assignment for which I felt unprepared.  It was a good thing that home was 2000 miles away.  I prayed like never before for peace like that which Jesus spoke to his disciples on Easter.  And here’s what I discovered.  As I haltingly explained to a mother and father what Jesus had done for them and asked them to send their children to Vacation Bible School, the Gospel I shared gave me the peace I prayed for.  I discovered that summer that learning theology without sharing theology misses the point.  God calls us to be apostles while he’s teaching us as his disciples.  Sometimes that means we’ll be anxious, but that only drives us back to him and the peace he won for us.  You are an apostle, you know.

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for the peace there is in knowing that I am your disciple – forgiven and loved.  Now help me to embrace your call to be your apostle, sent to those around me with the mission of loving like you and applying your truth.  When I’m in over my head, be right with me.  When I’m not sure what to do, push me to do what you would, regardless of the cost.  I love you, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

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