Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace be with you. If you haven’t heard that lately, you haven’t been to church.
Last Sunday, as I read the gospel (John 20:19-31), I thought to myself, “Dang, that’s a lot of ‘Peace be with you.’” Jesus said it three times in that one reading—twice in one encounter with the disciples. Of course, we also say it in our liturgy—“The Peace of the Lord be always with you. And also with you.”—and I suppose that’s where it comes from.
This Sunday (Luke 24:36b-48), again, Jesus will greet the disciples with that familiar phrase: Peace be with you. As I wrote about yesterday, the disciples didn’t seem to care; they were still terrified. Still, it seems to be Jesus’ attempt to greet them in a disarming way. Peace be with you.
But it’s more than a greeting; Jesus is offering them his peace. Way back in John 14, Jesus made that explicit, saying to them, “My peace I give to you; my peace I leave with you.” Part of his departing gift is the bestowal of that peace. And, when the risen Jesus shows up again, he reminds them that they have it. Peace be with you.
Grammatically speaking, the statement “Peace be with you” is an interesting way of conveying the Lord’s peace. Jesus didn’t say, “Receive my peace.” Nor did he say, “Peace is yours.” Instead, he says, “Peace be with you.” In fact, he doesn’t even say a verb. It’s merely implied in the Greek. He just says, “Peace…with you.” It’s not an action. It’s not a disposition. It’s a recognition of what is already true.
How does that shape our liturgical exchange of the Lord’s peace? When someone says, “The Peace of the Lord be always with you,” he/she isn’t really giving you anything. You’ve already got it. They’re really saying, “The Peace of the Lord…always with you.” It’s not a granting of peace. It’s an invitation to recognize it.
Jesus says comfortable words to the disciples—Peace be with you—and sometimes he has to say it multiple times. He’s not giving them extra peace. He’s urging them to see the peace that they have been given. It’s the peace he has given to us as well. Let us bid one another recognize it.