Thrice "Peace Be Unto You"
by Henry Dyer
In this world there is no peace. There never was peace here since the time when sin first entered and ruined our first parents. Moreover, this is the darkest age as respects any peace that ever has been. It has been likened to a ship at sea, whose crew early murdered their captain and ever since have been fighting among themselves as to who should be captain. It is what Isaiah long ago said: "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked"; that is, to the lawless, those who won't be subject to the living God. Cain was a lawless man, and murdered his brother, and never did he have any peace, after that. And as this same guilty age keeps darkening, it deludes itself by talking about peace; but it has no real peace. Only those who know the living God through the living Son can possibly have that. Peace in the soul by the blood, peace in the circumstances by the mighty arms of the risen Jesus, is the portion of the saint; and this forms our subject.
Let us turn now to that chapter in John where these precious peace speaking words occur. But before reading the verses, a word upon these two blessed chapters. I like, in my mind, as I read them, to write over chapter xix., "He made peace by the blood of His cross"; while over chapter xx., I would write, "He came and preached peace." The world preaches peace, but it has never made it; Jesus made; peace, therefore His preaching of it is precious. Of no good would it be for me to invite the poor of the neighbourhood to a supper if I had no supper ready provided for them. One other remark. As I read down the chapter, I think was there ever so great and so precious a Shepherd over so timid, so feeble, so ragged a flock. A feeble Mary, I find, weeping, at the top; a fearful band barricading themselves against the enemy in the middle; and a doubting Thomas at the end. Oh, fellow-saints, always to see ourselves in that light: a little feeble flock, and a great Shepherd.
But now let us read chapter xx. 19: "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews." The word "assembled" is rightly omitted in the Revised Version, for this was not merely a place of gathering, but they had made it their dwelling-place where they had barricaded themselves for fear of the murderous Jews. And He saw by the appearance of the room, with its door and windows barred, and by their very faces, that they had not the peace proper to them. "Came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, 'Peace be unto you.' And when He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side." The hands, where they had nailed Him to the cross; His side, where that spear went in. "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord." Ah, beloved friends, that is what always makes us glad. When Paul wants to put joy into the fainting Hebrews, he says, early in his epistle, "We see Jesus." Here, then, we have the first of these three; now let us read the second.
"Then said Jesus unto them again, As the Father" (that is, the common Father of you and me, as He had earlier said) "hath sent Me" (out into that wicked, wicked world), "even so send I you." You too must go out into that murderous, restless world. He does not now repeat His action of showing them His hands and His side, but He breathed upon them an animating, informing spirit, that shall put discernment into their souls. The Spirit, as He descended upon them at Pentecost, was a spirit of power; the Spirit breathed upon them here is a spirit of intelligence, a discerning power that they might see who were the saved and the pardoned, and who were not. Now we will see what was the third. "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came." Didymus means a twin, and we are never told who was the other; in order, I suppose, that I may say that I am his twin brother and just as ready to fail. "The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." The Scriptures have said that in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established; but Thomas would not be instructed. Notice how very dogmatic he was, how very resolute and determined was his language; quite a difficult state of mind for a believer, and more still an apostle, to be found in. "And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus." Oh, lovely truth! for the sake of an uninstructed and backward soul Jesus comes the second time. How much do we owe to the weak one of Scripture, whose weakness has drawn out the love of our adorable Lord. "The doors being shut" (Nothing do we read now as to fear of the Jews); shut now to show the distinction between the little flock within and the world without. "And stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you." That is, unto all of you; about this church difficulty; over this weak and rather trying fellow apostle. "Then saith He to Thomas." Ah, the voice that melts the stubbornest of hard hearts. "Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands." What must have been the astonishment of Thomas to find that his own words, spoken when no visible Jesus was present, were known and heard. So like this to Ps. cxxxix., "There is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether." But the Master didn't excuse him, notice, because he had been slow to believe. But Thomas answered, "My Lord and my God"; or, more literally, "The Lord of me." Who knows even me, and the very depths within me; and knows that the bottom of my badness, and the blackest of my blackness, is my unbelief. Ah, this is Ps. cxxxix. again, "Search me, O God, and know my heart." "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." And Peter never forgot that word, for as he writes to these Gentile churches he says, "Whom not having seen, ye love." God bless to us this preaching of peace from the new, warm, risen lips of the precious Jesus. The moment He got His body again, see how he used it; the moment He got His breath again, how He used it. I love that little hymn:
"The Saviour rose as full of love,
As when He bled and died;
And now He lives in heaven above,
To bless His church and bride."
I always seem to link these verses with that one in John xiv. You all remember the words, spoken in these closing dark days, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you." The world never gives peace, because it has not got it to give. This mighty city, with all its vast riches, cannot give peace, for its heart is always shaking and quaking. The British empire and its government, though it be the biggest government in the world, cannot give peace; its condition is that of which the Master spake when He described these very days, "Men's hearts failing them for fear." Not the British army, nor the British navy, though they may never have been beaten; not science and art, nor yet an abundance of gold can keep fear away. Belshazzar, the great king, was rejoicing in his security and his riches at his costly banquet, yet did he shake with fear at the appearance of the hand upon the wall. But such are not the saints. Two things beloved, are yours, as sure as eternal life is yours; peace as to your conscience, and peace as to your surroundings. "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." Now join with that verse these threefold utterances here in resurrection, and joy in the sweetness of finding that He doubles in resurrection the word spoken in feebleness.
But I would have you notice not only how He speaks, but the difference of these three utterances. And I would state, first of all, what I see the difference to be, and then verify what I have said, I think of the first, as respecting any fear whatever, as to what an angry world can do for you; for He saw that door shut, and these windows barred for fear of mortal man. As to the second—peace, when I send you out into that angry world as message-bearers for God. You shall have peace, because I give you power to see the real character of those around you, even when they surge about you, hating your God's message. Thirdly, peace in your church work, when you have weak and feeble saints, and difficult to deal with, in your assembly, that you may bear patiently with the most trying and difficult. And it does seem that Thomas became the most precious edifier of the whole company
Read again that 19th verse. "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." Consider what that fear means. They were a little, little band in that busy, proud, hostile city, with the most dangerous surroundings; for only three days before that city, with wild clamour, had murdered their Master. Imagine the disturbed state of a city like this, if only three days before, the citizens had murdered their governor. And not so only, but they would stamp out the very sect from off the earth. "When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes," He had said, "lacked ye anything"? And they must answer, "Nothing." "But when once they have numbered Me with the transgressors, you will find a very different state of things. If they have murdered Me, they will certainly seek to murder you." "Behold I send you forth as sheep among wolves;" and there is nothing more exactly like it than what we have here. A little flock amid wolves of Saul-like men, breathing-out their threatenings against them. Suppose that you saw a flock of ten or twenty sheep, and all around it a huge pack of wolves. Ah, you would say, there will soon be an end of them. Such, then, was the condition of this little band. And they had shut themselves into this little chamber, and would seem to have stored it with the necessary food; for in Luke xxiv., when the Lord asks them, "Have you any meat?" they can at once produce of the supply they had laid up, that they might not have to go out into that murderous city. They thought that if only they could wait a few days the city would quiet down, and then they would slink away by night into the Judean hills. It was one short, brief opportunity, and the blessed Lord came down and seized it at once. He who was so ready to wash their feet when their defilement made it needful, when their condition showed their state of mind now, was equally ready to meet their need. Ah, friends, what a golden opportunity, and what a Divine use the Master makes of it. "What does this fast shut door mean?" He would say, "what these barricaded windows?" "Peter, are you afraid of what men can do, of that clamorous city outside?" "Are you afraid to die, John? They may bring their battering-rams and soon burst in and murder you all as sheep; are you afraid?" Ah, that question! And let us remember that it is a test for your soul and mine. Am I afraid of what man can do? In that same Matt, x., the Master says to His disciples, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul"; and here He finds His own dear flock filled with this very kind of fear. Ere we are aware of it, we cling to life more than it becomes us as saints. We are accustomed to guard round our lives carefully and anxiously; and look with pleasure at the defenses of a country like this, whose shores have never known an invader within living memory; and carefully do we provide for the morrow's need. Alas, when these become the trust of saints, rather than their life in Jesus.
What does the Master do? He opens His hands, and shows these nail-print wounds. "Who did this? didn't these murderers outside?" And pushing aside His resurrection robe, He shows where the murderous spear went in. "Have they harmed Me ? They only sent Me the quicker home to My Father above." "Can they harm you?" Oh, what a Master! "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord." Not when they saw the barriers; because the question would arise, are they strong enough? Not when they thought of the provision they had stored up; because they might ask, 'would it last long enough'? That could not give peace; it never could. No, beloved, our peace is this; that the sting of death is taken away for you and for me. 1 Cor. xv. tells us that we are baptized in the place of the dead; but if that is the triumph of the beginning, what is the triumph of the end? "Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Now, none knows how soon danger to life may encompass you and me; the danger to the outside quiet of our circumstances is greater every day. Where is our peace? Not that deposit in the bank, not the kind friends who can give me shelter if I need it, not the fact that I am young and in good health, with energy to go forth into new spheres. This it is, that our life is hid with Him, and not below. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory." Who can touch that life? And here is a peace in spite of all that the world can possibly do against you. Blessed peace! There is an ancient fable of a hero, who was invulnerable except in one heel, and by an arrow-wound in that heel, that conqueror died. But you have not a spot which is vulnerable, whatever the world can do against you. "If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things." Pray for me, and I for you, that God's own peace against a frowning world may garrison our hearts every day.
"I laugh at famine, smile at fear,
While telling all my riches o'er;
I see my Lord and Shepherd near,
And in His fullness find my store."
Fullness of peace, by the blood, as touching my conscience; fullness of victory over the grave, as touching my circumstances upon earth. If you want peace as you walk down city streets, take care that you see the Lord. If you want peace in your family work, in your shop work, in your workshop work, under all the gathering evils, always have Jesus in view; though they cast you out because you won't join in the guilty ways of their guilty strikes. "In all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us"; but only through Him. Ah, if we go back to the days of the early church, the days of the catacombs of Rome, when the saints of God had to live under ground, what a truth we find written upon these walls, "Pax vobiscum" ("Peace be with you").