“Peace be with you.” Those are the first words Thomas audibly hears from His Savior’s lips after the resurrection. I would have loved to have been there in that room—to see my Savior face to face, to hear His gentle voice. I would have loved to have been Thomas in that moment. In his greatest moment of doubt, he hears the words “Peace be with you.”
Jesus’ very next words to Thomas are a reiteration of what Thomas himself had demanded—he demanded that he must see and touch the risen Christ’s hands and side, or he would not believe. What strikes me the most about this moment, is that Jesus is not reprimanding Thomas for his words. Jesus comes to Thomas and invites him to do the very thing he had demanded, to see and touch His wounded hands and side. The same Jesus who had just given His life on a cross for Thomas comes to the doubting disciple bringing nothing but peace, and strengthening his faith. The wounds were there for him. It was through those wounds, and because of them, that Jesus had greeted him with peace.
This is one of the accounts in the Gospels I revisit often, because I can empathize with Thomas. I want assurance, I need to be constantly reminded of the gospel. When life isn’t going according to plan, when there are storms, when anxiety and doubt seem to overpower faith, I want an unyielding peace. I want the same peace that Thomas had that day as his Savior came seeking him out to deliver the peace that only He could give.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Jesus gives me peace, I have no peace without Christ. Without Christ I am an enemy of God and have every reason to be troubled and afraid. The Law is written on our hearts and our conscience bears witness to our Law-breaking. God’s Law demands from me perfection and peace with God and neighbors, and I have broken that Law. I have every reason to fear a holy and just God apart from Christ.
Jesus does not give as the world gives. The world knows only giving in accordance to deserving and earning, according to merits and demerits. There is always a condition or prerequisite. Nothing is free. You must fight for, earn, and maintain what you wish to receive and keep. The world is deceptive, nothing is guaranteed.
But Jesus does not give as the world gives. With Jesus, everything is guaranteed and has been finished from the start. We do not earn or maintain anything in our salvation, Christ does it all. As Luther states, “the promise is certain and reliable, and is surely carried out, because God carries it out.” The promise is solid because it is solely dependent on God, and God cannot lie. Christ gifts to me the merits, righteousness, and peace that was His and takes my fear, sin, and guilt from me. Jesus only gives to the weak, the sick, the doubters, and the undeserving. Jesus gives only to sinners. Jesus gives this promise to us. He came for you and me—for those who could not do it on their own. He came for the weak who had run out of hope. He came to hold the sin of the whole world in His hands on the cross, so that He could hold you and me.
The perpetual work of God is seeking out His lost sheep. In Jesus’ first encounter with Peter, Peter says to Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” But Jesus never left him. In fact, Jesus drew close to Peter. He lead Peter as his Good Shepherd. After years of being close to Jesus, Peter denies his Good and Faithful Shepherd. Jesus still does not leave him, but seeks Peter out, just as He had done with Thomas. He seeks out His weak disciples to personally strengthen and comfort him with His peace and forgiveness. Jesus continues to do the same for you, and He does the same for me. Jesus seeks me out through His Word. He speaks peace and forgiveness to me through the gospel, strengthening my faith just as He did with Peter and Thomas.
Jesus is the perpetual peace that comes to instruct, enlighten, and strengthen weak hearts who cannot hold fast to Him. Martin Luther once said that “it is the perpetual work of God to instruct, enlighten, and strengthen weak hearts through His Spirit, not to condemn them or cast them aside because of their weakness.” He knows every single one of my fears and my doubts. He loves me, a sinner, and gave His life for me and to me. Jesus has and will always hold fast to me with His nail-scarred hands—the hands that brought me peace with God.