I blogged last about Jesus command “Peace be with you”. It was Jesus first words spoken after his resurrection from the dead in the book of John. It is often hard to follow Jesus utterance for peace when our world gets flipped upside down. But this is exactly what Jesus does, comes to us in the midst of our absolute worst and craziest times and says, “my peace I give to you.” On one hand His timing couldn’t be worse in that peace feels so very far off. On the other hand, His timing is perfect. When we suffer, or are grieving, or are stressing, or are caught in the maelstrom of life, our Savior comes and brings His peace. Much of our life is lived in balance and routine and “normalcy” so this promise of peace can often land on deaf ears. Our lives are so comfortable here in the west we can often fend for ourselves and forget that we still need the peace and provision that can only come from a Heavenly Father.
But then things change. Then you get the bad news. Then you get that phone call. Then you find that lump. Then you have that fight with the person you love. Then your kids struggle. Then your business suffers. Then your classes get overwhelming. Then the demon of addiction shows up at your door again. When the bottom falls out on our lives, the Savior is still waiting with His promise of peace. It is exactly in these times, the hardest times of our life, which can drive us back to sound relationship with God. Because in the worst times of our life, it boils down the noise and chatter of our life down to the things that are most essential. And what is essential? To be known and loved by the God who created you and be transformed by that great love to be an instrument of change in this world. In this way, when we suffer, we get to experience an extra blessing of God’s presence.
For my wife and I, it is the times of struggle that have forged the bond of love and strength that draws us together. When we have needed God the most in these difficult times, He has always brought us His peace. We have been held together by the peace of the Father. We don’t always know how to pray when we are struggling, but we know that we need to pray. And we do. And we ask God for His peace. And He always provides. And He always holds us together. Today is our 12th anniversary, and though we suffered a bit earlier this week, still we pray. We cling to the promise of provision by the God who loves us. God always provides, but His provision is of presence and not of perfect material wealth that some prosperity preachers promise. God will always give us His peace through His holy spirit. This much Heather and I have learned in the 12 years of marriage together.
After Jesus comes back to life in John and He tells his disciples “Peace be with you” He reappears several times to his disciples. The final chapter of John retells the beautiful final scene of Jesus’ last moments on earth with his disciples. The disciples are back on the Sea of Galilee fishing through the night. They have been unsuccessful- and as a fisherman I can tell you that nothing is worse than slow fishing when you are hoping to catch something. And then Jesus, the Resurrected Savior of the world, comes and gives them some fishing advice. From the shore he yells out, “Try the other side!” and sure enough, when they cast their net on the other side of their boat, their catch exceeds their wildest expectations. You have to understand, as a fisherman, and a follower of Jesus, I love this story. And then the disciples come to shore and Jesus has made them a great breakfast over the open fire. You can picture this scene beautifully…the early dawn sky lit up by the rising sun, Jesus cooking fish over the open fire, the disciples in awe that they were able to spend one more meal with the Savior they loved so much. At the end of the breakfast feast, Jesus tells Peter, “You follow me.” It is Jesus final words in the book of John and in many ways sums up the Christian experience. After receiving His promise of peace, after spending time getting to know Him, Jesus gives us this command to usher in the “already not yet” time where we await His coming again. What are we to do? How are we to live? Jesus has already told us. “You…follow me.”
And this is what we do, we follow Jesus. Though life has moments of sheer pain and other times of utter exhilaration, times of sadness and joy, periods of fear and other times of solidarity with others…we follow the risen Lord. We follow Him boldly into the story He is busy writing in the world. “You….follow me!”