Bible Study: Fear and Peace

A biblical reflection based on John 20:19-29
By Rev. Mani Luke John

Formatted for printing

John 20: 19-29
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Prayer

Lord, God of peace and harmony, make me an instrument of your peace. Lord, give your wisdom and knowledge so that I understand that you have called me to be a peacemaker rather than an instigator. Where there is hatred, injury, error, doubt, despair, darkness, sadness, use me as a peacemaker.

Reflection

After the Easter Sunday ISIS attacks on 21 April in Sri Lanka, Muslims in Sri Lanka felt anxious and suspicious. Many people were angry with Muslims, including Catholic and Protestant Christians. Three days later, some of my church members told me “Pastor we must send these Muslims out of our town.” Some said, “It should happen to Muslims because the Muslims were supporting those that suppressed our freedom fight.” Some Tamils felt happy because Muslims were also facing the suffering which Tamils faced during the Sri Lankan civil war. One of the Tamil Parliamentarians gathered a quick protest in Batticaloa, urging the removal of certain politicians because of the response to the Easter Sunday attacks. While I am writing this, two Muslim Governors have resigned.

The scripture John 20:19-29 gives a great commandment to the Tamil Christian community as well as all Christians in the world, and we are all called to follow that command in the present situation in Sri Lanka and worldwide. Jesus’s community (Ochlos) was in great fear after His crucifixion. The Crucifixion had thrown the Ochlos (the Disciples) into great mental distress, too. Why did the Disciples fear the Roman empire? Because they had just seen what happened to their beloved leader Jesus. If such a vicious, illegal, unjust attack could be carried out on Jesus, a leader who identified Himself with the marginalized and oppressed, then it was no stretch of the imagination to think that the Roman empire could do the same to the followers of Jesus. In the context of hopelessness, fear, and isolation, peace is brought by Christ. When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week and the doors of the house where the Disciples had met were locked for fear of the Romans, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."(John 20:19) The Greek word εἰρήνη (i-ray'-nay) is used for “peace.” εἰρήνη comes from εἴρω (eirō). εἴρω means "to join or tie together into a whole." 

Today, we are called to make peace, to act in peace, and to speak peace among vulnerable people who are experiencing great fear. We are called to join or tie together with the Ochlos Muslims.

Why do we want to do this work or ministry at this time? Why do we want to be peacemakers?

To answer this question, I would like to pose another question as an answer. Who brought peace among the Disciples? The Christ who experienced the cross and suffering. After Christ said, “Peace be with you,” he showed them his hands and his side (John20:20). As Tamil Christians, like others who have experienced suffering and marginalization, we have experienced the fear of displacement, arrest, inquiry, and investigation. We have come through all the suffering. The present situation is not new to us. Those who have experienced suffering are responsible for sharing peace with others who suffer. This is not a time to say, “Who came for us when we were suffering?” but it is time to build peace among the Ochlos. The peace which is brought by power and authority is not permanent but the peace which is brought by Ochlos is an eternal one. The Disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord who experienced the cross. The Ochlos will rejoice when Tamil Christian show their solidarity with them. Let’s follow Jesus Christ. Amen

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you a peacemaker or fear maker?
  2. Do you agree that the wounded one can bring true peace in the world?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus calls you to be a peacemaker?
  4. Do you feel happy when your enemy experiences what you did?

About the Author

Rev. Mani Luke John is a pastor in the Church of American Ceylon Mission, Sri Lanka. The Church of the American Ceylon Mission is a longstanding Global Ministries partner.