COUNTRY PASTOR: 'Peace be with you,' Luke 24:36
In Tanzania, where I grew up, the language is Swahili. The word most commonly used to greet others is "Salaam," which basically means "peace." This also is used among most Arabic nations, and is similar to the Hebrew word "shalom," used by Jews If you think about it, this is the perfect greeting for when different people meet one another. It expresses the hope that there is peace both with the other person and also within the other person.
We tend to understand that peace is an absence of conflict—when there is no struggle or fighting going on. But the idea behind "shalom" is much deeper and fuller than that. It basically means "complete" or "healthy" and describes situations that are purposeful and productive. "Peace" describes a stagnant pond; "shalom" describes a flowing stream.
It is significant that although Jesus regularly and often used this greeting throughout his ministry, he seems to have used it most freely during the mysterious month just after rising from the dead and before ascending to heaven. In five of the seven recorded encounters during that period, he very deliberately greets his followers with the wonderful assurance "shalom laka," peace be with you. His resurrection changed everything, and gave this greeting an incalculable new significance. Before this, "shalom" was only a hopeful promise; afterwards it was a guaranteed certainty.
If, after his torture and death, Jesus had remained in the tomb, then there would have been a terrible irony about all his talk and promise of peace. The still, cold grave would indeed have brought peace and quiet after the controversies of his living and the violence of his dying. The most obvious lesson to learn from that result would be that we should try to escape problems and avoid conflict at all costs. If the peace of death is where it all ends up anyway, why pursue anything other than ease, comfort and idleness until you get there?
But when Jesus broke out from the tomb, he demonstrated that death is not the end of it all. Instead, it is just another battle to be fought. His own death was as terrible a struggle as there could be, but he considered it well worth the cost for the resurrection he would receive after fighting through it. Jesus did experience the peace of death; but for him that achieved the great satisfaction of conquering Satan, and the great sacrifice of cleansing sin.
And Jesus' resurrection also proves the truth in all his other teaching and example, where he challenges us to lay down our own lives as we serve God and our neighbor. Indeed, there are, and there must be, problems and struggles which are not peaceful at all. But we can engage and embrace them because Jesus has proved that they are well worth the reward that ultimately God has for us.
Back in school we enjoyed the ironic humor of this phrase: "Life is hard, and then you die." I enjoy it still, but only because Jesus has filled its irony with joy: "Life is hard, then you die, and then you live."