By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
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!” – John 20:19
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” – John 20:21
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!” – John 20:26
There is this old song that says, if we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need him now. I think the same thing can be said of the peace of God. As you see in the verses above, Jesus greeted his disciples with the phrase ‘Peace be with you.’ What was the reason? 'Peace be with you' was far more than just a platitude or casual greeting. As you will discover, not only was this necessary for the disciples in the moment, but it was necessary for their future as well.
What Does Jesus Mean by ‘Peace Be with You?’
To really understand what Jesus means you must know what the word peace actually means. The word for peace used here is ‘eiréné’ which means one, peace, quietness, or rest.
It can also mean wholeness or peace of mind. This definition of the word is about to make a lot more sense when you look at the context of this verse.
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What Is the Significance of These 3 Verses in John 20?
Before Jesus utters these words, you must understand what is happening to the disciples. The first two utterances happened on the day Jesus rose from the dead. Today, we have the benefit of looking back at history; but for a moment, put yourself in Jerusalem on this day. Earlier that day, Peter and John went to the tomb in a panic because of what Mary Magdelene had told them. I’m sure she had some hysteria in her voice. Here are her words:
So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” -John 20:2
Upon hearing this, Peter and John raced to the tomb to see what she had told them. Here is what happened when they got there:
Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. – John 20:6-10
Can you picture Peter and John going back to the other disciples and telling them what they saw? There were already in a difficult emotional state and this must have exacerbated it. There had to be unrest, confusion, and uncertainty as to what had really happened.
There were a lot of things in their midst but peace was not one of them.
In fact, we see from John 20:19 the disciples were hiding in a room behind a locked door because they were afraid. Remember they had just seen their Savior—the one who they left everything to follow—put to death. Is there any wonder they were afraid? They were probably thinking “when is our turn coming? They put Jesus to death, surely, they will come for us. After all, we are his disciples.”
Hiding in fear behind a locked door, unsure of what really happened to Jesus’ body, Jesus appears and the first words he utters are 'Peace be with you.'
The reason Jesus said 'peace be with you' as more than a platitude, was because he had to settle and calm all the emotions that were raging inside of them. He had to speak rest to their souls and peace of mind to their hearts. He also had to do this more than once. Jesus had to repeat the same scenario a week later because Thomas was not a part of the group when he first appeared. Jesus (because of his great love and concern) made another appearance just for Thomas. What did he say to him? You guessed it: 'peace be with you.'
Now that you understand the background, let’s make this personal. How is Jesus speaking to us today in these verses? When we look at three ways Jesus showed up with peace, it becomes clear that 'peace be with you' is not simply a platitude:
1. Jesus Uses Peace to Address Fear
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…John 20:19 (emphasis added)
Within this one line of Scripture, you see Jesus’ true heart and his love for the disciples. He knew they were afraid and he gave them peace. So many times in life we are like the disciples, locked in a room because we are afraid. There are countless situations in life that have the potential to produce fear in your heart. When you are afraid, you do what the disciples did—you lock everything down. Yet Jesus, knowing how you feel, can show up to give you peace in your situation. In fact, he encourages it. If you remember here is what Paul said:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 (emphasis added)
When you are faced with life’s anxieties, worries, and cares, Jesus wants to show up to address those anxieties and give you peace. He desires to speak peace over your life. The reason 'peace be with you' is more than a platitude is because it transcends the circumstance and settles those out-of-control emotions raging inside of you.
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2. Jesus Pursues to Give Peace through Challenges
What I find interesting in this story is that they were in a room with a locked door. They weren’t looking for, or expecting, Jesus to show up. Yet the locked door did not keep Jesus from finding them. He was purposeful in meeting with them because he had to speak peace to their hearts.
So often we think we are the ones that must initiate our pursuit of God, when the opposite is true. Because God loves you, he pursues you. The psalmist reminds you that:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18
When you are broken, anxious, worried, or fearful...it is in those moments that God looks to hold you close. Remember, Jesus went through the locked door to give them peace. He will do the same for you. In your moment of greatest fear, he is waiting to give you peace.
This peace not only calms your emotions it walks with you through the challenge. This is the type of peace Jesus gives.
3. Jesus Uses Peace to Secure Purpose
Isn’t it ironic that Jesus said I am giving you peace and as a result, I am sending you out.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” – John 20:21
The peace Jesus gave them was designed to move them from behind the locked doors of fear and into the purpose that Jesus had for them. Jesus’ peace is not designed to make you static but to get you moving. He must address the thing that is giving you the greatest fear because chances are it is holding you back. After he deals with that then it’s time to move forward.
Jesus never intended for the disciples to stay behind a locked door. The same way Jesus has no intention for you to stay trapped by your unrest and fear. He will do for you what he did for his disciples. Give you peace which in turn can give you the confidence to move forward.
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What We're Really Saying When We Wish Someone 'Peace Be With You'
Hopefully, by now you can see the reasons 'peace be with you' is more than just a platitude. Let me give you one more way to think about it. When you say 'peace be with you' then you are actually saying let God’s rest, comfort, wholeness, and assurance go with you.
In every area of your life, regardless of what is happening around you let peace be found with you and in you. This is the type of peace that only God can give. It is the type of peace that transcends your understanding and, best of all, this is what Jesus promised.
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
A Prayer that Peace Truly Be With You
You promised before you left us that you would give us peace. Help me today to walk in the peace that you promised. Let your peace override any of my fears, anxieties, or worries and help me to walk in the stillness and comfort of the rest that comes from your peace. I thank you today for your great peace and I face today knowing that you are with me and so is your peace.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.