The world of Biblical studies is constantly changing. New archaeological discoveries breed new realities. New interpretive lenses bring new understanding. Whether it is the Canonical approach, the Historical-Critical Method, the JEDP Documentary Hypothesis, or the Jesus Seminar, scholars need to publish or perish, and so Biblical studies journals are filled with papers. Some aren’t worth the pixels on the screen, while others will stand the test of time. One that continues to carry weight (pardon the pun), is The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, common called Strong’s Concordance, which was first published in 1890, but continues to find its home on the shelves of preachers to this day. Strong’s is basically a list of every word that appears in the Bible; all 8,674 Hebrew and 5,624 Greek words contained therein. It is a helpful tool for anyone who would like work in the original languages of the Scriptures, but isn’t exactly a Greek or Hebrew scholar.
Strong’s Greek word number 1515 is Eirene, the Greek word for “peace,” which Jesus speaks over his disciples in the opening verse of Sunday’s Gospel lesson. One of the definitions of eirene, way down at the number five slot is “of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” How spectacular is that sentence? Anyway, what struck me this morning is the reality of the disciples’ fear, and Jesus’ just as clear declaration of peace.
The disciples, despite having heard the testimony of Mary Magdalene that Jesus was raised from the dead, cannot find peace. They are still very much stuck in fear, and are far from content with their earthly lot. Whatsoever sort it is is still one of confusion, uncertainty, and the stark reality that the news of Jesus’ resurrection meant that the cross hairs of the Roman/Temple Alliance were aimed squarely at them. Whether or not Jesus was actually raised from the dead, the fact that his body was missing from the tomb meant bad things for his closest companions. They gathered in that upper room afraid for their lives, and Jesus entered the locked space, and said:
Shalom, Eirene, Pax, Peace
It’ll take several more encounters with the risen Jesus and a pretty hefty dose of the Holy Spirit before the disciples are able to find that tranquil state in which dying for their faith in the risen Lord isn’t something to be feared. But on this night, the first evening of the resurrection reality, Jesus invites them to begin the journey. He invites us as well. In the midst of whatsoever sort of earthly lot are in, Jesus offers us the eirene of God that passes all understanding. He invites us to find in him the tranquil state of the soul.