Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – “Peace Be With You! Do Not Be Afraid.” (Genesis 43:23)

Not too long before Joseph finally reveals who he is to his brothers, he says, “Peace to you, do not be afraid” (Genesis 43:23). Here we immediately see Joseph as a type of Christ, for Jesus says the same words before He reveals Himself to His disciples. He says, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19; Luke 24:36). He also says, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:10).

Have you ever considered why Jesus says these words beyond being a simple greeting? I believe they’re more than that. Let us first consider why Joseph says these words to his brothers. Not knowing who Joseph is at first, his brothers were afraid that they were going to pay for what they did to Joseph (Genesis 42:21-22), but Joseph does not intend to harm them; he intends to be peaceful. So, he says with comfort, “Peace to you, do not be afraid.” So then, why would Jesus say these words to His disciples after rising from the dead?

These are the very disciples who denied Jesus during His trial and crucifixion. John and His mother, Mary, were the only disciples who were with Jesus through it all. All the others denied knowing Him and being His disciples. When Jesus reveals Himself resurrected, they suddenly know who He is—He is God, and they are struck with the fear of the Lord. But Jesus did not come to harm them in wrath to punish them for their weakness and denial. Instead, He came in peace. Thus, He says with comfort, “Peace be with you. Do not be afraid.” (This is also why you always hear your pastor say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” just before he invites you to approach the Sacrament of the Altar, for the true body and blood of Christ we receive in the Eucharist gives us that peace with God in the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.)

Jesus says these words to His disciples because He was coming to them in peace and He came to give them His peace, just as He said before, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). It’s as if these words were an introductory statement to His imminent death and resurrection.

Therefore, these words of Christ are for us, too, His post-resurrection disciples. We typically read these words aloud on Easter Sunday or the following weeks of the Easter festival. When we hear or read these words, then, let us hear them as Christ’s greeting to us—yet not as a simple hello, but as the inauguration of the peace of God among us. As St. Paul intimates, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

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