It is the evening of the first Easter Day. For fear of the Jewish leaders, the disciples have met secretly, behind closed doors. Through these closed doors comes the risen Jesus and stands in their midst. He has already appeared privately to Mary Magdalene and Peter, to the other women, and the two Emmaus disciples. This, however, is the first official appearance to the Twelve.
His commission to them is in striking contrast to their actual situation. They are terrified, but he tells them to have no fear and rather to be of good courage. They are in hiding, but he bids them throw open the closed doors and, risking the dangers of persecution and death, to march out to the spiritual conquest of the world.
On this occasion, he spoke four short sentences – of greeting, of command, and of promise. “Peace be unto you. . . .”
The church’s very first need, before it can begin to engage in evangelism, is an experience and an assurance of Christ’s peace – peace of conscience through his death that banishes sin, peace of mind through his resurrection that banishes doubt. Jesus repeated his greeting for emphasis. “Peace be unto you,” he said, “peace be unto you.”
It is utterly impossible to preach the gospel of peace to others unless we ourselves have peace. Indeed, the greatest single reason for the church’s evangelistic disobedience centers in the church’s doubts. We are not sure if our own sins are forgiven. We are not sure if the gospel is true. And so, because we doubt, we are dumb. We need to hear again Christ’s word of peace, and see again his hands and his side. Once we are glad that we have seen the Lord, and once we have clearly recognized him as our crucified and risen savior, then nothing and no one will be able to silence us.
From “The Great Commission” by John Stott, published in One Race, One Gospel, One Task, Volume 1, edited by Carl F. H. Henry and W. Stanley Mooneyham, World Wide Publications, 1967. © 1967 John R.W. Stott. Courtesy of the John Stott Literary Executors.