I’m rapidly approaching the end of the book of John. Jesus has now died and risen again, and I’m in the 20th chapter, where the disciples finally see their risen Lord. No doubt because of all the persecution they faced, the disciples were hiding in a room with the doors locked. Suddenly, Jesus showed up, and “stood among them and said, “‘Peace be with you!'”
Because I’m forcing myself to slow down and read this book slowly, verse by verse, I’m reading meaning into phrases that I’d merely glossed over before. This time, I focused on Jesus’ greeting. This type of greeting still exists in Israel today. The modern equivalent is “Shalom.” It’s their version of “hello.” The first thing Jesus said to them after he rose from the dead is the equivalent of “Hi guys.” I was struck by the immense understatement. I mean, the guy just conquered death, for heavens sake, and what did he do? He said a typical “how do you do?” to everyone.
We can’t forget that this typical Middle Eastern greeting also wishes goodwill and peace. This sort of makes Jesus sound like a hippy, I know, but the “peace” Jesus was talking about wasn’t the “make love not war” kind of peace. Personally, and this isn’t exactly written in the text, I think he was trying to keep the disciples from wetting themselves when they saw a formerly dead guy walk into their midst, complicated by the fact that he managed to enter their secure, locked room. He was telling them “peace” as in, “Hey guys, it’s just me, and I’m greeting you like I always greeted you, it’s cool.”
There’s another layer to this peace that he extends to the disciples. Eternal peace. Spiritual peace. When Jesus tells you “Shalom,” he’s making a promise. Maybe, we should hear it as a question. “Peace? Do you want peace? I’ve got peace for you. Come and get it.”
It made me realize how much I dislike our typical American greeting. “Hello” sounds more like, “I send you greetings from the gates of hell” than “I send you peace.” I have other gripes with the English language, but I’ll keep it to “hello” for now.
I have a friend who is a recent refugee from the Congo. Her native language is French, and she gives me the best greetings. She tells me “bonjour,” which means, “good day,” but better yet, she pronounces my name in the French way. In French, Amy is spelled Aimée, and it means “friend,” “loved one,” and “beloved.” The verb for love in French is aimer (pronounced the same way as my name). So, when Hélène greets me, she says “Bonjour Aimée” (Good day, beloved friend). That’s a greeting that anyone would like!
But did you know that every day, Jesus greets you the same way that my friend Hélène greets me? He calls you his beloved. He offers his Shalom. Song of Solomon 6, verse 3 says, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (ESV). As I did on my wedding day, Jewish brides say this verse to their grooms (ani l’dodi, v’dodi li). It signifies the bond between God and man, just like the bond between a bride and her groom.
Jesus calls you his beloved, his loved one. He calls you Aimée, or if you’re a guy, I suppose, Aimé. He offers his Shalom. It’s a question. How will you respond?
Today, greet somebody in a significant way. Send them Shalom (peace). Let them know that they are beloved (Aimée). Impart wishes of a good day (bon jour). Skip the hello, and convey something significant, a blessing to your friend.