Shalom Aleichem Matt and Mary Lou Bristol
It was evening on the Sunday when He arose from the grave that our Lord Jesus miraculously passed through the locked door behind which His disciples were huddled in fear. Jesus greeted the disciples with words He had never, at least from the record in the New Testament, spoken to them before: “Shalom Aleichem.” In our English language Bible, these words are translated “Peace be upon you.” John 20:19.
These Hebrew words sound a lot like the greeting Muslims all over the world give to one another, “Salaam Aleikum!” But for the disciples of Jesus on that resurrection Sunday, almost 550 years before the birth of Muhammad, these words had a cosmic significance. So much so that Jesus repeated them in the same encounter, and then added: “as my Father hath sent me, even though send I you.” John 20:21. And then He breathed on them, and said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” John 20:22.
Are you surprised that Jesus only spoke this greeting to His disciples AFTER he died a cruel death on the cross, was buried in a tomb, and then raised from the dead? And did you ever wonder why Jesus, the prophesied Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), about whose birth the angel of the Lord and a multitude of the heavenly hosts exclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth Peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:13-14), did not actually confer Peace upon His disciples until after His crucifixion and resurrection?
Let’s go back to the Old Testament record of the prophet Isaiah to find a clue to the answer to this question. Chapter 53’s forecast of the coming Messiah includes these words in the fifth verse: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
You see, God’s Peace, true “Shalom,” only comes AFTER the atonement. Christ’s death on the cross atoned for our sins, meaning His death made possible the forgiveness and pardoning of all our sins (past, present and future), and for all who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, to experience, once and for all times, true “Shalom.” Romans 10:9. Through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, all who follow Jesus are reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
The Hebrew term “Shalom” means a great deal more than our English word Peace. Shalom includes peace, but also true rest, wholeness, welfare, contentment, spiritual prosperity, and fruitfulness. This is a Peace that does not depend on our actual circumstances. It can exist in the midst of any storm or conflict, even a diagnosis of cancer. Jesus freely gives His Shalom to all who would receive it, in simple, childlike faith and trust.
This Christmas, our greatest gift to Jesus, and to our families and friends and to everyone we may encounter during the rest of our earthly lives, is to fully receive His Shalom, be radically changed by it, and then pass it on to others, for God’s glory and the advancement of His Kingdom here on earth. God has brought the nations of this world to our very doorstep. We are all missionaries and Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation, of true Shalom. (Inspired in part by Pastor Jonathan Cahn’s “The Book of Mysteries.”)
Merry Christmas! Shalom Aleichem, from our house to yours.