On the Other Side of Failure

If someone gives you a lecture on how to change a flat tire and your tires are all full, you tend to let the lecture fly in one ear and out the other. But if someone offers you that same lecture while you are on the side of a highway , stranded with a flat tire, you tend to listen more intently. The lesson hasn’t changed, the listener has.

As I was studying the peace that Christ offers us this week, I realized something that stunned me, as I had never seen it before. Before his imminent death, while they were in an upper room celebrating a religious feast, he made his disciples a shocking offer.

John records Jesus as saying this to his inner circle in the upper room, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (John 14).”

You see, while Jesus knew what life-altering events would happen in the next few days, the disciples didn’t. Who’s to blame them for letting his rich offer, his powerful promise, go in one ear and out the other. After all, it was a feast night, full of wine and traditions and good food. In their minds, here was no lack of peace here, just good friends gathered together celebrating.

What is shocking is that Jesus offers them the same thing on the other side of failure. The words haven’t changed; the listeners have.

Between the first offer and the second offer, the disciples’ world had been turned upside down. Their beloved Master had been betrayed by one of their own, convicted in a bogus trial, and executed as a common thief. And almost as bad as that, they had deeply failed him by denying him, running and hiding, fearing for their own lives rather than fighting to defend his.

Before his death, in an upper room, Jesus had told them not to let their heart be troubled nor fearful. Tarasso, the Greek word translated troubled, means to agitate, to strip up, to disturb something intended to be steady. Deiliao, the Greek word translated fearful literally means to live in paralyzing fear.

After his death and resurrection, Jesus finds his disciples gathered again in an upper room being exactly what he said they need not be: deeply disturbed and locked in a room together in paralyzing fear.

Surely, upon Mary’s news that she had talked to a resurrected Jesus, the disciples must have felt a sudden wave of joy and relief. But following quickly on its heals was another wave, a wave of shame and regret and fear. What would Jesus say to them, if he would even be willing to look at them and speak to them at all? What would his posture be towards them in their deeply disturbing failure?

Jesus makes his first appearance to his trembling disciples in that upper room. He walks into the silent room (through a locked door, mind you) to see his friends huddled in fear and guilt. Who will break the treacherous silence?

And in this scene, Jesus offers them exactly what he had offered last time they were in an upper room together. “Peace be with you. And when he had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord (John 20).”

The same words, the same astounding promise, this time fell on very different ears. On the other side of their failure, on the side of the awareness of their great need of peace and forgiveness, the disciples were ready to receive this astounding offer.

Jesus had offered them his peace, a peace he distinguished as different from the world’s peace, before his death.

This time, on the other side of death and resurrection, he shows them his peace. He shows them the scars in his hands and side, as if to say, the peace that I offer you is a deep and wide peace, one secured at the greatest cost. It is not like the world’s peace which is fragile and based on your performance and circumstances.

It’s as if he says to all of us, “My peace that I offer you again is an unshakeable peace based not on your performance but on mine. You need not be disturbed or fearful, for all that I do, I do perfectly.”

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