Christians look forward to the return of Jesus Christ, as they will be reunited with their Savior, Lord, and King. While they wait for that, they hold onto and obey His last words that He said before He ascended back to the right hand of God the Father.
The Gospels record the visits He made to many people after the Resurrection, including one to 11 of His disciples. There He said many things to them, including the phrase, “Peace be with you.” He repeated this phrase several times. It was a common greeting among the Hebrew people during that period of history, but it also had significance when Jesus said it after the Resurrection.
He was both greeting His friends, and encouraging them that God’s peace would be with them at all times.
What Does “Peace Be with You” Mean?
The word for peace used in both usages by the Lord in the Greek Septuagint translation of the New Testament is eiréné. It is a feminine noun that generally was used to mean, “peace, peace of mind; invocation of peace, a common Jewish farewell, in the Hebraistic sense of the health (welfare) of an individual” (Strong’s Concordance). It also had the connotation, being derived from the root eirō, “to join, to tie together into a whole, or wholeness.”
The Hebrew word that was commonly used for this greeting, and is still used today, was shalom, which is often used for hello and goodbye.
What Is the Context of This Verse?
The chapter commonly organized in the Bible as John 20 recounts the resurrection of Jesus Christ after He died on the cross for the sins of the world, and several of His appearances to His followers. The passage where the phrase is found three times is when He makes Himself known to His disciples, including the eleven remaining who were most close to Him. The Bible recounts He first said it as a greeting.
He issued it both as a greeting, but probably to assure them as well. During His first encounter, He entered a room despite the doors being locked. “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19). To show them He was Himself, and probably to calm them down, He showed them His nail-pierced hands and side and the scars He still bore.
The second time He said it, He began instituting the Great Commission, and did an act which was the precursor to Pentecost.
“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:20-22).
When Jesus said “Peace be with you” a second time, He more than likely was indicating the Father’s peace was going to be with them in a more permanent and sustainable way after He ascended. At this moment, He gives them the Holy Spirit, and begins the process of instituting the church. This moment did not formally give every believer the Holy Spirit, just the disciples present in the room. However, it did empower the ones there to begin acting in His name.
The Holy Spirit is also called the Comforter in many translations of the Bible into English, because it is God’s permanent presence in the believer, bringing peace.
Do We See This Verse Anywhere Else in Scripture?
Not all of the remaining eleven disciples were present that day when Jesus appeared in the room with the locked doors. Thomas was not present, and did not believe the others when they told Him about the incredible moment, and the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. So later, when Jesus appeared before them with Thomas in the room, He once again repeated the greeting.
“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:26-28).
Here, again, this phrase most likely served as a common greeting, and as an extension of God’s peace.
This phrase, or the use of the word eiréné for peace in a similar context, is repeated several times during the Gospels. These instances include:
Matthew 10:13 “And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.”
In this context, Jesus was commissioning the disciples early in His ministry to go out and spread the good news of God. When determining which houses they should spend time in, and which ones they should leave, Jesus encouraged them to discern whether or not the peace of God was in the home.
When the woman with the bleeding disease believed that just touching Jesus’ garment would heal her, her faith was rewarded. Jesus also blessed her, telling her to go in peace, the same peace He greeted His followers with, physically and spiritually whole.
Luke 7:50 “And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”
In a Pharisee’s home, a woman approached Jesus and cleaned His feet with her tears and precious oils. She was known to be sinful, and the Pharisee looked down on her. Jesus, however, saw that she repented and believed in Him for the right reasons. He sent her with peace. While this was a common farewell, He was also sending her with the assurance of His love and forgiveness – eternal peace.
John 14:27 “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.”
Even before His crucifixion, Jesus was letting His disciples know that He would be sending them an ever-present peace in the Holy Spirit. He assured them of a complete peace, one that would come from Heaven, and be with them regardless of what was going on in life or in the world.
While many Christians today, especially those from a gentile, non-Jewish, background, do not use “shalom” as a greeting anymore, Jesus’ use of it can still be an assurance for them.
When Jesus speaks of peace, He speaks of eternal salvation, of God’s love, and assurance. The Holy Spirit brings peace because of these things, guaranteeing the believer of their relationship with Christ.
For anyone who does not have this peace but wishes to have it, there is only one way. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6b). People are separated from God and lack His peace because they are sinful, and cannot perform any works good enough to erase the wickedness from their own hearts. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and died after living a sinless life, to pay the price for those sins. Anyone who repents of that sin, and accepts that Jesus Christ is the Lord of their life and that His death and resurrection provide salvation from sins and eternal life, can have a relationship with God, and know His peace forever.
Grassi, Joseph. Jesus is Shalom A Vision of Peace from the Gospels. New York: Paulist Press, 2006.
Strong, James. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Updated and Expanded Edition. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, 2007.
Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Old Testament and New Testament. United States of America: Victor Books, 1987.
Wilmington, H.L. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981.
Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer and editor. She maintains a faith and lifestyle blog graceandgrowing.com, where she muses about the Lord, life, culture, and ministry.