Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. (John 20:19-20)
I noticed a flyer yesterday announcing that a performance of Xanadu is coming to a local playhouse, here in South Carolina. Do you remember the cult classic film from 1979? Olivia Newton John plays one of Zeus’ nine muse-daughters, sent to Los Angeles to inspire Michael Beck (who was, in real life, a member of Grace Church, NYC when the film came out), an artist struggling with “creative block”. Fortunately ONJ gives him the perfect idea: open a roller-skate night club. Xanadu included a more-than-decent soundtrack from ELO, fresh special effects of the 80s-neon-aura variety (see also: Tron), and Gene Kelly’s embarrassing final performance. At the time, it was hailed as one of the worst movies ever made.
In fact, it was considered to be so bad that people were encouraged to bring paper bags to the theater, so that they could wear them over their heads on their way out – that way nobody would be able to identify them as people who had paid to see the film. Who, after all, would want to be associated with a movie of its caliber (note: can you remember when irony didn’t drive the bus of all things cool? This was that time.)? Which brings me to my point: what is it about a paper bag over the head that would make it easier to walk out of the theater after watching the movie Xanadu?
The same thing applies to people who suffer from a fear of public speaking. The ability to give a talk from behind a wall, where the audience can’t actually stare at your face is freeing (see also: The King’s Speech). Or consider the world of blog comments. It’s much easier to post an anonymous comment than it is to attach your name to a post. You would hate to do something wrong, or be mistaken, if it can possibly be avoided, especially if the mistake can/will be traced back to you directly. Any buffer, in this sense, is a help. It can create a sense of peace and even freedom. This is part of the reason why people are so concerned about setting their facebook privacy settings properly; if they are set properly, they function as a kind of protective shield.
Here is another example: the youth group from our church recently took a trip to a local fun park. They were celebrating the birthday of one of the fathers who volunteers regularly to help lead the group. He also happens to be a fairly successful doctor, one who often has to put in long hours at the hospital. On that particular evening, his work kept him at the hospital until late, making it impossible for him to arrive at the fun park in time to attend his own birthday party. But he did get there at the very end, and when he did, he paid for the whole thing, all of the kids’ go-cart rides, all of the ski ball tokens, all of the cake, and all of the mini-golf. The night was completely covered.
This concept of being covered is one of the comforting implications of the Christian message. Thanks to the cross, grace covers over the sins of sinners, enabling God to call sinners, in effect, “saints”. To summarize the front bit of Romans 4, God credits sinners with Christ’s sinlessness, justifying the ungodly. He treats Xanadu viewers like they haven’t just walked out of the theater.
Living under the banner of this kind of grace sets a heart free. It is the feeling of having been forgiven. It is the feeling of being close to God, and knowing that, in Christ, you have an advocate (1 John 2:1). In my own life, it enables me to go to God with personal trouble, instead of trying to run, hide, and deny.
I thought about all these things and more this past Sunday as I read about the disciples’ first encounter with the risen Lord. He showed all of them the wounds that enabled Him to greet them, saying “peace be with you.”
p.s. If you watch the video, we won’t track your ip address. Enjoy!