Salama alekum. “Peace be unto you.”
Kay and I lived in northern Nigeria for a number of years. We learned some basic Hausa, the lingua franca (trade language) spoken throughout northern Nigeria. When you enter someone’s home, you greet them with “Salama alekum.”
Today is Easter. Our Pastor spoke this morning out of Luke 24, where Jesus appears in the upper room. I was reminded of of the AHA moment I observed many years ago.
It is amazing to see the story of the goodnews through the eyes of those hearing it for the first time, or even hearing it for the first time in their own language. For many years, I produced the Jesus Film in languages of Nigeria. I was involved in showing the film many times in rural areas (called “the bush”) as well as cities.
As the Jesus Film progresses, through the crucifixion, people are very anguished. Particularly women and children writhe and sometimes cry in pain as Jesus is tortured and crucified. Then comes the hopelessness of his burial. How could they do this to such a good, loving person? During the burial, the audience frequently sits in stunned silence. Not a sound among hundreds of people.
Then Jesus appears to his followers. He says “Salama alekum.” Peace unto you.
And the audience gasps. It’s an audible, shocked gasp. Yes, he is risen. But I think even more astounding are these words salama alekum, spoken many times each day as a thoughtless greeting. But now they take on power and meaning. They are comforting. Often people clap and shout with joy. He has overcome death.
I’m convinced that for the next several weeks, when Nigerians hear someone enter a room with the greeting “Salama alekum”, the Holy Spirit takes them back to the one who gives peace, the one who overcame death.
This morning, my mind raced back to this scene. I projected the Hausa Jesus Film many times over the years in Nigeria. I always anticipated this moment, when he demonstrates the death of death. Luke goes on to record more from Jesus near the end of chapter 24. Jesus speaks
- peace into their troubles
- confidence into their doubts
- comfort into their loss
- certainty into their unbelief
And he gently reminds them to get about the plan. Things are happening according to God’s eternal plan. You are witnesses, Jesus says. Repentance and forgiveness is being extended to all nations. You are part of this eternal plan. But first, you need to be clothed with the Holy Spirit’s power.
And the final effect of Jesus appearing to his followers was worship, great joy, and continual praise.
Even today, worship, great joy, and continual praise continue. So does the plan of forgiveness and salvation which is spreading for person to person, until everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus.