The Gift of Peace

What does the term, “peace,” really mean? On a practical level, where do you need peace in your life? More importantly, are you a recipient of the peace that Jesus gives his disciples?

John 14:25-31 invites you to receive the peace that Jesus gives you. Jesus is leaving his disciples, and as his legacy, as his will and testament, he leaves them—and you—the gift of peace. Peace was probably furthest from the hearts of the disciples that night. Anxiety and fear filled them. But Jesus leaves peace as his legacy. “Peace” for Jesus is far more than a causal greeting or simply a wish.

The peace is connected with his death. That means that Jesus is speaking, not first of all of a feeling of peace, though that is part of it. Why don’t we have peace in Afghanistan? In Somalia? In the Middle East? In the Korean Peninsula? Behind war and conflict lies sin. Jesus, by his death deals with the power of sin by dealing with its source, “the prince of this world,” or Satan. Peace has a price (those living near a military base may describe the noise of a jet taking off as “the sound of freedom”), and Jesus is about to do battle with Satan. He is confident of the outcome, because the evil one has no hold or claim on him. As you are in Christ, that becomes true of you as well. Herman Ridderbos writes: “Jesus’ ‘shalom’ is not a cheap wish. He is now at the point of going away on a journey in which he will have to fight for that peace against the powers of darkness and violence (vs. 30; 16:33), a peace that he will have to bring back from the depths of death (cf. 20:19,20). But he also knows where and to whom he is going, and his ‘shalom’; is therefore a benediction full of grace and divine power.” (The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, p. 511).

But the concept of peace is even richer than that. Sin is not just the result of Satan’s activity. It is more than evil thoughts and actions against one another. Sin ultimately is an offense against the holy character of God, and until you realize that you never really understand peace. Peace has to start with something objective, with the satisfaction of God’s displeasure with sin and a reconciliation between him and you. Look at the Aaronic benediction in Numbers 6. Here God places his name on his people. Notice the conclusion: he gives you peace. The anger of God against your sin has been satisfied by the ultimate sacrifice. The broken relationship has been restored. You now have peace. What was anticipated in the blessing Aaron pronounced (Numbers 6:22-27) is coming about as Christ leaves to offer himself as a sacrifice. The peace Jesus gives you is ultimately peace with God.

Therefore, peace is connected with the giving of the Holy Spirit, coming from the Father in the name of Jesus (here in v. 26) also being sent by the Son from the Father (John 15:26). The Spirit would bring all things to remembrance. That speaks first of all of his work inspiring the Apostles and others as they wrote the Scriptures, then, secondarily, to his work of illumining you as you hear and read them. How do you connect with the peace Jesus offers? How can it fill your heart in the difficulties through which you walk? Immerse yourself in the Scriptures the Holy Spirit has given and in which he instructs you.

The tactics the world uses to produce feelings of peace prove empty. Mankind’s efforts at ending wars are temporary at best. But Jesus does not give as the world does. His peace is there objectively. His peace involves the gift of the Spirit. Thus he does not give as the world does.

When you have this peace, stop being troubled. Jesus returns to the comfort with which the chapter begins. Jesus’ leaving should be the occasion for joy. He is going to his Father, doing his Father’s will, completing the work the Father had given him to do. Jesus replaces paralyzing fear with joy. “No longer be afraid!”

Jesus’ purpose in foretelling his departure and death is the same as John’s in writing this Gospel: so that you might believe. As you are united to him by faith, his vindication is yours. You share in his victory. You have objective peace with God, the enslaving power of sin is broken, and the peace of God fills your heart.

Aaron blessed the people and placed God’s name on them through he words he spoke. Your greater high priest give you the ultimate benediction: the peace which he purchased and extends to you by the Spirit.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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