May 22, 2022

“The Peace of Christ”

(From John 14: 23-29)

     Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.  “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.  You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

     In a September 2015 website article published by Dr. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Dr. Jeffress both asks and answers the question, “What does it mean to have the peace of Christ?”  For Dr. Jeffress, the first and most obvious answer is that it means, as Christians, we receive peace that comes to us from Christ. You will recall that when Jesus entered the house where the Disciples were staying on the first Easter Day, he greeted them with the words “Peace be with you.”  He then showed them his nail-scarred hands and his pierced side. These provided to the Disciples proof positive that it was Jesus who stood before them. He then repeated the words “Peace be with you” to them. Jesus knew all about the fear and anxiety that had them hiding behind closed doors. When he had been with them, Jesus had been the source of their comfort and strength. He wanted the Disciples to know that he was alive and still present with them. They still had the peace of Christ, the comforting peace of blessed assurance in Christ’s ongoing presence with and among them.

     In our Gospel lesson today from John Chapter 14, while Jesus was yet with his Disciples he said to them, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  The peace of Christ is not like the peace of the world, for it is neither fleeting nor is it dependent on worldly circumstances. In plain terms, the peace of Christ is not an inner harmony and tranquility that is based upon the absence of any conflict occurring in the external world around us. That is the world’s peace. The peace of Christ is so much more. As Jeffress reminds us, “The peace of Christ is not only peace that comes from Christ, but it also means the same peace that characterized the life of Jesus Christ.”   This peace resulted from Jesus having complete trust in God’s power and authority, as well as in God’s boundless mercy and love. Therefore, outward worldly circumstances did not, could not, either compromise or destroy Jesus’ complete confidence in God. It was Jesus’ very nature to trust and obey God completely in every aspect of his life among us. Jesus wants that same peace, peace that is based on an unshakable confidence in our Sovereign God, for each of us. This is the peace that passes all human understanding, because it does not rely on anything that the world comprehends or offers.

     During my childhood and youth, I had a friend who was also a strong Christian. She liked sun catchers, and there were many of them adorning the window panes of her home.  One of them stuck out from the rest for me. It was in the shape of a rainbow and was brilliantly colored.  Above the colors was the statement, “To fear is to believe in evil more than you believe in God.”  I have reflected on this statement many, many times over the years.  For me, it is a very astute life observation that is grounded in scripture.  1John 4 verse 18 states, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”  Perfect love is made known to us in the person of Jesus.  Despite the chaos that often entered into and complicated his life and ministry, Jesus stood rock-solid.  Jesus trusted God’s plan and purposes for his life; and as we have discussed, God’s unending and unconditional love.  His strength and his inner peace amid the turbulence around him came from that trust.  That is the peace Christ gives to us—if we are open and willing to trust him so that we may experience it.

     In the Gospel of John Chapter 14 verses 15-18 we receive another important aspect of the peace of Christ.  Jesus told his Disciples, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”   The Advocate and Comforter that Jesus promised to his Disciples, and so to us, is none other than the blessed Holy Spirit.  The Spirit, the third person of our Triune God, is both with us and working in us.  It is the power of the Holy Spirit that brings us inner peace, enabling us to experience the comfort and compassion of Christ regardless of our outward earthly circumstances.  That dear friends, is the peace of Christ; and there is no experience known to this world like his peace.

     So, now we have a better understanding of the peace of Christ.  This peace, however, is meant to be more to us, and to our daily living, than an intellectual exercise or understanding.  For the first several years of our forefather John Wesley’s ministry, he had a strong intellectual assent to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It gave him no peace, nor the inner calm of the blessed assurance of his salvation.   It was not until Wesley met some Moravians, and spent time worshipping among them, that he realized he lacked the heartfelt assurance, the saving faith and heart-felt trust of his belief.  On May 24th, 1738, Wesley attended a Moravian Society meeting at Aldersgate Street.  There, listening to the reading being shared, Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed.  That moment was Wesley’s true conversion experience.  The blessed assurance that experience gave to him was accompanied by a peace that passes human understanding.  Wesley went on to follow a course of ministry that invited others to experience this marvelous gift of peace.  He possessed a “holy boldness” and personal resolve that worldly circumstances around him could not dampen.   

   It occurs to me that this holy boldness, this inner strength and peace that comes from an unshakable trust in

God, as our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, is something our world today sorely needs.  It takes this trust

to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit, both in and through us, and then out into our world.  There is so much good work to be done in building the kingdom here on earth.  Hearts, minds and lives need our love, compassion, and commitment to be made new.  It is not an intellectual exercise, a personal assent to this truth that is needed.  It is ongoing mission and ministry, servanthood in the image of our Servant-Lord, Jesus, that will make a tangible difference in our community and our world.  That is why our Mission and Outreach Team has met to plan some new mission opportunities for our participation this summer.  Be on the lookout for further communication about these new missions as the plans for them are formalized.  With God, we know all things are possible, and we have the Comforter Jesus promised us in the Holy Spirit to teach, guide and strengthen us on our journey.  We can do wonderful things for the kingdom of God—if we place our whole trust in Christ, and are then strengthened by the unsearchable gift of his peace.  Amen.