Unexpected Peace

  • Unexpected Peace
  • John 14:22-27
  • Brian Brownlow
  • December 23, 2018
Back to Sermons

I want to talk to you this morning about a word: Peace. It is a very common word. A word that most people use quite frequently. I looked it up in the New Oxford American Dictionary, and this is what it said:

  1. freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility:
  2. a state or period in which there is no war, or a war has

I think most people would agree that this is a good common definition of peace. However, when asked the question: what does peace mean to you? The answers were surprisingly different. Here are a few examples: peace is a home where there is laughter, cuddling, and quiet moments of just feeling good about all that is around. Peace is getting lost in the lyrics of a song. Peace is teenagers who do what they are asked when they are asked. Peace is an expansive prairie with a light breeze and slight smell of a spring rain. Peace is a conversation that makes you think. Peace is holding hands and just walking deep in thought and comfort, knowing there is nothing we cannot do and all is okay. Peace is a soulful feeling that we are making a difference in what we do.

The word peace means different things to different people when it comes to how they experience peace. Many of Adolf Hitler’s speeches referenced his desire for peace.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve explored the idea of an “Unexpected Christmas.” Specifically, how did the coming of Jesus bring us – often in very unexpected ways – things like hope and joy. Well, I’ve already tipped you off to where I’m going today. How did the birth of Jesus bring the world peace and how would Jesus define peace? After all, Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be the Prince of Peace. At the first Christmas, a host of angels proclaimed peace on earth. Christmas is filled with the concept of peace.

In order to answer some of those questions, we’re going to look at a passage of Scripture, not from Jesus’ birth, but from a time just before His death. Yes, I did get the memo that it’s two days until Christmas – not Easter! I’m confident that the connection will be clear. I’m going to ask you to do me one more favor. To work through this Scripture, we need to start with a little bit of world history. Some of you are thinking, “Oh how exciting! I love history!” Others of you, not so much. I know, I know, hearing “World History” is causing flashbacks to high school, and they’re not good memories! You may be ready to check out. Just stay with me for a few minutes. That’s all I ask.

From a world history standpoint, the birth of Jesus did not bring an unexpected peace. You see, Jesus was born during the glory days of the Roman Empire. In Luke 2, we are told that the reason Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem when Jesus was born was because Caesar Augustus (the Roman emperor) declared that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Augustus wanted to count all of his subjects. So everyone had to check into their hometown. That’s why Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Well, you see this great period of Roman rule began with Augustus – the same Caesar that we see in Luke 2. Starting with his rule, Rome would have a dynasty for just over 200 years. From Rome’s perspective, these were indeed the glory years. A huge part of this was what was called the Pax Romana. Pax Romana means the Roman Peace. During those two centuries, there was great peace and prosperity throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus’ life was situated right at the beginning of this almost unparalleled time of peace. Now the Pax Romana was aptly named. You see it was the Roman Peace. Rome and its leaders and armies controlled everything and Rome experienced tremendous growth and magnificent splendor. Because of Rome’s great strength, the nations that had been conquered to make the Roman Empire could not challenge them.

For about 200 years they went along so they could get along. Everybody, for the most part, stayed in line and didn’t rock the boat. For the most part, if the people of these conquered lands went along and didn’t rock the boat, Rome treated them pretty well. Remember Herod the great? He was the Jewish king at the time of Jesus’ birth. He was the man who restored the Temple and turned it into a magnificently beautiful structure. If the Romans were in control, how can there be a Jewish king? Well, the answer is simple, the Romans let him be king. Herod was a great politician and knew how to keep Rome happy. As long as he kept them happy and kept the peace he could be king and make himself unbelievably wealthy. The system worked and allowed people to get in on the action as long as they were willing to go along with Rome and keep the Pax Romana. So, the result was a time of almost unparalleled – in the history of the world – peace.

Since our series is titled “Unexpected Christmas” and we’ve had sermons on unexpected hope and unexpected joy I guess I’m going to have to make something up to be able to do unexpected peace today. Well, not so fast. Remember I said that it was the Roman Peace. For everybody else, it was pretty much “keep your head down and your mouth shut, and everything will be okay.” But for the true worshipers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob there was no spiritual peace. The whole world, and our history books, today refer to this time as the Pax Romana – the Roman peace. The pages of Scripture, however, indicate that’s not how God would have defined peace.

With that bit of history setting the stage, let’s take a look at what Jesus had to say about peace. Please turn with me in your Bibles to John 14:22-27.

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”  23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.  24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.  25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.  27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

I mentioned earlier that we would not be looking at a “Christmas story” in terms of Scripture about Jesus’ birth but rather a passage from just before His death. The fourteenth chapter of John, the chapter I read from just now, begins what is generally referred to as the ”Farewell Discourse.” It runs from chapter 14 to chapter 17 and it is essentially Jesus saying goodbye to eleven of the twelve disciples. Judas Iscariot has already left before he begins this conversation. In the Farewell Discourse, Jesus goes into more detail about his death and reassures the disciples that he would be sending the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort them. He talks a lot about His love for them and how He has prepared them and how – through the Holy Spirit – He will not leave them alone.

We pick up in verse 22 of chapter 14 with Thaddeus asking Jesus a question. I know the passage said Judas (not Iscariot). This disciple was sometimes called Jude, Judas Thaddeus or just Thaddeus. The question he asks is, ”Why are you only going to reveal yourself to us and not the “world”?

In typical Jesus fashion, he doesn’t answer the question directly, but he does, in typical Jesus fashion, answer it clearly. Jesus has been drawing some sharp distinctions between his disciples and what he calls “the world.” The world is obviously those who have rejected Him and do not love Him. In verse 23, Jesus says, “all who love me will do what I say. My father will love them and we will come and make our home with each of them.” Jesus makes a clear distinction between the world and those who would be a part of the promises that He is making. People who will receive those promises are the ones who love Him. The ones who love me will be the ones who are doing what I have commanded. This is not some works righteousness deal here. Jesus is not saying that they have to earn anything or that they have to be good enough. None of that is what’s going on here. People who truly love Him will obey Him because they love Him. That’s what will be the key distinction: love. That will be the evidence of the actions. Those who love will obey. One naturally follows the other.

I’m hoping you’re seeing the connection to our little history lesson a few moments ago. There’s a stark contrast to the people of God and the Roman subjects. The followers of Jesus obey His commandments to the very best of their ability. But, unlike the Pax Romana, which was held in place by power and fear of the most powerful army in the world, the people of God follow the peaceful teachings of Jesus because they love Him.

There’s also a really important word there that we don’t need to miss. Jesus says “we” referring to Himself, the Father and the Holy Spirit. The idea of a Trinity is critical. It’s not just a theological idea that we need to hang onto because it’s what our tradition tells us. Scriptures like this speak of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working in unison. While they are separate persons, they are still one nature. Jesus has already told His disciples that He must die, be raised again, and be ascended to heaven; at the same time, He is reassuring them that he is not going to leave them alone.

Can you imagine how confused the disciples must be? This is not what they were expecting. He’d been telling them all along, a little bit at a time, that this was going to happen. He tried to prepare them, but it certainly seems that they didn’t want to consider that this could be true. Their heads have to be spinning right now.

To reinforce the point, he restates all that one more time in verses 25 and 26.

In verse 25 He reminds them one more time that His time is short. He has to tell them these things while he is still with them physically. But in verse 26, once again he reminds them that the Father will be sending an Advocate who is the Holy Spirit. See how, once again, he talks about all three persons of the Trinity? The Father is going to send the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit will be the Son’s (Jesus’) representative. The Holy Spirit will teach and remind them of everything that Jesus has been teaching. One God, three persons. They don’t have their own agendas. They aren’t going to be saying different things. They each have a role, but they are one. The Father is going to send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will be Jesus’ representative. What the Holy Spirit teaches and reminds will be the things Jesus has been teaching them all along.

Then, in typical Jesus fashion, He leaves them with a promise, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” John 14:27.

Those eleven disciples had every reason to be troubled and afraid. There was nothing peaceful about their circumstances. Jesus promises them that He can give them – through the Holy Spirit – a supernatural gift of peace.

Most of you here today trust the word of God. You believe what it says and that it has power. You don’t need anything else to “prove” them. But one of the most encouraging things is to hear testimony in people’s lives of how they have experienced those promises. We have someone today who can share that testimony more powerfully than hundreds of sermons.

Diane Pitman testimony video

The definition of peace at the beginning and the end of Diane’s testimony is quite different from the one I shared with you earlier. I was surprised when I saw it on the video earlier this week. About ten days, maybe two weeks ago, Angela Carter, our Creative Director sent me an email. Actually, she sent me two emails. By the time I saw it they were both there, so I read them at the same time. The first email said, “Could you send me a better/different definition of joy. I’m not particularly happy with the one I’ve got.” The second email that was sent almost immediately after the first said, “Never mind. I just realized you’re preaching peace. Go ahead and send me your idea if you want to.”

Let me translate the second email for you. Everyone on our worship/creative team knows that I’m not very creative. Angela doesn’t particularly ask for my input on creative ideas. I get that. I’ve enough self-awareness to realize that’s not in my wheelhouse. So the translation goes something like this, “I can’t believe I sent that to him. Now I’ve got to be gracious and ask for his input even though I’m going to ignore it.” The orneriness in me said, “I’ll show her. I’m going to send her something anyway.”

That definition was born out of John 14:27. Let me read the definition again, “The confidence that God is good and He loves me no matter what my circumstances are.” I think it’s an excellent definition. It captures the essence of what Jesus is saying about real peace. But you know what, we can have all the right definitions. We can interpret Scripture faithfully and still not have the power. The power was in Diane’s testimony. We could post that definition, and we can walk out of here knowing that we “got it right” and not have any of the power. You see, Diane’s testimony is living proof of God’s promises. Diane didn’t quote the right definition. Despite her circumstances, Diane just gave testimony that she believes God is still good and that he loves her. We have to do more than just get the right answer. We have to believe it and live it.

I want us to close by declaring Jesus’s promise in John 14:27. It’s going to be on the screen with a blank in front of it. I want to ask you – no matter where you are – to say this with me as a statement of faith by inserting your name in the blank. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in this worship space with me this morning or if you are watching this down the hall at LakeRidge Praise, or watching on FacebookLive while sitting on your couch Thursday evening. I want you to claim, in faith, the promise Jesus gives to us in this passage.

(Your name) I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So (your name) don’t be troubled or afraid.