4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever - 17 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. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave.”
A ship was wrecked in a furious storm and the only survivor was a little boy who was swept by the waves onto a rock. He sat there all night long until, the next morning, he was spotted and rescued.
“Did you tremble while you were on the rock during the night?” someone later asked him.
“Yes,” said the boy. “I trembled all night - but the rock didn’t.”
It’s that time of year again when we start talking optimistically about peace on earth to all mankind. The most basic form of peace is the absence of warfare, but we can’t even manage that.
By our own efforts, peace will only ever be a pipedream – a nice idea, but something which we can never achieve.
However, peace – true peace – is possible, because this is what God has promised us. When Jesus spoke the words recorded in John 14, He was close to the end of His earthly ministry.
The forces which opposed Him were gaining momentum, and human history was fast approaching its darkest, yet most glorious hour.
The cross of Calvary was looming, and Jesus spent this time in the Upper Room in Jerusalem with His disciples giving them instructions and encouragement.
He was about to experience the betrayal of trusted friends and the desertion of those who had sworn allegiance, even if it meant dying for Him.
The fickle crowd which had welcomed Him on Palm Sunday just a few days ago was about to turn on Him, He would soon be falsely accused of all kinds of trumped up charges, and He would face incredible physical, mental and spiritual suffering within just a few hours.
But even during this time of turmoil, when He knew He would have to face the torture of crucifixion and the awful loneliness of even the Father forsaking Him, Jesus was concerned deeply and primarily about His bewildered and discouraged followers.
So He spoke to them about peace.
They had just spent three years with Him, and they had seen for themselves that Jesus’ heart was ruled by the peace of God.
Now it was time for that chapter in their lives to close, and there was a lot of uncertainty, turmoil and fear, so Jesus promises them peace.
But what is peace? What is it really?
The American Biblical scholar Joseph Thayer wrote, “Peace is the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ and so fearing nothing from God, and content with its earthly lot whatever sort it be.”
True peace is that rest or contentment that comes from the establishment of a right relationship with God and living in harmony with His will.
The peace which Jesus had during His earthly life was the peace of spirit that came from His oneness with God, His complete harmony with the will of the Father.
He faced unimaginable sorrow and suffering, yet He was at peace.
Harmony with God was the key to this peace, and as He spoke to His disciples that night, He warned them that they would also face tremendous suffering in their own lives. You need to read on through chapters 15, 16 and 17 to gain a better understanding, but what is clear is that the peace Jesus promised His disciples was not the absence of war, and a nice easy ride for the rest of their lives.
In fact, what happened to them was the exact opposite, but yet He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
As we look around us and see the mess that the world is in, it is obvious that there is a tremendous lack of peace. Sin has separated and alienated people from God.
People cannot be in rebellion against God and have peace at the same time. “There is no peace for the wicked.”
We’ve turned that rather quaint saying into a catchy little phrase, but it is straight out of Scripture. You’ll find it Isaiah 48:22. We might say it with a little smile on our faces, but there is a deep, awful truth behind those words.
At this time of year total strangers smile at each other and wish each other Merry Christmas, but without Christ, those words are empty and meaningless.
Isaiah says of the wicked (those who do not know God) in chapter 59, “The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.”
King Solomon tried to find peace in the things of the world. He pursued knowledge, wisdom and riches, and he had all of these things. Solomon had it all, and the result of this pursuit is recorded in his words in Ecclesiastes 2:10–11.
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Confusion, frustration, unrest, tension, violence, and distress are widespread in our world. But these characteristics are at their greatest in every human heart that is not in harmony with God.
In their longing for peace, people search for it in many places where it cannot be found. Many think that if they only had plenty of money they would have peace, but the possession of money does not guarantee peace. Some of the unhappiest people have enough money to buy almost anything they want.
True peace is available, but we will not find it if we look in the wrong places.
God is the only source of real, satisfying, and abiding peace.
And true peace with God for sinners was bought at measureless cost when Jesus died on the cross in our place.
Isaiah 53:5 says “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
This is the good news of Christ. This is the gospel.
True peace is available, because God provided it. His plan of salvation is the only true lasting peace which will reach beyond this life into eternity. Nothing else matters.
The simple truth is that sin had to be atoned for because it had broken the fellowship between God and humans. Christ’s death on the cross has dealt with that. The justice of God, which demands that the penalty for breaking of the law be paid, has been paid.
Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14 “He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”
When Jesus was bidding His disciples farewell in the Upper Room that night, He didn’t promise them an easy life, a release from all burdens, or freedom from discouragement or temptation. Rather, He told them that they could expect hardship, persecution, and even death for loyalty to Him.
The one thing He promised them as a parting legacy was peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”
Included in this legacy that He left them was a quiet strength to bear the burdens of life and a new spirit which would enable them to overcome their own temptations and sin.
Some Christians mean well, but out of ignorance they sometimes tell unbelievers to “make your peace with God.”
Once a dying man was asked if he had made his peace with God, and he replied, “No!” He was then asked, “Then, don’t you think that you had better do so at once?” Again he replied, “No!” Then he said, “My peace was made two thousand years ago by Jesus Christ on the cross.”
Having believed what the Bible said and having accepted the peace that his Saviour had provided, he knew that he was ready to meet God.
Are you ready to meet Him? You don’t have to make your peace with Him, you know. Jesus has already done that for you. It’s just up to you to accept or reject that peace.
And that is the choice each of us needs to make. Receiving or possessing that perfect peace is conditional. It is not automatically given to everyone. It is certainly available to all, but it only applies to those who in faith put their trust in Jesus Christ.
Once you have done so, the wonderful truth of Romans 5:1 applies to you: “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The world can neither give you this peace, nor can it take it away from you.
Thomas Watson was a preacher in 17th century England. He wrote these words: “God the Son is called the Prince of Peace. He came into the world with a song of peace. He went out of the world with a legacy of peace. Christ’s earnest prayer was for peace; He prayed that His people might be one. Christ not only prayed for peace, but bled for peace. He died not only to make peace between God and man, but between man and man. Christ suffered on the cross, that He might cement Christians together with His blood; as He prayed for peace, so He paid for peace.”
In a few moments we will be singing that wonderful hymn written by Horatio Spafford, “It is well with my soul.”
There is an amazing story of the peace of Christ behind this hymn.
Spafford was a wealthy man, but he lost his fortune in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Two years later he decided that he and his family would move to England, but a last minute hitch meant he had to sail on a later ship than his wife and children.
On the journey across the Atlantic the ship sank, and all four of his daughters died – only his wife survived.
Shortly afterwards, Horatio Spafford sailed, and as he crossed the exact spot where his children drowned, he sat down and wrote this hymn which begins “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”
That is the kind of peace which the world cannot give. It can only come from God.
For some of us here today, our lives are just wonderful right now, and we thank the Lord for that blessing. Some of us though are in the middle of tremendous turmoil, hurt and confusion. The stark contrast between the two are obvious, but if you know Jesus Christ, then you have peace, regardless of how wonderful or sad your life seems right now.
Paul’s words in our first reading earlier applies to both extremes, and everyone in between who have turned to and trusted Jesus: “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”