Living in Peace

In my recent Advent devotionals, I have been concentrating on the concept of peace, which is closely associated with the coming of the Savior. This is not the kind of peace we normally think of in this world. This term describes the state of being free of condemnation before God and, therefore, enjoying all of His blessings in this life and the next through His Son, Jesus Christ.

We considered the promise of peace made by the prophet Isaiah in which he describes a cosmic transformation of the nature of this fallen world. And one of the issues on which he concentrates in his prophecy is the piece that Christ will bring to mankind when He arrives. That peace, in fact, will dramatically affect the way in which people treat one another and, in time, have significant influence on the whole human race.

In the second devotional, we looked at the declaration of peace found in Luke’s Gospel. As he reported on the birth of Christ, Luke included a wonderful story about shepherds who were visited by an angel out in the fields one night. The culmination of that announcement, during which the single angel was joined by a myriad of others, was that declaration of peace on earth as a result of the Baby’s recent birth. Once again, the worldwide impact is emphasized in the announcement made by the heavenly beings.

In the third devotional, we looked at the means of peace, also described in Luke’s account. Through an obscure figure, a man named Simeon, and for the first time in the birth narrative, the coming struggle between good and evil, between heaven and hell, was mentioned as this man spoke a short word regarding the future of the Baby Jesus. His coming would result in building up and tearing down, in salvation and condemnation. By declaring the Word of God to the world and offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of His people, the Savior would bring about the peace promised by Isaiah in the peace declared by the angels.

Today, we want to look at some statements from Jesus Himself concerning this matter of peace. We’re going to consider one statement made by Him before the cross and one made by Him after the cross.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Before commenting on this statement, I want to establish the context. At the end of chapter 13, Jesus has a brief exchange with the apostle Peter. The Savior has indicated to His disciples that He soon will be leaving them. Jesus commands His disciples to distinguish themselves by their love for one another. He declares that “all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (13:35) Peter’s mind, however, seems to be focused on the coming departure of the Lord. Without commenting on the Savior’s admonition regarding love for one another, Peter asked: “Lord, where are You going?” He is told that he cannot follow the Savior, yet Peter insisted, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for you.” At that point, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial that will take place when the Savior is arrested.

This is the background going into chapter 14 where the tone of the Lord’s remarks changed immediately to that of great comfort and encouragement. He knows that His disciples are troubled as they contemplate what He has just revealed to them. He urges them, nevertheless, to remain faithful. And He promises that He will go to prepare a place for them and, one day, receive His disciples to Himself so they might be with Him forever.

As this dialogue continues, Jesus assures His disciples that they are destined to do great things in service to Him and His kingdom. He again asserts the necessity of love manifested between them so that they might prove that they are, indeed, His followers. It is then that Jesus makes them aware of the Helper that will be sent from heaven to dwell with them and enable them to serve honorably and effectively. Immediately after the promise of the Holy Spirit, Jesus speaks the words found in verse 27.

Imagine how anti-climactic this statement from Jesus would be if He were simply referring to peace as the world typically thinks of peace. He is not promising the end of their personal struggles with one another, nor is the Savior promising that they will have a life of political tranquility. He is declaring to the disciples that they will live and serve within the context of a loving and eternal relationship with Him and His Father in heaven. This spiritual peace, as we have seen in previously, is directly tied to the fact that their accounts will be settled with God. They will be able to live out their days knowing that they are part of God’s redeemed family and that truth would provide them with confidence, determination, and purpose. They will be able to do wonderful things, just as Jesus predicted before, because they will be servants of the Most High. They will know His benevolence, mercy, provision, protection, and forgiveness.

With this truth firmly established in their hearts, the disciples could go forth and live triumphantly regardless of obstacles that they might encounter in the days and years to come. No matter what they face, they will be forever secure in the hands of God. Knowledge of this would be the source of contentment and courage as they set forth to build the kingdom of Christ. Nothing they encounter will shake their standing before God and nothing will be able to change the bonds of love between them, the Savior, and the Father, which Jesus will soon attain.

During this past year, how many times has your heart been troubled? How many times have you been fearful due to unpleasant or unexpected circumstances? Listen to what the Savior says after making this promise of peace to His disciples: “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” This was not just wishful thinking on Christ’s part. He was not simply trying to rally His troops in light of the coming ordeal of the cross. Jesus is telling His followers that they will know spiritual harmony and they will know the kind of security with God that is based in His sovereign nature and omnipotence. And they will live with this knowledge regardless of what this world throws at them, regardless of what challenges come their way, and regardless of what the enemies of the Savior might threaten or do.

When your heart is troubled, when your heart is fearful, this is where you turn. You turn to these wonderful declarations of our peace with God in Christ Jesus. You turn to these promises made by Jesus Himself before He went to the cross to pay for your sins and to remove the enmity between you and God. The peace that Jesus attained for us is a magnificent gift that we so desperately need to grasp and cherish in this sinful world. We will not escape trials, nor will we escape many painful episodes during our lifetime. But there is nothing, regardless of how painful or ferocious or cleverly designed by our adversary, that can disrupt our peace with God. This is a truth to which we should turn frequently, especially during those times when we grow weary or feel like we are going to be undone even as we attempt to live lives of honor and glory before God.

John 20: 19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

Once again let’s give our attention to the context of these verses. The 20th chapter of the Gospel of John records the event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John begins his report by telling us that Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb of the Savior early that Sunday morning. While it was still dark, she arrived and discovered that the stone covering the entrance to the burial site had been removed. Mary’s assumption was that someone had taken the body of the Lord. This prompted Peter and John to run to the tomb to investigate what they were been told. They too found that the body of Jesus was no longer there.

Just as Mary explained to two angels that she was weeping because her Lord had been taken away, Jesus appeared before her. At first, Mary did not know it was Jesus, but when He called her by name, she recognized the voice of her Savior and began clinging to Him. After that, Mary made her way to the disciples and announced that she had seen the Lord and that he had sent a message to them, which she repeated. This is where our passage appears. Jesus has been to the cross, has suffered, has surrendered His life for the sake of His people, and has now been raised from the dead in triumph over death itself.

Still coping with the astonishing developments of that Sunday morning, John tells us that toward the end of the day, the disciples had taken refuge and were, in essence, hiding for fear of the Jews. Obviously, the disciples suspected that the Jews might now begin rounding up the followers of Christ, especially if they could use the excuse that these men had stolen the body of Jesus. The boldness and the discernment that will come to characterize these men soon enough is not yet present. But as they pondered recent events, “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”

What is the one thing that the frightened disciples needed at that very moment? They needed to have their hearts calmed the by the manifestation of God’s peace. And that is what Jesus announced to them. He had accomplished His mission and the peace that He promised was now theirs to enjoy. How strange it would be to continue in the fear of man when your Savior has just overcome death itself! The disciples needed to hear Jesus make that declaration. They needed to know that He was no longer dead, which meant that no earthly power or spiritual authority could bring Christ into subjection. On the contrary, He has just demonstrated that He has all power and all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, the only acceptable state in which His disciples could now exist was that of peace—peace with God.

Having pronounced peace upon them, the text says that Jesus then “show them both His hands and His side.” He proved to His disciples that He was indeed their Master, the One crucified upon the cross, taken down after giving up His life, and laid in the tomb. That tomb was now empty because He lived again. Realizing that this was, indeed, their risen Lord, the disciples rejoiced, John tells us. Can you comprehend the astonishment that must have filled the heart of the disciples? They must have been gloriously perplexed as they processed the truth of Christ’s victory over death. They must have believed and yet continued to wonder how such a thing could be. Their souls overflowed with gladness even as they continued to gaze upon the Savior in elated amazement.

John tells us that Jesus spoke again: “Peace be with you; as a Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And here we see another dimension of the peace that Christ attained for His disciples. They will soon go forth, not to return to their previous lives, but to continue the work of the Savior. The peace that Christ has established between them and God will now allow them to become His servants on the earth. Because of the atonement, these disciples are fit to become instruments in the hands of God as He continues to reveal His plan of redemption to the world.

Once they were enemies of God and doomed, but now they are children of God and destined to spend eternity in His comfortable presence. That which made such a dramatic alteration of their standing before God was the death and resurrection of Christ, facts that had now been confirmed before their very eyes. Before they faced the wrath of God, but now they will be enveloped in the love of God. Before they were worthless to the cause of truth and righteousness, but now they are going to become the heralds of God’s truth and righteousness.

Let me assure you, that it is no different for you. Because of what Christ did for you, you are no longer at enmity with God, but are now His beloved son or daughter. Because of what Christ did for you, you are no longer unable and unwilling to serve God, but are now able and eager to honor God with all your mind and all your strength. Because Jesus has made peace between you and God, you not only can serve Him, but you can serve His purposes for the rest of your days. Jesus took that which was dead and gave it life. Jesus took that which was spiritually corrupted and made it pure. Jesus took that which had no use in the kingdom of God and made it a precious treasure in the eyes of the King. That is what Jesus did for you and that is the truth in which you must ground your thinking day after day so that you are not undone by self-doubt or criticism or failure or fear.

Do not live a life full of apprehension, live a life characterized by confidence. Do not live a life that is unsteady and wavering, live a life that manifests stability and certainty. In other words, as you continue through this season of commemorating the birth of our Savior, commit yourself to a life grounded in daily evidences of that which He secured for us, even eternal peace with God.

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