John 14:15-31 The Promise of the Holy Spirit
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 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. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.
Peace in Chaos
One of the best newspaper cartoons of all time is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin comes marching into the living room. His mother is seated there in her favorite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large space helmet with a big face shield. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, and down his back.
“What’s up today?” asks his mom.
“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.
“So far?” she questions.
“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin marches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”
As Calvin leaves his mom says, “I need a suit like that!”
That’s the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimes this world seems quite violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats. A suit like that would help, so we can say with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”
Well, I don’t have a suit like Calvin’s to give you (today’s suit consists of medical face masks and gloves) but I do have a promise from God that works in situations like ours: 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.
There is a specific phrase in this scripture that defines God’s peace. It is “Not as the world gives.” The world promises peace through the rule of law. Law and order is the way a society and a people experience peace, and law and order is usually kept by the aggressive use of force. That’s the only way that the world can bring about peace.
There is a Sandra Bullock movie that I find fun. In Miss Congeniality, Bullock plays a very unpolished police officer, who has to go undercover as a beauty contestant. The movie pokes fun at the answers pageant contestants have made when asked the question, “What is your greatest wish?” The answers inevitably came back as world peace. Peace is important. Jesus makes a point to tell his disciples that he is going to leave them with peace. Peace is a vital part of our faith.
There is a difference between worldly peace and Godly peace. On reading the bible, (if you are looking for something to do during lockdown, I suggest you try reading through it in its entirety, but start with the New Testament) – you will soon discover that the Jewish people have long known a lack of peace. I’m currently rereading the Old Testament and repeatedly I come across the skirmishes of the history of the Jewish nation: Ammonites, Philistines, Amalekites, the Moabites and several others. Any Jew could name the devastating conflicts with Assyria and Babylon, the periods of exile. And if history was not enough, during Jesus’ time, every time a Jew stepped out his door in the morning there were the Romans. A constant reminder they were still a conquered people. The Middle East has, throughout history, been a place of unrest and war. The people of Jesus’ time understood how fleeting peace was. So for 2500 years the Middle East has looked for a place of rest.
“Peace,” Jesus said, “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.” You can then read between the lines of Jesus’ words: This new covenant is not a covenant of land; it is a covenant of my sacrifice. It is not a covenant of nation building; it is a covenant of relation building. He is telling his disciples:
You no longer live on land; you live on love.
You no longer work for nation; you work for neighbour.
You no longer are under the Law; you are under grace.
You no longer act out of fear; you serve out of joy.
So the world offers us political peace but it also tried to offer us personal peace, that very deep and personal peace that we all long for. The late advice columnist Ann Landers use to receive something like 10,000 letters a month. When asked what was the most common topic, she answered that most people seem to be afraid of something. They are afraid of losing their health, their job, or their family. They are afraid of upsetting their neighbour, alienating a friend, or committing a social faux pas. Many are even afraid when there is no reason to be afraid. Ours is a world of fearful people.
Worldly peace, whether political or personal, is hard to come by. I am not saying it doesn’t exist but we all know every time we get up in the morning, watch the news, hear from family, talk to friends that this kind of peace is temporary at best.
But there is the peace that God gives. I recall the story of a little girl who, when trains were popular transportation, was taking her first train ride with her parents. As night descended on the train, the mother took the girl, who was clearly quite anxious, and placed her on the upper bunk of the sleeper. She told her little one that up there she would be nearer to God and that God would watch over her.
As silence enveloped the young lady she became afraid and called softly, "Mommy, are you there?"
"Yes dear," came the response.
A little later, in a louder voice, the child called, "Daddy, are you there, too?"
"Yes dear," was the reply.
After this had been repeated several times one of the passengers sharing their sleeper car finally lost his patience and shouted loudly, "Yes, we're all here, your father, your mother, your brother, and all your aunts and cousins; now settle down and go to sleep!"
There was a moment of silence and then, in hushed tones a little voice asked, "Mommy, was that God?"
You may be someone who has had little doubt about God's presence in your life. You may be someone who has felt comfort from God. You may be well acquainted with peace. If you are one of these people you are blessed and perhaps one of few, for most people fear. They fear the darkness, they fear the day, they fear people, the law, family, friends, enemies, life, and death and disease. You name it. Fear is all around us. So Jesus made it clear to his disciples that he wanted them to have peace and that he would leave that peace with them.
It’s the same offer he makes to us. Even in the midst of a pandemic, when even going outside can be a challenge, Jesus offers us peace in knowing that he walks beside us, listens to and answers our prayers. We are not alone. We live in God’s world.