Peace? John 14:23-29
It’s a little off-the-wall, I know... but did you know: the bathtub was invented in 1850... and the telephone was invented in 1875? So, that means (at least theoretically) if you had been living in 1850 you could’ve sat in the bathtub for 25-years without the telephone ringing!
Of course, that’s one kind of peace, isn’t it? Solitude. And we all need moments of solitude from time-to-time, don’t we? Even Jesus sought out the peace that solitude brings... and said that we should find a secluded place, when we pray, where we can be alone with God.
You and I know - as followers of Christ... we understand... that there’s a difference between what the world calls “peace” and the actual peace that Jesus brings into our lives.
I read this past week, that a newspaper once reported that in 3400+ years of recorded history the world had experienced only 227 years of peace, and over 3100 years of war. In the last three centuries, there have been over 300 wars in Europe alone. And add to that... there have been more than 8000 peace treaties signed - and broken - with the average treaty remaining in force for only 2-years. The peace Jesus offers is not like the peace the world gives.
And when it comes to peace - true peace... there are basically two kinds of peace that come through the presence of Christ in our lives. The first is simple. Jesus came to bridge the gulf between God and us. He came to bring us peace with God through forgiveness.
Many years ago, a man had a heart attack... and after being admitted into the hospital, he asked the nurse to call his daughter. The man explained to the nurse, “I live alone and my daughter is the only family I have.” So the nurse called the daughter... and as you can imagine, the daughter was upset. She said to the nurse, “You can’t let him die! Dad and I had terrible argument several months ago and I haven’t seen him since. I need to ask him for forgiveness, because the last thing I told him was ‘I hate you.’” She told the nurse she’d be at the hospital within a hour.
But about that same time, the patient took a turn for the worst. The nurse prayed, “O God, his daughter’s coming... please, don’t let it end this way.” But despite the very best of efforts, the patient died just moments before the daughter arrived. After the doctors spoke with the daughter, who was distraught, the nurse took the woman aside, consoling her. The daughter said, “I never hated him... I loved him.” And as the nurse listened, and offered support... she and daughter went into the patient’s room, for the daughter to say goodbye. The nurse, trying not to interfere, noticed a small piece of paper on the bed table. She picked it up and read: “My dearest Janie, I forgive you. I pray you will also forgive me. I know that you love me. I love you, too. Daddy.”
You know: Jesus is that note to us from God. Jesus bought our forgiveness with his own life on the cross. He did it so you and I could know the love God has for each of us - and the lengths to which God’s willing to go to show us that love. He did it restore our relationship - so we could have an ongoing, loving relationship with our Father who created us. Jesus came so that you and I could know and experience peace with God.
But he also came for us to know the peace of God. That sounds similar, but it’s different. Because, once we experience peace with God, we can start to grow in the peace of God. The inner peace that keeps us focused and gives us hope, and joy, and life - regardless of our situation.
One of words translated “Peace” in the bible is the Hebrew word “shalom.” It’s kinda like the Hawaiian word “aloha” - it’s a greeting and farewell. The literal translation of “shalom” is “peace” - but it really means much more. It could be better translated “wholeness” or “fullness” - because “shalom” means more than just the absence of trouble. Bible commentator William Barclay, says when someone wishes you “shalom” they’re not only wishing you a lack of trouble, but they’re also wishing you the presence of all good things, as well. “Shalom” (or peace) implies the hopeful absence of trouble and the presence of blessings.
So, the peace of God - God’s shalom - or inner peace - isn’t some escape (some retreat) from the troubles of life - it’s the empowerment of God’s presence - the assurance of God’s Holy Spirit - that fills us with God’s strength, and presence, and wisdom as we travel the paths of life. God’s peace... God’s “shalom” - is a gift from God through Christ... that fills our lives with grace.
And one way we tap into that peace... that wholeness of God... is through prayer.
Prayer is more than just asking God for stuff. Prayer’s a means of grace, by which we listen to God.
Prayer is a time to sit still and allow God’s peace to fill us to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Sometimes that listening comes through reading God’s Word - and meditating on God’s Word. As we read, and study, and pray... it impacts our lives... touching our hearts and souls - even when we’re unaware - even when we’re just going thru the motions (so to speak). God’s Word is like a seed, and prayer is like the rain... once it’s planted in our souls, and we water it - faithfully - it grows and bears fruit... and fills us with what we need. It fills us with God’s peace.
The story is told of a man who was visiting an elderly woman who’d been badly crippled by arthritis. He asked the woman, “Do you suffer much? Do you have much pain?” And she replied, “Yes, but there’s no nail here” as she pointed to her hand. “He had the nails, I have the peace.”
She then pointed to her head. “There are no thorns here. He had the thorns, I have the peace.”
Then she touched her side. “There’s no spear here. He had the spear, I have the peace.”
That’s the gift of God through Jesus Christ. Peace that passes understanding. Jesus gave himself so that you and I might have peace with God... and know the peace of God.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”
This is the word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.