“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.” (verse 27)
My Dad passed away almost a year ago now. He had just turned 94 and lived a good, long life, knowing the Lord deeply as Saviour and Master for most of his adult years (having come to faith with the help of my Mom!).
I will never be able to read this verse without thinking of him. It was one of his favourites in the whole of scripture, and he solidly lived its truth, his faith declaring the trustworthiness of his Lord. I got to preach this verse at his funeral.
Though he suffered a number of health challenges in his last years, Dad had a comparatively trauma-free life. Nonetheless, he knew, with 94 years of experience to back him up, that peace is not guaranteed in the midst of the regular ups and downs of life. Along the way he lived through the Depression and a world war, established a career, experienced disappointment and discouragement, cared for family and friends and others, dealt with relational trials, navigated the challenges of business life and finances, was actively involved in the joys and hardships of church leadership, engaged in the shifting winds of society and culture with the rest of us, and weathered his health challenges. Through it all, this verse sustained him, because it directed his confidence once again to Jesus himself.
When Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”, he’s repeating himself exactly, word for word, from the opening sentence of this very chapter. He knew this was the disciples’ issue – unsettledness of heart. Indeed, Jesus knew what that “trouble” was like, for he himself experienced it personally. He spoke of it earlier, anticipating the cross. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28).
He experienced it again, earlier on this very evening, as he shared bread with Judas and the others. John tells us: “Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me’” (John 13:21). Of all the people around the table that night, Jesus himself had the most cause to be troubled in spirit. What saw him through?
Peace. That’s what he now offers the disciples from his own store. “My peace I give you.” What he’s talking about is the Hebrew concept “shalom”, something much bigger than simply an absence of conflict, but rather wholeness, completeness, fullness of life that can be experienced even in the midst of conflict, trial and hardship. For Jesus, anticipation of the horrors of the cross (torturous pain, becoming sin for us, being cursed, experiencing forsakenness of the Father) troubled him deeply in soul, but he pressed through with shalom, fixing his eyes on the joy set before him (as Hebrews 12 tells us). Again, he was troubled in spirit as he anticipated betrayal, and then desertion of all those closest to him – yet he pressed forward sustained by shalom, knowing he was walking in the Father’s will.
Clearly this peace was not that of the world. This wasn’t a peace that sidestepped sacrifice. It didn’t look for elimination of hardship at all costs. Rather, this peace was borne by submission to the Father, knowing his purpose, embracing sacrifice, seeking the Father’s glory. It was a shalom big enough to sustain it all.
“Peace I leave with you,” he says. “My peace I give to you,” he promises. It was big enough for the cross. It’s big enough for us.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your gift of peace. Thank you that it is field-tested – you proved its worth. You tested its strength. As I encounter my own moments of tension, trial and hardship – moments that knock the peace-of-this-world off its feet – I receive your peace again. Thank you.
Reflect: Where do you most need peace right now? Detail your need to the Lord. Hear his words spoken directly into your circumstance – “My peace I give to you.” Receive.
Work at memorizing this verse. Whether you find memorization easy or hard, allow the process to work truth into mind and soul. Repeat it often. Live its truth.