Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
“My peace I give to you,” Jesus says, but what kind of peace did Jesus have?
When He speaks of peace—the peace He has and gives to us—what’s going on around Him?
In Matthew’s account of the Gospel, the word peace is used in three places.
Not three times but in three places, and the context in which peace is used, what’s going on around it, might surprise you.
In Matthew chapter five, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
That’s right before He says, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11).
In chapter ten, when Jesus sends out the twelve, He says, “As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (Matthew 10:12-15).
And again, from chapter ten, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
None of those are how we use the word peace.
When we use the word peace, we don’t have the threat or worry of being reviled hanging over us.
That’s not what peace means when we use it.
We’re not worried about shaking the dust from our feet—or having dust shaken off at us.
When we use the word peace, we’re not thinking of the sword that might be brought down on us instead.
When we speak of peace, we mean quietness or rest. Not anxiety but contentment. Relief.
But, the problem is, more often than not, when the word peace is used in the Bible, the context isn’t at all what and how we’re used to thinking of peace.
Matthew’s use of peace, for example.
In John’s account of the Gospel, the word peace is also used in three places, but there’s a big difference between the first two and the last one.
The first two begin with today’s Gospel lesson where Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27).
Jesus says these words after the Supper, shortly before His Passion, and Christians need to wonder what kind of peace this is.
He was about to be betrayed by one of His closest friends.
He was about to be tried in a kangaroo court where the witnesses’ stories don’t corroborate, and the man with the God-given authority to let Him go says, “I find no guilt in Him” three separate times, before sentencing Him to death (John 18:38, 19:4, 6).
He was about to be abandoned by His Father, praying, “My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
He was about to be mocked by those who hated Him, on the ground and at His side.
He was about to die.
He knew all of this, ahead of time, and yet He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
What kind of peace is that?
What kind of peace do you have when someone lets you down?
What kind of peace do you have when you’re late for something important?
Or when someone else is late?
What kind of peace do you have when you’re expecting a phone call from the doctor? What kind of peace do you have when the phone rings in the middle of the night?
What kind of peace do you have when you’re betrayed and slandered or abandoned and mocked?
What kind of peace do you have when you’re forced to face the fact that all men must die?
Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you?”
What kind of peace is that?
That’s the first use of peace in John’s account of the Gospel.
The second is two chapters after today’s Gospel reading.
And to me, this is where it starts to make sense.
Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
What does Jesus teach us to expect from the world?
From His example, we expect betrayal, slander, false accusations, abandonment from even our own family or closest friends, and shameful mocking—all because of fidelity to Christ—all because the servant is not greater than the Master. If the world treated Him that way, they’ll treat you that way.
And Jesus sums this up in just a few words, saying: “In the world you will have tribulation.”
That’s an interesting take on the word peace, then.
The way we use the word, peace is the absence of trouble, the furthest thing from tribulation.
But Jesus, by His life, and in His Word to us, He shows us that in the midst of tribulation and the scowling of the world, even there, we have peace.
In the midst of whatever anxiety accompanied the knowledge that Judas would betray Him, Jesus had peace, because He was faithful to His Father, praying, believing, and living “Thy will be done.”
In that kangaroo court, with liars testifying against Him, Jesus had peace.
Maybe some of those men were among the men of Jerusalem, cut to the heart, when confronted with Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Several times after Peter’s words in today’s second reading, Peter makes it quite clear that “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
And “those who received [that] word [who believed it] were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
The peace that Jesus has isn’t the absence of trouble but the sure and certain way through it.
Knowing that He would be abandoned by His Father, even then, Jesus had peace.
His Father desired to save the world.
Jesus would die.
His Father would hand Him over to a death on the cross, a death that pays for all sin, reconciling the world to God.
Jesus is the sacrificial lamb handed over and given into death, that you would never be taken from Him, that you who believe in Him would never die.
Nothing is able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord (cf. Romans 8:38-39).
By His example, by His Word, we know there is peace even in the midst of tribulation.
The final place in John’s account of the Gospel where the word peace is used is chapter twenty, after the resurrection.
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19).
There was no lack of tribulation for the disciples that evening. They thought their Lord dead, buried, and gone, never to return. They thought themselves outlaws, soon to be discovered, and soon to be killed.
Into their hopeless world Jesus brings peace that surpasses understanding.
Peace be with you!
The peace that Jesus gives is life to the dead, health to the sick, and joy to the poor, miserable sinner.
A few verses later, He says it again, “Peace be with you,” and here, He sends the apostles to forgive the sins of those who repent.
He gives them peace so they can give you peace.
Again, a few verses later, Thomas being with them now, the doors being locked, Jesus stands among them and says, “Peace be with you” (cf. John 20:26).
Into Thomas’ world of doubt, Jesus speaks peace.
The way the Bible speaks—the way Jesus speaks—the peace He gives isn’t the absence of trouble but the sure and certain way through it.
It’s true—there’s no shortage of tribulation in our lives.
There is no shortage of pain or sickness or worry.
Into our hopeless world, into our doubting and disbelieving hearts, Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
We might hear those words and think that God doesn’t know our pain, our tribulation—“He doesn’t know…”
But He most certainly does.
We know that Jesus suffered greatly.
He was stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
He bore in His flesh the burden of our sin.
And in His last words on Holy Thursday, Jesus says to us, “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe” (John 14:28-29).
All that—He does…
All that—He says…
All that—He endures…
So that you would believe.
Whatever your anxiety.
Whatever your worries.
Whatever sins burden your conscience.
Jesus means what He says, and He says it to you:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
In the world you have tribulation.
But take heart.
On the cross, in your place, for you and all the world, God in the flesh, God With Us, you God, who loves you, died to forgive the world.
And peace with God once more is made!
The Lord has visited His people and relieved them.
You have and know peace that surpasses the world’s understanding.
But not your understanding.
If you understand that your sins are forgiven…
If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and call upon His name…
If you cling in faith to your crucified God and Lord…
Then the peace that Jesus gives doesn’t surpass your understanding.
You know and have peace, because you know and have Jesus.
Your life isn’t absent of trouble.
But you know the Way—surely, certainly—through it.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Pentecost Sermon, 2021
John 14:23-31; Acts 2:1-21
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt