4 May 2010John 14:27-31
"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." (v.27)
Here, Jesus is speaking to his disciples on the eve of his
crucifixion, telling them that the time for his death is at hand.
How strange, then, that he should promise them peace.
'Peace' (Shalom) was and is still used in Hebrew as both a greeting and an expression of farewell. But Jesus meant more than just goodbye. When he said "Peace I leave with you" it wasn't just a conventional wish. The word translated here as 'leave' means 'bequest'. It is as if Jesus had said "From me you will inherit peace".
But of course, John's readers knew that there was to be no peace. Jesus would give up his life on the Cross. Violence rather than peace would follow this last gathering. And the disciples did not expect to find peace in Jesus' death. They would have to wait until after the resurrection to understand everything that Jesus was telling them now.
But there was a peace in Jesus' leave-taking and this is hinted at near the end of this reading. Jesus' death meant he was going to God and that his mission on earth had been fulfilled. There was something about what Jesus had done and would soon do on the Cross that fulfilled the promises that God had made long ago with Noah, Abraham and Moses. The reason that the disciples were to rejoice was because the events that had already been promised by God long ago were soon to be complete. The forces of evil would be confronted, but their defeat was assured.
The peace that the disciples were to inherit from Jesus also carried a challenge for them: do not let your hearts be cowardly. When Jesus left, the disciples would need to prove that they didn't just love him for their own benefit. They had to face the challenge of loving him and doing his will without the benefit of his physical presence. If they could do that and fulfil the calling to love, then they would be able to rejoice.
What is your experience of being in a very difficult position and being told "Don't worry about it, everything will work out for the best"?
When you are faced with a difficult situation, how does peace make itself known, if at all?
What do you think Jesus means when he says "I do not give to you as the world gives"?