1 May 2016

John 14:23-29

“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)

Psalm: Psalm 67


Today's passage ends the first section of what is called Jesus' 'farewell discourse' in John's Gospel. It takes place on the night before his death, after Jesus has washed the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-20) and Judas Iscariot has left the table to betray them (John 13:21-30). In this situation of high tension, Jesus is explaining to the disciples how they will be able to continue without him, and how they should be with one another.

In verse 26 Jesus speaks of an 'Advocate' or helper sent by the Father in Jesus' own name, the Holy Spirit. Although this verse helped to shape the formal doctrine of the Trinity, the full idea of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was not adopted until the ecumenical councils of the fourth century, and has continued to develop long after.  

Jesus speaks of a Holy Spirit that will work by reminding the Church "of all that I have said to you" (v. 26), provoking the Church in all ages to remember Jesus in life-giving ways. It will not be a case of the Holy Spirit replacing Jesus: the Holy Spirit will not be separate from the work of Jesus or offer new teaching. Rather, Jesus promises his disciples in this passage that the Holy Spirit will make a direct relationship with him possible for those who have not met him. Thus in the power of the Spirit sent by the Father, Jesus will remain alive to the Church in all ages.

Jesus' next bequest to the disciples is as concrete as the gift of the Holy Spirit was mysterious: peace. It is not to be a peace the world would recognise (ie absence of conflict, material security) but a deep peace that springs from being in communion with him. This is the first use of the word "peace" in John's Gospel, and Jesus gives it as a gift to allow the disciples to stand firm in the face of difficulty that will come.

To Ponder

  • Jesus promised the disciples gifts of the Spirit, and peace. What final gifts of advice or teaching would you leave with your friends or family?
  • To what extent have you received the gift of peace that Jesus spoke of, in difficult or conflicted times? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

Revd Dr Jennifer Smith is a Methodist minister, and superintendent of the Ealing Trinity Circuit in the London District. Though resident in the UK since 1993, she is a US citizen and continues to observe US political and religious culture with interest.