Every single day we see acts of mass violence or senseless, brutal murders of innocent people taking place all over the world. The multitudes, along with world leaders and politicians, are crying out for peace, but for the moment it’s falling on deaf ears. There is an atmosphere of uncertainty and many are questioning the safety of the world that we live in. No doubt, the world has always been a place of chaos, but many are no longer thinking, “that will never happen to me.” In fact, just the opposite is true. Many are realizing that they are not as safe as they once thought.
Where’s the Peace on Earth?
As Christmas sprints closer, I can’t help but think about the multitude of angels announcing the birth of the Savior of the world to the shepherds,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14
What an awesome report! Wouldn’t it be just wonderful if the news affiliates around the world were declaring such good news! The story of these heavenly ‘news anchors’ proclaiming peace on earth can fill even the greatest skeptic with hope, I believe. But that proclamation was over 2000 years ago. If peace had come to earth, then where is it today? Certainly, Jesus himself is the Prince of Peace and when he returns again, peace will be established in all the earth. Scriptures tell us that there will be no more fear of the terror by night, (Psalms 91:5) swords will be turned into gardening tools and there will be no more war (Isaiah 2:4). That is glorious news for the future. But what about now? What about today?
Peace I Leave With You
I distinctly remember sitting in the hospital room with my mom and siblings, when the doctor told us that my dad had massive amounts of cancer in his body. You could literally feel the air get sucked out of the room. Feelings of uncertainty, fear, sadness and confusion overcame even the strongest of us as we tried to grapple with the news that the patriarch of our family may not be with us much longer. I imagine the disciples going through many of the same feelings when Jesus told them he was going away and was not physically establishing his kingdom at that time. I can just see the sense of security leave the room as they all realize once again that they had no idea what was going on. As Jesus is making it unmistakably clear that he is not going to be with them much longer, he comforts them with these words,
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
I want to draw out two points from this verse to help us understand the peace of God. First, when Jesus ascended to heaven he did not take his peace with him to return with it later when he establishes his millennial Kingdom. The moment Christ was born and the angels proclaimed that peace had come to earth, it stayed. Though we won’t see it in fullness on the earth until Christ returns, his peace is still present today through the Holy Spirit. His peace is available now as it is in heaven.
The second point is that the peace the world possesses differs from the peace that Jesus possesses. As an example, picture a lake just before the break of dawn on a cool summer morning: the water is smooth like glass, beautiful and serene. There is no stirring and everything is calm and quiet. Peaceful. Sounds nice doesn’t it? What’s wrong with that type of peace you ask? Well nothing, if there is no such thing as storms! The very moment a storm blows in, that lake takes on a different form. Helpless under the power of the forceful gusts of wind, rain and thunderings, the peace is instantly gone. The peace the world gives is subject to its surroundings and circumstances. It is helpless against the pain, hatred, self-centeredness, chaos and violence of this world. It is like a flittering bird that flies away at the first hint that something is wrong. The peace that Jesus gives to his followers is not subject to its surroundings. In fact, it can make chaotic and out of control situations come into subjection to it.
Possessing the Peace of God
One of my favorite examples in the bible of the peace of God is found in Matthew 8:23-27:
Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He (Jesus) was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
Most of the disciples were experienced fishermen and undoubtedly this was not the first storm they had encountered on the sea. But the situation escalated to the point that they had no more control. This is the point that most of us begin to panic and fear takes over, when we no longer are in control. When the disciples wake him up and ‘pray’ for him to save them out of their circumstances, Jesus responds in a very unusual way. He asks, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” This was probably not the response they expected. Taken at face value, it would seem that Jesus was not that happy they woke him up! He is not commending them for coming to him in their hour of greatest need. He rebukes them! He calls them faithless! Can you imagine going to prayer and hearing Jesus respond to you, “Oh you of little faith!”. Isn’t going to Jesus the outworking of faith? The answer is yes, but it is little faith. They had faith enough to go to Jesus in their time of need, but they still lacked the faith that Jesus wanted them to possess. Where was their lack of faith? Some will say they lacked the faith to rebuke the storm themselves. He wanted them to take control of their situation, “In the name of Jesus!”. I don’t believe this to be the case. The disciples had no power over the tossing sea and storm that raged around them because they carried no power over the ‘storm’ of fear and doubt that raged inside them. The peace they knew at that time was only prevalent when their surroundings and circumstances were peaceful. You can’t command peace when you don’t possess peace. Jesus, on the other hand, was in the same boat as they, but he was in complete peace and rest, so much so that he was sleeping! Jesus rebuked the storm and calmed the chaos because he is peace. He is not worried about the storms of life, literal or figurative. They do not affect him; he affects them. I believe that the disciples lack of faith was that they didn’t “cozy” up to Jesus in the bow of the boat in the midst of the storm. He didn’t come to earth to be the co-pilot or wing-man in our ship. He came to be our ship, our “ark” of safety from the chaos of this world. He doesn’t want us to only carry him in our ‘boat’, he wants us to posses Him in the inner parts of our soul and to rest with him in the midst of the storms of life. The peace that Jesus gives is Himself and He is always stronger than any storm of life, no matter how violent and turbulent it can be.
Enter His Rest
I will conclude with this: Jesus will one day return and bring his peace and rest upon the whole earth. What a glorious day that will be! The Prince of Peace will openly rebuke the prince of this world and there will be a great calm in all the earth, once and for all. Until then, he has given every believer access to himself, that we would carry all of his attributes. He desires that we operate and live out of the place of resting in peace. Christ calls all those who would follow him to take up their crosses and to lose their lives for his sake. It’s no wonder that all those who are dead are said to “rest in peace”. It’s beneficial to note, a dead man never worries about anything!
Beloved, in these days of uncertainty and lack of safety in this world, let us “be diligent to enter his rest” (Hebrews 4:11) through the peace of God that only Jesus gives.