Peace Through the Spirit
A sermon based on John 14:25-27
Sunday, May 24, 2015 – Pentecost B
How much peace do you think the disciples had that night? Jesus was doing some unusual things, washing their feet, changing the Passover, praying alone in the garden. And what he was saying was even more odd: The bread was his body? The wine was his blood? He was going to depart and they couldn't come with him? I'll bet that night left them confused and without much peace.
How much peace do you think the disciples had later that night? Jesus was arrested and he let himself be abused. He could have stopped it. They knew that. But he didn't. He chose to let them hurt him. Maybe he would let them hurt the disciples too. So they ran. Those who had so recently boldly declared they would never leave Jesus' side now ran away like terrified prey into the dark night. I'll bet that night left them scared and without much peace.
How much peace do you think the disciples had later that night? Hiding behind locked doors they feared that the authorities would come for them next. And I'm sure the shame of deserting Jesus—their teacher, their master, their friend—soon hit hard. I'll bet that night left them feeling quite guilty and without much peace.
And yet, on that night, the night on which he was betrayed, Jesus promised his disciples peace. And it's a peace he promises to us too. It's a peace promised to be delivered by the Holy Spirit, a peace described for us in John 14:25-27…
25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 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.
I. The Holy Spirit Bring Peace by Giving You Faith
The disciples were troubled and scared. They were worried and fearful—and understandably so! Their lives were in jeopardy. Their families in danger. Their friend was talking about capture and death. And soon their hopes in Jesus to be the Messiah who would rule the nations would lay in utter ruins. That night, after his arrest, things must have looked pretty hopeless to those disciples. I'm sure there wasn't much peace among them.
We too are often robbed of peace in this sin-filled life, aren't we? Sin brings pain and disease, so we worry about our health. Sin brings disasters and crooks, so we worry about our finances. Sin brings selfishness and war on a big scale and a smaller personal scale so we worry about our jobs and about our kids and about our relationships. At times, it sure seems like there's not much peace in our lives. But then something worse robs us of peace…
The external circumstances were certainly enough to rob the disciples of peace that night. But how much more the internal guilt and shame must have robbed them of peace. We know the remorse of Judas and of Peter who both broke down in shame at what they'd done. And it robbed them both of peace.
And I think we can understand.
In one of the verses right before our text, Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching."
And how well have we obeyed his teaching? Not well enough. Too often we show that we love ourselves more than Jesus. We care more about our comfort than about speaking up for him, more about our fun than service to him, more about our friends than our Savior. And when we realize what we've done, how little we've loved him, then the guilt and shame of our sin can rob us of peace. Nagging, gnawing guilt, the shame and regret, sting our consciences like a piece of Devil's club stuck under the surface of the skin. Our consciences sting… unless we've so dulled them we can no longer feel it. But even then the quiet night can often bring back the memories of our sin that haunt our souls with guilt and shame and rob us of peace.
But Jesus sent his Spirit to bring us peace. And he does that by giving us a proper understanding and a right faith…
The disciples had no peace because the lacked understanding. They didn't understand what the Messiah was all about. They didn't get why Jesus had come. They thought he had come to bring them peace in this life: peace from the Romans, peace from poverty, peace from suffering and pain.
But that's not the kind of peace that Jesus had come to bring.
In verse 27 Jesus explained that this wasn't the kind of peace the Holy Spirit would bring. He said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." He didn't come to just bring physical health and financial security or happy human relationships that fill our hearts. For all of those would ultimately leave us empty in the end. For "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36)
But Jesus brought a better peace. And the Holy Spirit gives us a proper understanding of what God came to do, just like he did for those disciples.
When Jesus said, "While I am still with you," he alluded to his departure from this life. The next day he would die. He would be killed on a cross, tortured to death. Why? To win the battle for them and for us that would bring us peace—to bring us peace with God. This is the peace of which Jesus spoke: a peace of heart and mind which comes from knowing our sins are all forgiveness through his perfect life and innocent death for us, a peace that was proved by his resurrection from the dead. It is a peace which passes all understanding. It is a peace which only God can give.
And though the disciples didn't get it that Maundy Thursday, Jesus would send his Holy Spirit to comfort, counsel, help, and enlighten them. On the Day of Pentecost, the light came on for the disciples as the flames appeared above their head. For the first time they really understood what peace Jesus had brought them. He didn't give them a small, temporal, feeble peace that the world gives. He gave a different peace, a better peace, his peace.
And they boldly proclaimed, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-38) Now they understood. And so do we. We understand that, "since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)
And we understand this—we believe this—because the Holy Spirit has worked this understanding and this faith in this understanding in our hearts. And he's done so and continues to do so through the Word.
II. The Holy Spirit Bring Peace by Giving You His Word
When Jesus said, "While I am still with you," he alluded to his departure from this life. But perhaps he also alluded to his ascension 43 days later. He would leave them bodily and physically. But he didn't leave them alone. While he was still with them he made them this promise: "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." Jesus left his disciples the Holy Spirit and the promise that he would leave them with the Word.
And Jesus has not left us alone either. He sends us his Holy Spirit who always operates through the Word. Do you want to be close to God? Do you want to know his heart and mind? Do you want to find peace in what he says to you? Then read his Word. It is not just an interesting book with good ideas about God. It's not just a record of the things the disciples could draw up from their memories. It is the very Word of God written by him through the apostles he sent. Jesus promised this to his disciples: It is his Word. "The Holy Spirit… will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
You've heard the argument and the illustration before, right? If we play that old game of telephone, where I whisper a message to one person who passes it on to the next and then to the next, the message is very likely to be garbled—sometimes in a ridiculous and humorous way by the time it gets to the last person because human memory doesn't always work that well.
But that's not how the Scriptures work. Let people use their cell phones to record the message before they pass it on and the end result will be quite different. Or better still, let the last person talk to the first—the original message giver—and the end result will be flawless.
The disciples didn't have a recording device. But they didn't need one. They had something better: A promise from Jesus that he would send the original message giver right to them. "The Holy Spirit… will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
So we know that what they wrote of Jesus is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. What comfort that brings when our worries and fears try to rob us peace. We know that it's God himself, not just Matthew, who promises that he is with us always. (cf. Matthew 28:20) What comfort that brings when we face problems and pain that would rob us of peace. We know that it's God himself, not just Paul, who promises that he'll work all things for the good of those who love him. (cf. Romans 8:28) What comfort that brings when we face the thought of our own death that would rob us life and rob us of peace. We know that it's God himself, not just John, who promises that whoever believes in him will never die. (cf. John 11:26)
So when problems or pain or troubles or terrors try to rob you of your peace, then go back to the Word. Read of God's grace to you in Christ. And find peace. Better still, read, mark, learn, and digest that Word of God before problems or pain or troubles or terrors try to rob you of your peace and they never will. Then you will always rejoice that the Spirit has brought you peace by the understanding and the faith that he's given you and that the Spirit has brought you peace by the Word that he's given you. Read the Word. Read of his grace. And be at peace.