Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Troubling Peace. John 14:23-29

“This passage is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples on the night before his death, a discourse punctuated by the anxious questions of his disciples about his impending departure.
First Peter (John 13:36), then Thomas (14:5), then Phillip (14:8), and then Judas (not Iscariot) (14:22) ask for clarification about what Jesus is telling them.
Jesus has promised not to leave his disciples orphaned (John 14:18). He has promised to send another Advocate, the Spirit of truth, to be with them forever (14:16) and continue the work that he has begun. The world does not recognize the Spirit of truth and thus cannot receive him (4:17), just as it has not received Jesus.
Jesus tells his disciples that though the world will no longer see him, they themselves will see him (John 4:19) because he will reveal himself to them (4:21). Then Judas (not Iscariot) asks: “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” (4:22) Our passage begins with Jesus’ response to this question. Perhaps Judas expects that Jesus will give them some kind of secret knowledge, but that is not what Jesus means.”[1]
Phillip asked “Lord Show us the father, and we will be satisfied.” Of course, as far as these questions go Jesus is never going to give us a satisfactory answer.  Jesus is never going to spell it out in plain English.  If all Jesus said and did were completely understood, perfectly understood from the beginning we would not be where we are today.
Heck we, Bob and I would not have over 30 shelves full of books. If only Christ had spoken and answered questions plain and simple. But, in all honesty, Jesus, God and the Holy spirit are beyond human comprehension.  We have to grow and evolve and understand and work to help others grow and evolve and understand and, in this process, there are moments of enlightenment.
Some of those moments are our own when we hear a word or reflect on an action of Jesus’ life and say to ourselves oh, I get it, or our heart leaps to an emotional understanding, or we are inspired by the word to take on a mission or a different way of being in this world.
“’Lord show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ We do not know, of course, whether Philip whispered these words, hoping no one else would hear, or shouted them above the noise of many conversations. We do not know if he spoke in a tear-filled voice or blurted out his request.  We do not even know if he realized the importance of the question he asked. What we do know is that he spoke for all of us: to know God is a fundamental human longing, se deeply embedded, in fact, as to rise seldom to our lips. Why?
Perhaps its pride. One has to swallow pride of self-sufficiency in order to form the words of this request.  A man paces back and forth outside a church door before entering. This is strange territory. Inside a friendly face wearing an usher badge hands the visitor a worship bulletin and with a smile says, “Welcome; we know you are here in search of God.’ ‘Well, no, I just had an hour to kill and thought I would drop in.’”[2]
God forbid that we should admit we are seekers, perhaps, at times it is just hard to wrap our hearts and minds around. We all have the big questions and yet many of us feel the big questions are too much to dare.
Of course, once we get a glimpse of the truth it leads to more questions…Peter asked “Lord where are you going?”  then after Jesus answered “Why can’t I go with you now?”
Finally, Judas (not Iscariot) asks; “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”
How do we see God and Jesus revealed to us as disciples and yet not everyone else?  How is it that what may seem obvious to the seeker is not seen by your neighbor? “Earlier Jesus had spoken to his disciples of the “many dwellings” (monai pollai) in the creators house, where Jesus is going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2). Now Jesus says that they, Jesus and the creator, will come and make their dwelling (monên) with those who love him and keep his word (14:23). You see “eternal life” begins here and now; it is life in relationship with God through Jesus Christ (17:3). Even while Jesus prepares eternal dwellings, he promises that He and God will be with the disciples and, in turn, us as they move through their ministry.
Karyn Wisemen states; “This is a promise that surely made a huge difference to those for whom Jesus’ departure is both immanent and potentially confusing.
Part of that preparation included making sure all knew what was expected his followers. Jesus states that loving him means obeying his teachings (verse 23). As a result of this obedience, “My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (verse 23). What an astonishing promise of presence.
However, we live in a world where people are more technologically connected than ever before, but many seem to still be lonely. They are isolated physically and perhaps connected in trans-dimensional modes of connection. But many are not pulled out of the isolation by electronic means. Feeling alone can be a profoundly difficult thing to experience. And this is what the disciples are likely to fear most: isolation from their teacher and friend. All that they have done has been about being part of Jesus’ life and journey. But Jesus’ promises mean that they will not be alone.”[3]
So, I wonder how do we process that promise in light of our technological connections?  How do we step away from our internalized processes that we have applied to electronic communication that results in isolation, fear, mistrust and misunderstanding?
I mean in today’s world if someone was to tell me I am dying but I will always be with you. I would say yes, I know.  I have your pictures, Facebook page, blog, videos, emails and all the things that you have put out there electronically, yes you will live forever.  We are immortal. Immortal with assumed emotions and false concept of reality.
Have you ever read and email and thought why are they so upset? Or why did they say that in that tone of voice?  We love our forms of artificial communication and yet truly we do not know what a person is saying or how they meant to say it without a tone an actual tone of voice or a face to read. It is just not a true connection.
Or have you ever been in a crowd and still feel alone even when with family or friends.  I think maybe part of that is our deeper longing, seeking, for something more. That something more is promised in this gospel.
Jesus has been preparing his disciples for his departure. This is hard.  They have been with Jesus day in and day out for three years. Three years of meals, traveling from hill to valley, from land to lake.  Three years of miracles and wisdom and, most of all, sacred companionship.
Into this reality of Jesus’ departure.  That sounds nice doesn’t departure or leaving…I am not sure the disciples fully understand what all this means yet. But in the midst of this leaving comes the Spirit, the Advocate, the one who will accompany the disciples.  The spirit is “sent by God in Jesus’ name to be present with the followers of Jesus (verse 26). This is the first time we read about this presence as the Holy Spirit. The Advocate is a presence the disciples will need in order to love as they are called to love. It will, as Jesus promises, be as if he is still with them. Additionally, the Spirit will serve as their teacher in Jesus’ absence (verse 26). Jesus as teacher has been a profound presence in the Gospel message and continuing this teaching -- his teaching -- will be the Advocate’s role.”[4]
This explanation makes no sense does it? Does this make sense to you?  Of course, it does, it is part of our faith filled understanding of just what happened then.  But in a context of never hearing of the Holy spirit before, never hearing mention of the advocate before this…well let me just say Jesus is not a good chaplain. He is offering a very spiritual language to try to comfort those around him who are confused and perhaps even frightened as they are beginning…just beginning to get a glimpse as to how things are about to go. If they do not have that glimmer of understanding these are just words that are making no sense.
The disciples may be getting a little more confused and scared at this point.  I am in the father and my father is in me and if you believe, we will be with you, we will love you, make our home with you and if you do not love my words, well they are not my words, but they are the fathers words who sent me to you and we are sending you an advocate, a holy spirit to be your teacher and companion and we will be there too through the spirit….
But then in the midst of confusion…in the middle of their need, Jesus shifts. Jesus changes the whole tone of the message. He stops and turns to them and says (deep Breath)
Peace I leave with you…
Yes, that is what they need…yes that is what we need…In the middle of hustle and bustle…in the center of fear and confusion…in the middle of our daily bread…Peace I leave with you my peace I give you…
That’s what I want, that’s what the disciples needed in that moment more than anything…
I return to commentator Karyn Wisemann
“One of the profound moments in this passage comes in verse 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.” Peace is a commodity we sorely need in our world and is absent for far too many. But into this discourse about absence, Jesus reassures the disciples, who were rightly feeling fear about his departure, that they will not be left alone and bestows peace on them.
However, he does more than gently wish them peaceful lives -- he gives them peace (verse 27). This is not a wish. This is a gift. It is a gift of profound importance at this moment in the journey of Jesus and the disciples. He must have known the turmoil they would face when he was gone and he does all he can to prepare them for the next part of the journey. Peace is an important element of John’s gospel (along with love…). And like love, peace is a mark of true discipleship that is required of the disciples -- then and now.”[5]
“A clock ticks. Day breaks and evening falls.  Thursday and Friday are followed by Saturday and Sunday. Spring gives way to summer; autumn heralds the approach of winter. February ends and March begins. Between the last day of December and the first day of January, we turn a page of the calendar and discover ourselves in a new year. Academic terms come and go; graduating classes move on. In the life of the Church, Easter follows Good Friday. All these are persistent patterns with a steady and expected rhythm. They do not surprise us but provide a basic beat by which we can measure the passing of time, milestones that mark our journey.”[6]
Or as the day time soap used to say as sands in the hour glass so are the days of our lives.  These all sound so mundane and steady and simple and yet we know we have frustrations, fears, tragedies, joys, surprises.  It really does not take much to disrupt our rhythms and in those times of disruption is when we seek and need the Peace of Christ. Well peace as we imagine it.  But Christ peace can be and is something more…
This is not a passive peace. It is an active working toward peace in multiple situations. Christs peace is one that comforts and troubles all at once. This Spirit and peace will propel the disciples and later the church into active discipleship and mission. Through this peace what should have been a mundane life becomes extraordinary. It is in this peace that Peter is able to understand and see the need to welcome the outsider.  It is this peace that will knock Saul off a horse.  It is this peace that runs like wildfire through Israel and unto Rome. It is with the presence of this peace, given by God in Jesus’ name, which enables the disciples and us to live lives of faithfulness (verse 26).
Judas simply asked “Lord how is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not the world?”

“From this question, it sounds as if Judas is expecting Jesus to reveal secrets, to give his followers knowledge hidden from the world at large. The answer Jesus gives, however, goes in another direction. Jesus is not interested in hiding knowledge from anyone. While the world will not see him any longer, it will see his followers. The words that follow are for his followers, yet it is probably not a coincidence that as his followers keep loving him, the world will see those followers keeping his word. To keep the word of Jesus means to keep his commandments (cf. John 14:15, 21). It is to wash one another's feet, to love one another (John 13:24). As the disciples keep the word of Jesus, they will be a community characterized by mutual regard, love and service.”[7]

This is the Peace of Christ drawing the disciples forward in their ministries accompanied by the holy spirit.  The Holy Spirit and Christ’s peace can and do calm the spirit while stirring it. The peace of Christ challenges us to grow, the spirit leads us to where we need to be to experience that growth, to share Christ love always in bigger and bolder ways.

Christ peace comes as reassurance and assurance even though we may be taking bold and scary leaps.  We may be anxious about new things and different ways and yet through it all if we pray and listen, we will experience Christ’s peace and the spirit will trouble us more to move on to bigger and better yet!

It is “In this context, we can rightly imagine that peace is not something the disciples are feeling. They have travelled the highways and byways with Jesus as he healed, taught, and changed the world. Now in his impending absence he leaves them what they need to continue this work.”[8]
Part of the amazing reassurance comes in verse 28: “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the creator, for the Creator is greater than I.” Jesus boldly proclaims that he is not just going away from them -- he is going to the Creator. And those who know him, who have walked the roads and have been on this journey with him, know that this is what he was meant to do. They didn’t quite understand it yet but the spirit and Christ’s peace will enable them to grow into it.
Into this moment we are called to be the word peace, we are called to be Christ’s presence. After this discourse, Jesus intended for the disciples to feel his peace and presence always -- through the Spirit, in the continued teaching to come, and in the connectedness of the community of believers. So, we too are called to seek that connectedness, to reach out and be the present, peace filled, community of believers to the world around us.
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. amen


[2]Craddock, Fred B. The Collected Sermons of Fred B. Craddock. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

[6]Vogel, Linda Jane., and Dwight Vogel. Syncopated Grace: Times and Seasons with God. Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2002.


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