Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning (cancelled- weather)
Franklin, NC 28734 December 10, 2017
Text: John 14:27
Our prevailing images of Christmas, both sacred and secular, tend to be pastoral—and, therefore, peaceful. Perhaps today, in our nation, we imagine a still, cold night with snow on the ground. We imagine the place and the night into which Christ was born to be a calm, clear night–with angelic visitation added to fields of shepherds and sheep.
Yet, the truth be told, there was much upheaval then—and there is much upheaval now. On the night of Jesus’ birth, God Old Testament church—in their ancestral home—endured the hated Roman occupation and the census that once again reminded the Jews exactly who held the political power. That Roman occupation disrupted and dislocated Joseph and Mary from Nazareth (in Galilee, in the northern Holy Land) to Bethlehem (in Judea, in the southern Holy Land). Mary was very late in her term—so late that, upon arrival in Bethlehem, she labored and delivered Jesus in the area reserved for cattle, for there was no room in the inn.
Now we witness and worry over military upheaval between nations—such as the ongoing quarrels in the Middle East and the late quarrel with North Korea. We wring our hands over the political upheaval between parties—with little prospect for unity in sight. We also note—and, alas, too often feel—the relational upheaval between individuals and groups. Above all of this, many a soul churns with inner upheaval within it—perhaps totally unrelated to the surrounding world. Amid these upheavals, let us look at the Prince of Peace, Who is our peace (Ephesians ii.14), Who gives us and leaves us His peace.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Jesus’ remaining eleven disciples had immediate cause for disquiet as He uttered these precious words into their ears that night. He is going away from them, and in the process of leaving them, He will endure horrific mistreatment—culminating in His agony unto death on the Cross. Hence, to the disciples’ fearful, churning souls, Jesus speaks—and in the long speech from which our verse comes (the Farewell Discourse, John 14:1-16:33), He speaks of many mercies He has in store for them. Jesus holds before His Eleven—and before us too—the hope of eternal dwellings with Him (John 14:2-4) and the gift of the Spirit in this age (John 14:16 ff., et al.). There is another mercy that Jesus offers us, and we consider it more closely now.
Jesus offers us His peace. The Greek word here rendered by the English peace (eirene [eirhnh]) denotes favorable circumstances involving peace and tranquility—not unlike the Hebrew shalom (“It is well with me.”) It also denotes freedom from worry and inner turmoil. These are precious commodities indeed that Jesus leaves with us, for He returns to the Father. Jesus gives this peace—for He is good, and He does good for His children. Jesus gives this peace, moreover, because if He give it not, then we do not have it—for He alone is the source of this peace.
Furthermore, Jesus surely gives peace (the Greek construction here is emphatic)—and He gives a peace unlike any which the world may offer. The world offers shaky foundations for peace between parties, such as contracts and treaties, but Jesus Himself the sure foundation among people and within people. The world offers harmful substances as catalysts for inner peace, such as drugs, excessive alcohol, and the like, whereas Jesus requires no such catalyst to still the shaken soul. The world simply cannot give us peace of a kind and to a degree that Jesus gives. Only Jesus’ peace is truly peace indeed.
Therefore, let not your heart be troubled. That is, as we enjoy Christ’s peace, let us be afflicted by acute emotional distress. Neither let us be tossed by acute emotional turbulence. Let not our hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid. Let not our souls be buffeted by fear. Neither let them be cowardly—and, thus, paralyzed into inactivity. Let His peace produce in us the serenity and courage needful to glorify God.
I do not know fully your current level of Christ’s peace, amid much coming and going—not to mention amid disquiets of various forms (relational, circumstantial, and the like). I do know this, beloved fellow Christian: His peace is your new-birthright. We are at peace with God because we are justified by Christ (Romans 5:1). There is no hostility now between us who are in Christ and God Himself—for Jesus bore our sins in our stead, enduring the righteous hostility of God against sins (and that for the joy set before Him, Hebrews 12:2) and reconciling us to His Father. More than this, God works peace in our souls by His Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22). Hence, as we present with thanksgiving all our requests to God—especially the ones about vexing situations—we will find that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Our hearts and minds, will be kept safe, through Christ’s peace, in God’s hands against unmeasured onslaught and from indifferent wandering from God’s fold.
Therefore, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Colossians 3:15)—and let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
 For this information I am indebted to Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).