|Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin|
Jesus says, in John 14:27, "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." How shall we understand this?
When the disciples heard Jesus talk about the kind of peace "the world gives," they would have thought of the Pax Romana, the "Roman Peace." The world, so far as they knew it, was at peace. But this peace was far from satisfying, since it was acquired through war, and maintained by power and control. In addition, Israel and other nations were occupied by foreign armies and governors.
From a Roman standpoint this looked good. But this is peace maintained by military might.
It reminds me of when I was teaching in Singapore, arguably the most peaceful Asian country there is. I was told it was safe to walk the streets of Singpore at any time of day or night. The crime rate was extremely low. But, as one Singaporean businessman told me one day, "We fear the police." In worldly peace there is always fear.
Jesus claims to give peace that is different from this. Jesus' peace must be understand as an overflow of the Trinitarian union of Father, Son, and Spirit. This is a union of love, a togetherness of life and purpose, a sharing in the divine essence. This is real peace, from the perspective of the Godhead. This is the peace Jesus leaves with us.
Jesus does not say he will strengthen the kind of worldly peace we already have. He is not interested in taking the best political, military-maintained peace-solutions, and tweaking them to perfection. Rather he says, "Here, take my peace. I'm leaving it with you."
"To leave" has the sense of "to bequeath," as when property is transferred to an heir through a will. New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger says “Jesus’ parting benediction is more than a “cheap wish.” Jesus’ word is efficacious.” (John, 443)
Jesus' word effects peace, in us.
This makes sense as we understand that, in John ch.s 14-17, we are invited to nothing less than participation in the Trinitarian union, which I refer to as the Big Dance. In the Big Dance there are beautiful relational manifestations, one of which is peace.
This is not a theory. It's not a solution to some problem. And, importantly, it is not dependent on circumstances. It is the transtemporal essence of God given, on earth, as it is in heaven.
This is the peace promised to us as we abide in Christ. It is what the Spirit produces, in us, as we live attached to God.