Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
As a new year looms before us, many are filled with fear and dread. The world is filled with turmoil and violence. What have we seen of late? Crisis in Ukraine with Russia’s intrusion; the ongoing civil strife in Syria; Iran’s threat of nuclear war; the barbaric acts committed by the Islamic State; fighting between Hamas and Israel; the worst Ebola epidemic in history—these are a few of the harsh realities that cause fear to grip the hearts of millions.
On a more personal level, people’s lives are filled with anxiety and distress. For many, life in this world entails great pressures, tremendous stress, much frustration. Affliction, sorrow, and adversity may be heavy burdens.
Man cries, “Peace, peace,” but there is no peace! Many hope in vain that the new year will provide peace. But as people of God, we have peace, do we not? Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, has promised His people peace. In the context here of John 14, Jesus is tenderly instructing and comforting His disciples. They are together in the upper room. It is the night of Jesus’ betrayal and capture. Jesus will soon go away. But Jesus says, as it were, “I leave behind for you as the greatest gift of all, a gift far greater than anything the world could ever bestow—my peace!” As we embark upon this new year, let us lay hold by faith upon that legacy of Jesus’ peace!
A Great Treasure
In the highest sense peace is a virtue of God. Our God is a God of peace. The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, lives a life of perfect harmony and peace. There is no strife or unrest, no discord or tension in His blessed covenant life. In the realm of perfect love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit think, will, speak, and act in perfect harmony. All the issues of the eternal, divine life are as one great harmonious choir. God is the God of peace!
By nature, we have no peace. The sad fact is that since near the dawn of history, from the time of the fall of our first parents in Paradise, man has lived in enmity against God and his fellow man. Rooted in the natural wicked ness and corruption of man are hatred and envy, violence and murder, war and rebellion. Man by nature has no peace—only unrest, anxiety, confusion, conflict, and chaos. We read in: “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
But the God of peace speaks to His church in: “I will extend peace to her like a river.” For He is “the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” ( ). Yes, in our Savior Jesus Christ there is peace! Scripture calls Jesus, “our Peace” and “the Prince of Peace.” Jesus says, “My peace I give unto you.” Jesus so loved us that He laid down His life for us and reconciled us to God by His atoning death. He brings us and all of His people into fellowship with the God of peace.
This peace is a precious treasure given unto us. We experience this peace within our own hearts and lives. It is the peace of being right with God. It implies the assurance of the forgiveness of sins. We are assured with the apostle, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” ().
What a great treasure is this peace given us by Christ! Who can comprehend it? That we, who were enemies of God, might have peace with Him all our days and even forever! No wonder the apostle Paul describes it inas “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” It is to be taken into the very covenant life of God Himself and to dwell in the peace of His most blessed life. Rev. Gerrit Vos, in his characteristic vividness, put it this way: “Peace in your soul means that your heart and the heart of God beat in unison.”
A Free Gift
The Lord Jesus emphasizes that this peace is a free gift: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” It is a legacy that He left behind, like the money or property bequeathed to a person by the will of someone who has died. This peace is in no way something we have merited. It is not something we have earned. We simply receive it. Jesus gives us peace. It is a gift of pure grace, wholly undeserved and unmerited. It is itself a blessing of salvation, a fruit of His Spirit.
This free gift of peace which Jesus gives us stands in sharp contrast to the giving of the world. He says, “My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” There is a great difference, first of all, in the manner of giving. The world of sin and unbelief gives only with empty words that convey no lasting treasure of peace. The world’s cries for peace are in vain, even in an earthly sense. Witness the futility of the efforts of the United Nations to achieve peace among the nations. Witness the civil strife in many places, even the increasing racial unrest here in the United States stoked by the events in Ferguson, Missouri in recent months. Yet the world in its pride is confident that man will be able to achieve peace on earth.
Yes, one day, perhaps not so far into the future, the world will have a semblance of peace as the nations of the earth unite under the rule of the antichrist. It will be a worldwide kingdom of peace that wages war against the faithful saints of God. It will be a kingdom of peace that remains in bitter enmity and rebellion against the living God. It will be a kingdom of peace that God in His wrath will bring into utter desolation. Be not deceived by the world’s vain boasts of peace and its empty promises! But in contrast to the world, Jesus gives peace—His peace—true peace, with words and work that actually convey true blessings of peace and all the benefits of salvation.
But even more than this contrast, the gift itself is contrasted. Jesus means, “I give my peace, which the world can never bestow.” The world has no true peace to give, nothing that can bring peace to the troubled soul. The world may offer fame, honor, wealth, popularity, all the pleasures and treasures of sin, but none of these will afford peace—not for a moment. These will bring nothing but the opposite of peace—trouble, turmoil, anxiety, death, destruction! But Jesus has the real thing, the true gift of His peace for us, which He graciously, sovereignly, and irresistibly bestows.
A Comforting Legacy
It is a comforting legacy that Jesus has left for us. And this is exactly what we need, also as we begin the new year! Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Humanly speaking, there seem to be so many reasons for our hearts to be troubled and frightened—on a global scale, nationally, and perhaps, especially closer to home, in our own lives. The threat of increasing war is very real. Terrorism and all manner of violence continue unabated. Economic turmoil and financial pressures are great. Affliction and suffering, anxiety and depression beset many. Adversities and tribulations of various sorts may be encountered. There is the harsh reality of death itself, with the sorrows, and perhaps loneliness, that accompany it.
And as we peer into the new year, we can anticipate increasing hardships for God’s people in particular. In many countries around the world persecution of Christians has been increasing, sometimes dramatically. Hundreds of thousands have fled from Syria and Iraq, many Christians among them. Islamic State militants have given Christians the choice to convert, pay an exorbitant “infidel tax,” or die by the sword. Many have been killed, including children. In northern Nigeria Boko Haram terrorists have often focused their attacks upon Christians, destroying villages, burning churches, and kidnapping hundreds of women and girls.
But even in the Western world, the pressures are increasing upon Christians. We see less and less tolerance for any thoughts or convictions that are biblical, especially on college and university campuses. Pressures are great to conform to the homosexual agenda and the perversion of God’s ordinance of marriage. Our place as God’s children will become smaller and smaller. Is not your heart troubled and afraid, especially as you think of your children and grandchildren?
Hear the word of Jesus: “Let not your heart be troubled! Neither let it be afraid!” For Jesus has given us this legacy of peace! Even at times when our lives are in turmoil, when we are cast down in affliction, or overwhelmed with sorrow, the knowledge of Jesus’ peace will carry us through. In His peace we are able to bear whatever hardships or calamities He brings upon our pathway with patience and childlike trust. It is, indeed, a peace “which passeth all understanding,” that “shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (). We trust that our covenant Father, who is at peace with us, does all things well.
But what about those times when our hearts and minds are shaken by calamity and that assurance of peace wavers and seems to disappear? Flee to Christ! Find your refuge in Him. Hear His Word, “My peace I give unto you…. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Pray for the working of His Spirit by which Jesus’ peace will again flood your soul.
Be not deceived by the world’s vain offers of peace. By faith lay hold upon the legacy of Jesus’ peace! Throughout 2015 and beyond, may you enjoy that true peace wherein “your heart and the heart of God beat in unison.”
Then we can sing from the heart this versification of Psalm 4:
In God’s love abiding, I have joy and peace,
More than all the wicked, tho’ their wealth increase.
In His care confiding, I will sweetly sleep,
For the Lord, my Savior, will in safety keep.