It has been some time since I posted a sermon so here’s the latest I’ve preached if you are interested.
Peace Like No Other
In January of AD 27 the Roman Consul Gaius Octavius Thurinus, great nephew of the legendary Julius Caesar, assumed the throne of Rome, irreversibly transforming the Roman Republic into the Empire of Roman. Octavian took to himself the name Augustus (meaning impressive, imposing, magnificent) and the last name of his great uncle upon assuming office and under Augustus Caesar Rome entered into a Golden Age of prosperity known by historians as the Pax Romana or â€œPeace of Romeâ€. For two decades years the Roman Empire was almost entirely from both wars within and without. This was an unprecedented time of prosperity for the Empire that is hard for us to fully appreciate, having never lived in the world of perpetual conflict that was the First Century world.
Prof. Nicholas K. Rauh, Purdue University describes the Pax Romana thus: “â€¦the order achieved by the Augustan Settlement brought the greatest period of peace and prosperity to the broadest possible population base found anywhere in ancient times. Some 50 to 100 million people existed under the Pax Romana, “the Roman Peace.” For nearly 200 years there was but one brief civil war, no piracy, no slave revolts. People and goods could travel safely from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. Cities such as Rome and Alexandria burgeoned to more than 1 million residents. A score of lesser cities, including refounded colonies at Carthage and Corinth, blossomed to become important nodes to provincial order and trade. Rome itself became an open city inundated by upwardly mobile foreigners.”
History is amazed by the Pax Romana because peace is impressive. And Peace is greatly to be desired; probably no generation since Vietnam has made more noise about desiring peace than this one. It must be acknowledged, however, that peace carries a high price. For the soldiers it costs the risk of both health and life. For Rome it was the massive loss of liberty that comes from leaving a republic for a monarchy.
And yet here Christ promises peace, His personal peace, as a gift. â€œPeace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.â€ With so many in search of peace and the high cost peace calls for it bears investigating just exactly how Christâ€™s peace might be received.
I. Christ Gives Peace In A Different Way â€“ vs. 27b
â€œPeace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.â€
God is referred to as the â€œGod of Peaceâ€ at least 6 times in the New Testament and has offered His peace to His people as a blessing since the days of Moses.
â€œThe Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.â€
Furthermore, this gift of peace is one given by all three members of the Trinity. The books Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and 2 John 3 all contain the salutation â€œGrace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christâ€ which indicates the Father and Son are the source of peace while it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) to impart peace to believers.
What does Christ have in mind when He says â€œâ€¦not as the world givesâ€¦â€?
1. The peace of the world is won by conflict and conquest. Christâ€™s Peace comes as a result of His sacrificial death.
2. The peace of the world is a peace from circumstances (the elimination of war, conflict, etc) while the Peace of Christ is a peace in the midst of circumstances.
â€œâ€¦in contrast to worldly conceptions of peace as the absence of war, Jesusâ€™ peace is not an exemption from turmoil, danger, and duress (all of which He is facing as He speaks). As Jesus is about to remind His followers, the world hates them (15:18), and in this world they will face affliction (16:33). Rather than extracting them from danger (cf. 17:15), Jesus, through the Spirit He would send, offers his followers poise and resolve in the midst of discomfiting circumstances. As Jesus was about to demonstrate, His peace is not the absence of conditions that intimidate but rather is the composure to be faithful in the midst of adversity.â€ â€“ Andreas Kostenberger, John
â€œLet not your hearts be troubled, neither led them be afraid.â€
The promise is here followed by a command. The resources of God, contained in the promise, believers are required to appropriate in practice.
â€œTherefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blamelessâ€ â€“ 2 Peter 3:14
Speaking of this peace of Christ, available to all men who would believe in Christ, John Macarthur says:
â€œThe worldâ€™s peace is an illusion. A peace based on temporarily positive circumstances or ignorant escapism is not genuine peace at all. The reason people lack peace is not emotional, psychological, or circumstantial, but theological. â€¦only those who know Jesus Christ can have peace with God and, subsequently, experience true peace in this life.â€
This peace is only found in Christ, on the basis of faith, and it is required of men to believe that they might have it. Humans donâ€™t need â€œlife coachesâ€ or self-actualization. They need a Savior, they need the Cross, and they need the peace that comes from surrendering to the Lord Jesus.
II. Christ Gives Peace from His Rightful Place â€“ vs. 28
â€œYou heard me say to you, â€˜I am going away, and I will come to you.â€™ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.â€
The first question that comes to my mind when I read this verse is â€œDid the disciples not love Christ?â€ I think that perhaps, rather than communicating that they did not love Him at all Christ is saying His disciples did not love Him as they should.
Let me explain: it is obvious that the departure of Christ had devastated the disciples. We can empathize with their perspective; it would be hard to fathom leaving a life of being in the physical presence of the Lord every day. But let us ask what the death of Christ meant to Jesus. And that is a bit of a different question than the one we normally have asked and answered. We talk regularly about what the death of Christ means to sinners and the saved but we donâ€™t often go beyond the pain when discussing what His death meant to the Savior.
I donâ€™t want to minimize the pain of the crucifixion process here. Obviously Christ knew what He was facing. He knew it would be fatal. But Christ knew something else. He knew that on the other side of the scourge, and the cross, and the tomb their awaited a return to His Father in glory. This reunion with the Father would be enjoyable beyond our comprehension for the Son.
I think it is this reality, which Christ would depart to join His Father and experience the joy of Glory, should have compelled the disciples to rejoice for Christ because of the joy He would have when departed back to Heaven. Thus Jesus is saying â€œIf you had loved me [as you ought to] you would have rejoicedâ€¦â€
â€œIf Jesusâ€™ disciples truly loved Him, they would be glad that He is returning to His Father, for He is returning to the sphere where He belongs, to the glory He had with the Father before the world began, to the place where the Father is undiminished in gloryâ€¦ To this point the disciples had responded emotionally entirely according to their perception of their own gain or loss. If they had loved Jesus, they would have perceived that His departure to His own â€œhomeâ€ was His gain and rejoiced with Him at the prospect. As it is, their grief is an index of their self-centeredness.â€ â€“ D.A. Carson
So, not only is it to the Saviorâ€™s gain that He be returned to His rightful place in Glory but is to ours as well. As has been mentioned before, His departure meant the coming of the Spirit. Furthermore, when Christ departs we have the advantage of a perfect Advocate eternally interceding with the Father on our behalf.
Hebrews 7:24-25 says â€œâ€¦He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.â€
Carrying on, the writer of Hebrews says in 10:19-25 â€œTherefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.â€
This peace Christ offers is a product of His ministry in Heaven, where He belongs. And the disciples should have loved Him enough to desire His being returned to His glory as well as faithful enough to trust Him that His departure was to their benefit.
â€œâ€¦for the Father is greater than Iâ€
This verse has been marshaled by a limitless number of heretical groups that want to use this verse to defend the ridiculous idea that Christ is somehow inferior in value to the Father. Jesus had already affirmed in 10:30 that He and the Father are one, a fact conveniently left out by the cultists. In fact, Jesus continually taught His equality with the Father in deity â€“ John 5:17-18, 8:58; 10:30; 14:9.
Macarthur: â€œThe Lord was no speaking here of His essential nature as God, but of His submissive role during His ministry on earth. In essence and being, the Father and the Son are eternally coequal; but in role and function, the Son submitted Himself to the Fatherâ€™s will at the incarnation. Christâ€™s statement reflected the perspective of a humble servant, the role He had assumed during His earthly ministry.â€
III. The Peace of Christ is Strengthened by His Control over History â€“ vs. 29
â€œAnd now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.â€
Isaiah 46:9-10 indicates that accurate predictive prophecy is one of the ways the one true God can be differentiated from all other gods.
â€œRemember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying â€˜My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasureâ€¦â€
Predictive prophecy affirms faith precisely because it indicates the course of human history is entirely in the hand of God. Nothing happens apart from His sovereign control. This should not only bring us security but increase our faith, just as Christ here says His prophecy will do.
IV. The Peace of Christ Flows from the Love of the Father for the Son â€“ vs.30-31
â€œI will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.â€
â€œI will no longer talk much with you for the ruler of this world is coming.â€ â€“ Christ isnâ€™t bringing this discourse to a close but rather indicating what He knew was coming: His arrest, â€œtrialâ€, and execution. He wouldnâ€™t have opportunity for extended periods of instruction in the future as He had at this moment.
â€œâ€¦the ruler of this world is coming.â€ â€“ An obvious reference to Satan who, described as the ruler of this world in John 12:31, 16:11, Luke 4:5-6, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2, and 1 John 5:19, had entered in to Judas to accomplish the death of Christ.
Does Christâ€™s reference here to Satan as â€œthe ruler of this worldâ€ contradict what we saw earlier regarding Godâ€™s control over human history? No. Satan has charge over the fallen world system which opposes the things of God that has been in place since the fall of Adam. However, even Satan operates under the control of God. We have in Job passages that indicate that Satan has to ask Godâ€™s permission to perform his works and we repeatedly see God turn what the devil meant for evil into good â€“ the Cross being the chief example. As Martin Luther said â€œEven the devil is Godâ€™s devil.â€
â€œâ€¦he has no claim on me…â€ â€“ This is an interesting phrase in the Greek. It hearkens back to a Hebrew idiom which was used in legal contexts. It could be paraphrased as â€œHe has nothing on me [by which to place me under arrest]â€. What should we take from this? We know that â€œâ€¦the wages of sin is deathâ€¦â€ and Hebrews 2:14 tells us that Satan has â€œthe power of deathâ€ and thus we conclude that death is Satanâ€™s ultimate weapon, by which he antagonizes an seizes sinners.
But who is the one person who sin, and thus death, has no ability to reach? The sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Satan could no more have killed Christ than a worm could swallow a bear. Christ went to the Cross entirely in control, under His own power, and free from all claims of Satan.
â€œâ€¦but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.â€
Here again, as in many places in the New Testament, love is linked to obedience. It is our responsibility to live our love for our Savior by being obedient to Him. He is our perfect example in this process in that He lived out His perfect love for the Father by living perfectly obediently.
In conclusion: we live in a world desperate for peace. All around us people are buying whole libraries of self-help books, investing millions and millions of dollars in politicians, and abandoning their lives to follow causes, all of which they hope in vain will bring peace to their lives.
All this takes place under the rule of The Prince of Peace, the one who gives His peace to His people and offers it to all who would receive it.