Delivered: May 5, 2013; Scripture: John 14:23-29
For the disciples, things were getting too real.
With each passing day the tension between Jesus and the world was intensifying.
The community and religious leaders were practically foaming at the mouth, waiting for an excuse to lash out at Jesus and his followers.
So, this conversation with Jesus could not have been a welcome one in the midst of all the turmoil swirling around them.
Jesus—the only thing holding them together—is going to go away?
And on top of that, he’s talking about leaving his peace to them the same way we talk about leaving our earthly possessions to the people we love.
Jesus—the only thing keeping them on this hard path—is making his bequeathal?
Why on earth is Jesus pulling them aside and making a will out to them?
How terrible this must have sounded to the Twelve—the small group gathered together out of earshot from the crowds that were always following Jesus looking for entertainment.
How could this be comforting to this unlikely little group?
Now—fast-forward a few decades to the time when the followers of Jesus would begin to take all these teachings that they had been sharing with anyone who would listen and began to put them down into writing.
Although years had passed since those tension-filled days Jesus had walked on this earth, things really were no better.
Many of those early Christians were Jews—they still thought of themselves as being Jewish even as they loved and worshipped and followed Christ.
They were Christians.
And yet they were still children of the Nation of Israel.
But over the years, the religious leaders had not taken anymore kindly to the followers of Christ than they had to Christ himself.
The tension the Twelve Apostles had witnessed when they walked with Jesus in person had continued to grow.
And now it was at a fever pitch.
Now—Christian Jews were being expelled from the Temple life.
They were being told that they could no longer come and worship in the only spiritual home they had ever known.
They were no longer free to worship openly amongst the people they considered themselves to be a part of.
They were no longer welcome in their own communities… often times, they were not welcome in their own families.
They were no longer able to kneel down in prayer next to the people they had been kneeling in prayer next to their whole lives.
They were no longer welcome to share in the faith lives of the people they had been sharing their lives with all along.
They were cut off.
They were isolated.
They had no place to call home.
Their Jewish heritage was being used against them.
The Roman Empire were still persecuting Christians.
And the only connection they were finding were those daily shared meals when they would meet in secret places and break bread together and pray together and sing praises together.
And suddenly, in the midst of all that hardship and isolation, what Jesus had told them so many years earlier, back prior to his death and resurrection, was ringing a bell with them now.
The words were rising up out of the past and giving them new meaning and new hope in the present.
They suddenly realized that Jesus’ message was never meant just for the short-term, but would continue to unravel throughout the long-term.
All those years later, Jesus’ message still held important implications for them.
And with each passing day, that message was revealing Jesus to them all over again.
For that small group of believers huddled together in an upper room after Jesus’ crucifision—all they had was the hope that Jesus’ words would come true and that he would come to them again.
For that same little band of believers after the resurrection, Jesus’ peace was what they clung to as they went forth into a hostile world.
And half a century later, as the Jewish Christians were being kicked out of their temple homes, the notion that God would establish a house amongst those who lived out God’s word was all that prevented them from being spiritually homeless.
And two thousand years later, Christian disciples are still finding hope in this ever-unraveling revelation of Christ.
Even for a privileged people like us—American Christians—who are free to worship, free to speak, free to live our faith—we are seeking a way of life that will put us at odds with the world around us.
We find ourselves in a precarious situation as we see all the chaos in the world:
- school shootings,
- more than a decade of war,
- political and religious polarization,
- drug epidemics,
- religious warfare and intolerance,
- rising rates of poverty,
- global hunger….
The list goes on an on.
And as we see those things we must choose how we will respond to them, and our response is no always what the world wants from us.
And… as if it isn’t bad enough that we find ourselves at odds with the world, how we approach any one of those issues often time sets us at odds with each other as we debate the different approaches we could take.
Surely, the same Jesus who could always see what we could not was looking ahead to today when he spoke those words of comfort to his little group of followers so long ago.
Surely, he could see ahead to the day when his followers would encircle the globe—when they would represent a broad diversity spanning all languages, all borders, and all cultures—
And in this message to his little band of followers is a message to us, too.
For us—the people of faith who have never laid eyes on the physical form of Jesus…
For us—the people of faith who has been waiting for two thousand years for a promised return…
For us—the people of faith who believe even when the world thinks it doesn’t make any sense for us to believe…
We have the reminder that God’s word is love and that it still lives amongst us. We are reminded that Jesus was born of God’s profound love for us and that that same profound love drove Jesus to the cross to pay a debt for us and to set us free to live.
We are reminded to live in that same divine love that Jesus brought us and taught us to have for one another.
We are reminded that love is the defining mark of God’s children.
Love is how we are known and what sets apart from the world.
While the world without Christ tears itself and each other apart, it the love of God that holds the people of faith together.
When we live out Jesus’ command to love we are living in the image of God.
Love is the way that we make real Jesus’ presence in the world today.
Love is how we reveal Jesus to everyone else.
Love is how we celebrate the presence of Jesus amongst us today.
We, who are created in the image of God—God, who is love—were made to love one another.
And it is only in learning to love on another as Christ first loved us that we begin to live into that inheritance Jesus left us: His peace.
There will still be troubles in this world just as those first believers learned.
There will still be conflict and hardship just as the early church discovered.
But as each generation before has learned, let us also learn that living in the love of Jesus Christ gives to us a peace that surpasses all the troubles and griefs and stuff of this world.
Resources that helped me plan for this message:
- General Board on Discipleship (Lectionary Planning)
- Feasting on the Word
- They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love (hymn)