Lesson 79: Joy and Peace for Troubled Times (John 14:25-31)Related Media
January 18, 2015
Please understand that I wasn’t reading this on my study leave last week, but in one of my “Peanuts” books, Charlie Brown and Linus are looking very serious. Violet asks, “What are you two standing here looking so worried about?” Charlie replies, “We’re afraid of the future!” She asks, “Are you worried about anything in particular?” Charlie says, “Oh, no, we’re worried about everything!” Linus adds, “Yes, our worrying is very broadminded!” (You’re a Winner, Charlie Brown! By Charles Schulz [Fawcett Crest])
It’s not news that we live in a world that gives us much to worry about. A hundred years ago, a tragedy could wipe out thousands of people on the other side of the world, and you might never hear about it. But now we hear about terrorist atrocities and other tragedies almost instantly and can watch what happened on our phones. Living in such a stressful world, we need a way to experience genuine joy and peace.
And joy and peace, which are fruits of the Spirit, should mark us as Christians. But our main reason for seeking joy and peace should not be because these qualities make life more pleasant, but rather because we want our lives to glorify God. When people ask why we’re so joyful or so calm in this troubled world, our reply should point them to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In our text, the Lord continues to give encouragement and comfort to the disciples just hours before His arrest and crucifixion. Their whole world would soon be turned upside down. Rather than being focused on Himself, the Lord’s focus was on equipping them for the trials that they would face. His words show us how to have His joy and peace in troubled times:
We can rejoice that Jesus returned to the Father, sent the Holy Spirit to teach us, and gave us His peace for our troubled times.
1. We can rejoice that Jesus returned to the Father.
Jesus gives a gentle rebuke to the disciples, who were understandably troubled over the news that He was leaving them. He says (John 14:28), “You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” Jesus doesn’t mean that the disciples did not love Him at all. Rather He is exposing their self-focus and their lack of understanding.
Heretical groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses cite Jesus’ words, “the Father is greater than I,” as proof that Jesus is not God, but their reasoning is faulty. First, you have to interpret Jesus’ meaning in light of the rest of John’s Gospel, which begins by asserting (John 1:1), “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In John 5:18-47, when the Jews accused Jesus of making Himself equal with God, He didn’t back off or correct them. Rather, He went on at length to make claims that only God can rightly make. In John 8:58, in response to the hostile attacks of the Jews, Jesus asserted, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
In John 10:30, Jesus plainly asserted, “I and the Father are one.” This led the Jews to pick up stones to stone Him, charging Him with making Himself out to be God. Again, Jesus didn’t correct them, but affirmed their accusations. In John 14:9, after Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, He replied, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” In John 20:28-29, after Thomas exclaimed to the risen Savior, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus didn’t rebuke him for blasphemy, but rather commended his faith.
So to interpret correctly John 14:28, “the Father is greater than I,” we must interpret it in light of these and other affirmations of Jesus’ deity. Also, if I were soberly to say to you, “God is greater than I,” you would rightly think that I had become delusional! Just to make that comparison would be ludicrous! For Jesus even to make such a statement assumes the essential oneness between Him and the Father that He directly stated in John 10:30. (This paragraph was adapted from D. A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus [Baker], p. 80.)
So why does Jesus tell the disciples here that they should have rejoiced at the news of His departure, “for the Father is greater than I”? In His incarnation, Jesus temporarily laid aside the glory that He shared with the Father from all eternity (John 17:5). He took on the form of a servant and became obedient to death on the cross. After His resurrection, He would be restored to His glory with the Father, seated at His right hand over all authority in the universe (Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:5-11), and He would send the Holy Spirit to indwell them. If the disciples had understood all of this and if their focus had been on loving Jesus rather than on themselves, they would have rejoiced over His return to the Father.
Also, even in heaven there is a hierarchy of authority. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all eternally and equally one God. Yet at the same time, the Son submits to the Father and the Spirit submits to the Father and the Son in order to carry out the divine plan. The Athanasian Creed stated that the Son is eternally begotten of the Father and the Spirit is eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. And yet all three members of the trinity are co-eternal and co-equal, although distinguished from one another.
The practical application for us is: if Jesus is the eternal Son of God, now sitting at the Father’s right hand, then He is sovereign over all the troublesome events in this world and in your life. He has promised to work all these things together for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).
In John 14:30-31, Jesus makes it clear that He was also sovereign over Satan and over His own death. Although Satan was behind the events that culminated in the cross, Satan was not over Jesus. He had nothing on Jesus because Jesus was sinless. Rather, Jesus went to the cross to show the world that He loves the Father. He had the authority to lay down His own life and to take it up again (John 10:18). This means that Satan can only touch us to the extent that Jesus allows him to do (Luke 22:31; Job 1:12).
Also, as Jesus repeats again (John 14:28), He will come again to us. This could refer to His second coming (John 14:3), to His resurrection appearances (John 14:19), or to coming to us in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:18, 26). All three are a source of joy for us as we face troubling times. But in light of Jesus’ mentioning His return to the Father, the reference here is probably to His promise to send the Holy Spirit.
2. We can rejoice that Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to teach us.
John 14:26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” As the last part of that verse shows, this promise applied first and foremost to the apostles to whom Jesus spoke. Although they did not have electronic means to record Jesus’ words and play them back later, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit would perform that function. He would bring to the disciples’ remembrance all that Jesus said to them and He would give them understanding by teaching them what these things meant. In this chapter, we have seen how Thomas, Philip, and Judas (not Iscariot) all lacked understanding (John 14:5, 8, 22). But after the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit would give them understanding and cause them to remember Jesus’ teachings. We have the apostolic testimony and understanding in the New Testament.
This means that we can have confidence that the New Testament is inspired by God. As Peter states (2 Pet. 1:16), “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” And, although Paul’s words (2 Tim. 3:16-17) refer primarily to the Old Testament, they also apply to the New Testament, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The more you study the Bible, the more you realize that it is a supernatural, Spirit-inspired book.
But there is a secondary application of verse 26 for us: The indwelling Holy Spirit will teach us the meaning of Scripture and will bring that meaning to our minds at the times when we most need it. But this isn’t automatic! We have to study the Scriptures diligently and memorize as much of it as we can. We must interpret the Bible properly, comparing Scripture with Scripture in light of the context and the author’s intended meaning. We should compare our studies with that of gifted, Spirit-filled scholars to make sure that we aren’t out of line, especially on difficult texts.
But as Paul put it (1 Cor. 2:12), “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God ….” So dig into the Word and ask the Spirit to reveal to you “the things freely given to us by God.” Ask Him to bring to your remembrance the Scriptures that you have studied at the times when you need to apply them.
We can rejoice in this troubled world because Jesus has returned to the Father, where He is enthroned as Lord of all. We can rejoice because He sent the Holy Spirit to teach us.
3. We can rejoice that Jesus has given us His peace for our troubled times.
John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” What a wonderful promise from our Lord! I want to answer two questions to help us understand and apply it: What is Jesus’ peace? How can I get it when I need it?
A. What is Jesus’ peace?
1. Jesus’ peace is not the peace that the world gives.
The Lord makes it clear that His peace is different than the peace that comes from the world. The world has its own ways of attaining peace. I recently saw a news report about a middle school in San Francisco that does a half hour of transcendental meditation with all the students every day. They claim that grades have gone up and problems in the school have gone down since they began the program. So you can’t pray or read the Bible in public schools, but it’s mandatory to practice Hinduism! The cover story on last week’s Parade magazine called meditation “The #1 health-booster in 2015.” It said, “Politicians, children & celebrities are doing it—shouldn’t you?” Others seek peace through exercise, counseling, false religions, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol, or other means. But whatever the means, the world’s peace does not come from Jesus Christ or depend on Him.
2) Jesus’ peace is the inner calm and freedom from anxiety that comes from trusting in the sovereign God and knowing that you are obedient to Him.
“Peace” comes from the Hebrew “shalom,” which refers to general well-being or contentedness which comes from God (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. by Colin Brown [Zondervan] 2:777). D. A. Carson points out (The Gospel According to John [Apollos/Eerdmans], p. 505, “Peace is one of the fundamental characteristics of the messianic kingdom anticipated in the Old Testament (Num. 6:26; Ps. 29:11; Isa. 9:6-7; 52:7; 54:13; 57:19; Ezek. 37:26; Hag. 2:9) and fulfilled in the New (Acts 10:36; Rom. 1:7; 5:1; 14:17).” This peace is three-dimensional.
First, we enjoy peace with God because Christ bore the penalty for our sins on the cross. As Romans 5:1 states, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If you have trusted in Christ to save you from God’s judgment, you have eternal peace with God.
Second, we can enjoy the peace of God in the midst of life’s difficult times. This peace only comes to those who first have peace with God through faith in Christ. And, obtaining it is not automatic or effortless. Even Jesus had to wrestle to obtain it. As we have seen, Jesus was troubled as He saw the weeping at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:33). He was troubled again as He recognized that the appointed hour of the cross drew near (John 12:27). He was troubled a third time as He testified that Judas would betray Him (John 13:21). This means that the peace Jesus gives is not detachment, indifference, or aloofness from life’s problems. Jesus experienced real human emotions as He faced the cross. But through prayer (John 17 and in the Garden) and through knowing that He was doing the Father’s will, Jesus wrestled through to the place of inner peace as He faced horrific suffering and death for our sins.
So although it sounds contradictory, you’ve got to fight for this inner peace that comes from God. That’s why Jesus commands (John 14:27), “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” You have to take control over your emotions. We see this often in the psalms, where David’s life is threatened, but he firmly fixes his heart on the Lord, even if he has to do it more than once. In Psalm 57, he was in a cave, hiding from Saul and his army that was combing the countryside looking for him to kill him. After crying out for God to be gracious to him, David affirms (Ps. 57:7), “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!” He has to state his resolve twice because his fears were so very real! Part of the fight also involves reciting God’s promises to give us peace (such as John 14:27 & 16:33).
The third form of God’s peace is peace with others. In Ephesians 2:14, Paul wrote, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” “Both groups” refers to the Jews and Gentiles, who, outside of Christ, were despised enemies. The dividing wall alludes to a literal wall in the temple that kept Gentiles out of the inner courtyard upon threat of death. But in Christ, both groups are now one body.
But as with inner peace, so peace with others is not automatic or effortless. It often requires a lot of time and emotional energy to work through differences and misunderstandings. It requires death to self to humbly ask forgiveness when you’re in the wrong. It can be a difficult struggle to root out bitterness and to be kind to those who have wronged you. But as Paul enjoins (Rom. 12:18), “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” He later adds (Rom. 14:17), “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” And (Rom. 14:19), “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” So the Lord grants us His peace as a gift, but we have to pursue it to experience it!
B. How can I get Christ’s peace when I need it?
I’ve already mentioned several ways to obtain Christ’s peace: You get peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ. You get the peace of God by taking control of your emotions through prayer and obedience to God’s will. You get peace with others through the commitment to work through relational difficulties. But let me expand briefly on some of these.
1. To have Christ’s peace in troubled times, walk in the Spirit and ask Him to teach you His Word.
Joy and peace are fruits that grow in your life as you walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 22). But you’ve got to be cultivating these fruits before you get into life’s storms. As Proverbs 1:20-33 makes clear, wisdom cries out, calling us to learn from it. But if we refuse to listen, calamity will hit and then it will be too late to gain the peace that we desire. The time to study God’s Word and hide it in your heart is before you get into a crisis.
2. To have Christ’s peace in troubled times, make sure that you’re doing God’s will.
At the end of verse 31, Jesus says, “Get up, let us go from here.” Some think that at this point, Jesus and the disciples left the upper room and started walking towards Gethsemane. Or, as often happens when we say to our mates, “Let’s go home,” we stay and talk for another half hour. If that’s what happened, they may not have actually left the room until after Jesus’ prayer (chapter 17; cf. John 18:1). But Jesus could have said, “Get up, let’s run for our lives while we can!” Instead, He calmly went to Gethsemane and the cross because He knew that He was doing what His Father had commanded (John 14:31). The point is, if you know that you’re doing what God has commanded, you can stand firm and be calm even in the midst of fierce opposition or difficult trials.
3. To have Christ’s peace in troubled times, take your anxieties to the Lord in thankful prayer.
A command and promise that you should memorize is Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
As many of you know, when I first came here over 22 years ago, a difficult conflict erupted between me and some elders (who are no longer here) who were pro-choice on the matter of abortion. Stan Johnson, who was then the youth pastor, stood with me against them. It all came to a head at a meeting in January, 1993, where they would have preferred to force me out of my job. I spent that day fasting and praying and the Lord gave me some assurances that He stood with me.
But as I walked up the sidewalk towards the door for that meeting, my stomach was in knots. I was reciting Philippians 4:6-7 to calm my anxiety and asking the Lord why I wasn’t experiencing His peace when two words in the verse jumped out: “with thanksgiving”! I realized that I hadn’t thanked the Lord for that trial. I stopped, bowed my head, and said, “Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to trust You.” Immediately I had His peace. So take your anxieties to the Lord in thankful prayer!
4. To have Christ’s peace in troubled times, trust in Jesus as the Lord of all.
Jesus says (John 14:29), “Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” Jesus is a proven Prophet, whose every word is true. He is now exalted to the right hand of the Father, sharing again in the Father’s glory which He had with Him before the foundation of the world (John 17:5). He has authority over Satan, who is temporarily the ruler of this world (John 14:30). He has promised that He will come again in power and glory to strike down the nations with the sword that comes out of His mouth, to tread the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, and to vindicate all of His servants who have suffered for His name (Rev. 6:10; 19:15). Either you trust Him and enjoy His peace or you don’t! Which is it?
Anxiety has been described as “a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” (Arthur Roche, Reader’s Digest, [6/88], p. 159.) Does that describe you? It doesn’t have to! The Lord Jesus who ascended to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit wants you to believe in Him and experience the joy and peace that He gives for all your troubled times.
- What causes you the most anxiety? Based on this message, what can you do to cut it off at its root?
- Is it wrong for a Christian to take anti-anxiety medication? Why/why not? What biblical guidelines should be followed?
- Should Christians practice yoga? Is a “Christianized” version of it okay?
- Why should God’s glory, not our enjoyable frame of mind, be paramount in our seeking joy and peace?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2015, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation