How many of you have been part of sad goodbyes? Perhaps it was because of an adult child leaving home. Perhaps it was because a visitor was leaving, or perhaps it was because you were getting ready to leave after visiting someone. Perhaps it was because of the death of a family member or friend. Regardless of the situation, sometimes goodbyes are not easy.
The reading from John 14:23-29 was part of Jesus’s goodbye message to his disciples. This took place at the Last Supper. Jesus told his disciples that he will be crucified. Naturally, the disciples were sad. They had spent the last three years learning from him. They wondered how they would cope after he was gone.
When someone we love leaves us, it’s natural for us to not want to see them go, but if we really love them, we have to let them go. Real love allows us to release those we care about. When we try to hang on to the ones we love, we are being selfish. Jesus was preparing to die and eventually return to his Father, but the disciples did not want him to leave. He urged them to rejoice because he was leaving. His departure would allow the disciples and all believers to do great things, including growing Christianity.
Jesus was more concerned for the disciples than he was for himself. He reassured them that they would not be alone. He promised them peace and hope-the same peace and hope he offers to all believers. Even though he offered instructions to the disciples during his earthly ministry, he knew that they did not understand what he had taught them. They did remember his words and teachings after the resurrection and ascension When Jesus was with his disciples, they could listen to his teachings and ask him questions. When he was gone, the Holy Spirit assumed that role. For the rest of their lives and as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the Gospels, the Spirit reminded them of all the things Jesus did and said. The Holy Spirit stood with them and guided them, just like it stands with us and guides us today. Jesus made it clear that His followers love him by serving others. That message is just as relevant to us today. To live that kind of love requires the constant presence of God in our lives.
There are times when we feel alone and we don’t know what will happen to us. We could be stranded in a strange town with a broken down car. Our spouse has just died and our future looks bleak. You’ve lost your job and you have no idea what to do next. At times like these it’s natural for us to ask ourselves, “What’s to become of me?” How do we take care of ourselves in such moments? For us as Christians, the answer is clear. God wants us to trust in him. When we do, we will receive both the Holy Spirit and God’s peace.
When Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving, they were afraid. They could not imagine their future without him. Jesus confronted their fears with four truths, and these truths allow all believers to overcome fear:
- We may be inadequate, but the Holy Spirit will make us competent and courageous. He will teach us and remind us of what Jesus has already taught us.
- We may be fearful, but the peace of Jesus Christ is ours for the taking. Jesus wants us to focus our attention on the final victory.
- Circumstances may be difficult, but victory has been assured. Jesus has written the future and it can’t be changed. Our future might be difficult and our experiences might not always be pleasant, but we can endure with hope because God has secured victory for us.
- Circumstances may be difficult, but courage is found in obedience. We do not have to fear anything. God is our ally, especially when we face enemies. When we trust him, we begin a process of growth in which we experience the truth of Christ’s words personally through obedience. When we obey God, our fears diminish.
The peace Jesus offers is not the same peace that the world offers. The peace offered by the world is similar to the peace that people enjoyed during Christ’s lifetime. That peace was the Roman peace-a peace that was founded by military might, funded by Roman taxation and enforced by soldiers. It was dominance rather than peace. In contrast, Christ offers real peace. We can see that peace in the lives of ourselves and fellow believers. We will receive a calm strength. We can use Romans 8:31 as our motto- “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
The world situation today is scary. There are wars, disease, hunger, famine, terrorism and other problems. If we think that we live in a country that is free from trouble, we are wrong. As Christians, we need to be concerned for our world and pray for it, but we do not need to be afraid because we have the Holy Spirit within us, and it offers us the peace of Christ.
Christ’s peace is the kind of peace we feel inside even when the world around us is falling apart. Christ’s peace is peace of mind, peace in our conscience, peace with our fellow believers, peace with our bosses and coworkers, peace with our environment and peace with our world. Jesus gives us this peace freely, without expecting anything in return except for the hope that when we are changed by this peace, we might pass it on to others.
Jesus tells his disciples and us not to be troubled. Trusting him does not mean that all of life’s circumstances will change for the better, but that his followers will have peace as they endure trials and difficulties. When we receive the peace of Christ, we can take our problems to the cross. Christ’s peace gives us peace in our hearts.
The Holy Spirit will give us God’s wisdom, counsel, knowledge and power. It will make us more dependent on God and less dependent on worldly things. Jesus wants us to focus on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are sovereign over us, our circumstances, our possessions and other people. When we allow God to be sovereign over all of these things, everything finds the right balance. We see ourselves as we should, circumstances become God’s tools, possessions become blessings and people become our equals before Christ. They become equally unworthy of grace and love. When we are confronted by fear, we can turn our attention to God within us and ask God to take control of us and our situations.
The Holy Spirit keeps our relationship with God vibrant. It holds us together in love with Jesus and with God. The Holy Spirit allows us to see God at work and learn about him. It allows us to communicate with him and learn from him, especially when we read the Bible. Love for Christ is demonstrated by keeping his commandments. Obedience flowing from love is very different from obedience performed out of obligation. Jesus promises his presence as people join him in his work. God is always with us, because the Father and the Son have made their home with us where we are. God has made his home in our hearts, and in return he has made a home for us in heaven. Home is where we are with the Lord-and we are with the Lord now-and will be with the Lord forever.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1468)
- Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on John (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2010, pp. 249-254)
- Exegesis for John 14:23-29. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Frederikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 223-226)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010, pp. 1485-1487)
- A.W. Tozer, “The Holy Spirit: We Need Him More and More.” Retrieved form Biblegateway@e.biblegateway.com
- Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 6th Sunday of Easter-C.” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- Pastor Rick Warren, “The Holy Spirit Brings God’s Truth to Mind.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Divine Peace: The Peace of Jesus Christ.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Lindsay Popper, “The Courage of Easter People.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/7160-the_courage_of_easter_people.print
- Carolyn Dale Newell, “Supernatural Peace.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mary Hinkle Shore, “Commentary on John 14:23-29.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=591
- “Easter 6C: Peace the World Cannot Give.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Prof. Dr. David Zersen, “Hugging in the Dark Hallways of Life.” Retrieved from http://www.predigten.uni-goettingen.de/archiv-6/040516-5-e.html