There are many things I love. I love my kids, my wife, my family. I love BBQ and seafood. I love lamp!
Anybody? “I love lamp?” Name the movie?
The word love loses meaning when it gets tossed around too much. There’s no way I love my wife and BBQ the same way. But that’s our language and we understand these nuanced meanings. So when I say “I love my wife” and then say “I love BBQ” you understand the difference. But someone who is just learning English may not!
What comes to mind when I say peace? I think of two things right away: a hippie in a VW flashing a peace symbol, and a beauty pageant contestant’s passionate plea for world peace (and a really nice crown). Typically, when we talk about peace we mean the absence of war or conflict. That’s what those two scenarios are about…no war. But our English falls woefully short when it comes to the more robust meaning of peace.
The peace we are talking about this morning is about healing and wholeness. Thayer’s says that peace is the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.
Strong’s says peace is quietness, rest and set at one again.
These definitions are a far cry from just the absence of conflict in our world. This is the type of peace Jesus talks about to His followers right before His false arrest for claiming to be God, His torture and trial and His crucifixion.
Think about that for a minute: Right before the absolute worst moments of His life, what is Jesus talking about? Peace.
Our messages at church lately have focused on staying positive. While our world is full of beauty, there’s so much about life that pulls us toward cynicism. Jesus intends something better for us!
In one of the four biographies of Jesus written by one of His closest friends and followers, John, we see Jesus sitting and talking with His disciples — the ones who followed Him closest for 3 years. He’s telling them about His death, how they will be terrified but everyone else will be celebrating, and about how God will send His Holy spirit to comfort them. In verse 33, He says this:
I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.
How in the world does He expect them to have peace? In the middle of all that chaos and death? At first glance this seems a little ridiculous, but let’s take a closer look at this verse because I believe that Jesus is telling us HOW we can have peace in Him.
You will have suffering.
When I read this, my only thought is Greeeeaaaaaat! Thanks Jesus. Really appreciate that. But as I thought more about it, the more thankful I am that He gave us a heads up, and here’s why. He’s telling us the truth. He’s warning us! When so much of what we hear is an Americanized version of the gospel — “If you love the Lord he’ll bless you with physical health and material wealth! We’re gonna believe in God for a brand new $53 million private jet! Just plant your seed $ today and reap the financial benefits tomorrow!”
That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works. Jesus is telling us that if we follow Him — and even if we don’t — we’re going to have suffering in this world. Our world does not have peace…it is not at one. Our world is broken. The systems of this world are broken. There is war and famine and injustice. The powerful take advantage of the weak. That’s how the world is. And Jesus is telling us that!
The word suffering means pressure from the outside in, but it can also refer to the inside out. In the immediate context He’s talking about what’s getting ready to happen, but He’s also talking to us. You and I have and will continue to have these pressures in our lives. And He’s warning us so that we can be armed! He’s telling us so that we don’t have this false idea of what being His follower means.
If we know it’s coming, then we don’t have to be knocked down when it does! If we know that Jesus said suffering will happen then those questions of despair —”Why would God? Where is God?” — don’t have to rock our faith.
He’s warning us so that we can be armed for it.
First Jesus tells us that suffering is going to happen and He tells us to BE COURAGEOUS! This was a command to His disciples and a command to us. He telling us to rise up and to not wilt in the face of intimidating circumstances!
The word courageous means to be of good cheer, to be bold, to have audacity. In one of the meanings, it talked about having the reckless persistence of a fly.
Have you ever had a fly bothering you while you eat? It doesn’t leave at first swipe, apologizing for getting up in your dinner. It comes back, and back, and back. Think about that…how crazy is it that this little tiny fly will get super close to us and certain death and keep flying back? THAT is the type of courage Jesus calls us to have.
In another biography written by Matthew, we see one of Jesus’s greatest miracles: Walking on water. His disciples, His closest friends for three years, are in a boat in the middle of the night. A huge storm blows in over the Sea of Galilee and threatens to sink them. They are terrified, exhausted and afraid they’re going to die. Jesus walks out towards them and they become even more frightened. They yell ‘It’s a ghost”! Then Jesus responds with this:
14:27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
In the middle of life-threatening circumstances, Jesus tells His disciples to have courage! Why? Because it’s Him. It’s the same reason He tells His followers about His death and then says be courageous. It’s the same reason when life happens and you receive a phone call with a diagnosis you weren’t ready for, when your spouse or significant other says they need to talk, when your exam comes back with a big red F, when your boss says there were cutbacks. When the brokenness and pressure of life happens, Jesus says you don’t have to wilt to the pressure. You can rise up because of Him. You can have courage because of Him. You don’t have to be afraid anymore! Because of Him.
Why because of Him? What makes Him different? It’s because of what he says next:
I have conquered the world.
How in the world does Jesus consider His death by crucifixion conquering the world? By any human standard, death is pretty much a resounding defeat. To put it into today’s terms…we could look back to Nov. 4th 2017. The Florida Gators are soundly defeated, crushed, manhandled, beaten, broken, humbled, humiliated (and a myriad of other words) by the Missouri Tigers 45-17.
It was a pretty amazing game for your friend Joe from Missouri.
If the old interim coach had come back to Gainesville, stood at a podium in front of the press and said:
“Guys! It’s fine. Take courage. We’ve conquered the Missouri Tigers!” We would have run him out of town immediately. There’s no way that’s a victory by any earthly standard.
But Jesus isn’t talking about earthly standards! To those closest to Him at the time of His death, it was a major defeat. But by His death — and ultimately resurrection — He conquered the death, sin, all the brokenness we feel.
And even though we still have the effects of all those things, we no longer have be defeated by them. We can rise up. We can have victory over the things that we were once enslaved to! That’s an empowering statement.
The word He uses for conquer is rooted in the Greek word “nike” meaning victorious. It’s where the famous athletic company got the name Nike. When we are His followers, we have the same ability to conquer. Listen to what it says in the letter to the church in Rome:
8:37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the same spirit in you. You have the same ability to rise above all the junk, all the sin and brokenness. We have that because of what Jesus did on the cross. We can have peace in Jesus BECAUSE of what He’s done on our behalf.
So here’s the deal…here’s how we can have peace in our lives:
Jesus warned us: We know suffering is coming. We know that we will have external AND internal pressure in our lives. But we can:
Be courageous- We can be tenacious and have the reckless persistence of a fly. We don’t have to intimidated by life’s circumstances anymore! All because:
Jesus has conquered the world. We can rest in Him knowing that He has overcome all of this! And because He’s overcome it all we can be in relationship with Him now and forever.
Feel empowered by God’s spirit to get out there and live like the God of the universe has your back.