We often face trials and difficulties in life, and they are often painful to go through. But nothing can even begin to compare with what Christ Himself was about to endure. Jesus was conscious of the fact that within a matter of hours He would be arrested, tried and executed. What is especially remarkable about this is that He made no effort to escape it. He consciously walked into the trap set for Him, because He knew that it served a higher purpose. Nevertheless it was a trauma for both Him and His disciples. Herein lies a lesson or us all.
Jesus begins by reassuring His disciples. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27; NKJV). What is this peace? Jesus was no doubt speaking in Aramaic, a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew and the common language of Palestine in that day. Very likely the word for “peace” that Jesus used was a variation of the Hebrew word shalom which means a little more than our common English word “peace.” The noun shalom is derived from the verb shalem, which means to “be complete or sound.” Thus the noun shalom means completeness or soundness, and by extension, peace, quiet, tranquility, or contentment. It is that sense of peace and contentment that comes from being at rest with yourself and others around you. It is a peace of mind that comes from a sense of wholeness.
But what Jesus is referring to in this passage is a “peace” that He would “leave” with them, a peace that He would give to them. The apostle Paul describes this peace in Phil. 4:7: “. . .and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It is an inward peace, the opposite of being “anxious” (v. 6), and it comes in response to prayer. It is a calm assurance that we have been reconciled to God (Rom. 5:1), that God is in control (Eph. 1:11), and that all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28).
Paul says that this peace “surpasses all understanding.” In a sense it defies comprehension. Outwardly, all is turmoil and chaos; and yet inwardly we are calm and at rest. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said “You cannot understand this peace, you cannot imagine it, you cannot even believe it is a sense, and yet it is happening and you are experiencing it and enjoying it” (Spiritual Depression, p. 270).
Furthermore Paul says that this peace “will guard your hearts and minds.” It stands like a sentry at the door of your heart and keeps out all the stress and turmoil. But the condition of all this, as we said above, is prayer: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God . . .” (v. 6).
Jesus says, regarding this peace, “not as the world gives do I give to you.” The world claims to give peace – the whole purpose of government is to make us secure in our persons and property. There is a wealth of advice on how to achieve economic security. And yet outward prosperity is no guarantee of inward peace, and the wealthy are oftentimes just as unhappy as the poor. And so the world offers something to soothe the pain – food, alcohol, drugs – and, if we are sophisticated enough, the psychiatrist who will prescribe the drugs for us. But what all of these amount to is a chemical solution to a deeper, underlying problem. They make us feel better but leave the underlying cause of our anxiety unresolved. As soon as the medication wears off we are faced with the same circumstances that caused the problem in the first place.
The peace which Christ gives stands in sharp contrast with this. It looks to God and strives to bring everything into harmony with His created order. It assures that even in the trials and difficulties of this life God has a larger purpose, and in the end the believer will be richly rewarded for the sacrifices he was called upon to make in this life. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18; cf. vv. 19-25; II Cor. 4:16-5:8; I Pet. 1:3-9). And so Jesus tells His disciples, even in spite of what was about to happen to Him and to them, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
God never promises to keep us form trials and difficulties in life – far from it. As we shall see later, Jesus forewarned us that the world would hate us (cf. 15:18-21). But what He has promised us is His peace, an inward peace that will enable us to face the trials that come our way with calm assurance. It is ours to have if we will only cling to Him.
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”