THE SWEET PEACE OF JESUS
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 14:27a (Jesus said) Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.
From an unbeliever’s perspective, Christ’s legacy seemed quite small. He died as the poorest of the poor, and left only a few modest bequests. His clothes were given to soldiers. His mother was given to John’s care. His spirit He committed to the Father. His body went to Joseph for decent burial.
To His followers, though, Jesus has left a legacy of infinite worth ( peace. It is an heirloom yielding a three-pronged benefit.
First, Jesus gives us peace with God. “Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). People were created at peace with God, but sin started a continuing, cosmic war. People love their sin, preferring rebellion to submission.
Down deep in our heart of hearts, we all want to be right with our Creator. The desire is God-given, but the Devil dupes us. He poisons us into thinking selfish pleasures should come first; peace with God can wait till later. Anyone more interested in pleasure than in being right with God is deceived.
Christianity’s most urgent message is, we desperately need peace with God now. We find this only in Jesus, who died to forgive all our sins. Martin Luther once dreamed Satan entered his room with a long roll of parchment, on which was written every one of Luther’s former sins. With a burst of hellish laughter, the adversary threw it on the floor, holding one end to let the scroll unroll its full length. In terror, Luther was compelled to read, hour after hour, the terrible list of every sin he had ever committed. The longer he read, the weaker his heart became. The gravity of his sins was crushing him.
Suddenly the devil called Luther by name, and pointed to some words at the top of the roll. Luther looked up. Reading aloud, “All sin,” he realized not one of his evil deeds had been left off the scroll. It was more than Luther could bear. He felt Hell opening under his feet. As he began to sink in bitter agony, the devil tried to make his torment even worse by saying the scroll had been made by the Lord Himself. God knew about every sin Luther had ever committed.
The mention of God jerked Luther back to his senses. He snatched the list from his enemy. Unrolling it one more turn at the top, Luther discovered the beginning of the inscription: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). Luther immediately realized God had listed all his sins to declare forgiveness for each and every one of them. The Lord was declaring they are all covered by Jesus’ blood. As the devil quickly retreated, Martin Luther woke up with a shout of joy. Amen. Jesus gives us peace with God.
Second, Jesus gives us peace with others. Jesus “is our peace, who made both groups (Jews and Gentiles) one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). God created a peaceful world. When holiness reigned on Earth, peace served as co-regent. Heaven had no war till an angel became a devil. Earth had no war till people became sinners. Sin expelled peace. Since Eden, people have by nature had a god-wish. Thus, a war is on to see who is the main god.
Jesus came to end this conflict. Jesus died to deal not only with our separation from God, but also with our alienation from each other. By annihilating perpendicular distance between people and God, Jesus lessened horizontal distance between persons.
Sin is the cause of human conflict and division. By its very nature sin is selfish, divisive, disruptive. When we act selfishly, we inevitably infringe on what someone else wants or needs.
Peace between groups is ultimately achieved not by “us” going to “them,” or by “them” coming to “us,” but by both parties moving toward Jesus. In reaching for the same cross, we touch one another, joining hands and hearts.
The birth of Christ produced a season promoting peace between enemies. Even in war, opposing soldiers have laid aside weapons to honor Christ’s birth. The movie “Gods and Generals” depicts an actual event in which two enemy soldiers shared a moment of peace due to the carol, “Silent Night.”
In this same war, Longfellow’s faith in Jesus’ peace-giving power faltered a moment, but then revived. He recounted his bout with unbelief in his poem, “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
“And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Jesus is our peace. A common love for Him gives us peace with each other.
Third, Jesus gives us peace with self. “The peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). When in Eden we cast off the God of peace, we lost the inner peace of God. We were created to rest in God’s inner peace, but sin brought us mental turmoil.
Jesus was God’s messenger sent to restore our peace. His errand was peace, His spirit and teaching were peace. God’s heavenly peace fills us through Him.
Only in a personal relationship with Jesus can we rediscover a personal peace that passes understanding. One day a school fire alarm sounded. Students stampeded from the building in panic, but one girl stayed in her seat and remained perfectly calm. Asked what made her so calm, she said, “My father is a fireman. He told me, if I was ever in a building when a fire alarm sounded, to sit still.”
The peace of God within allows us to stay calm when the fire alarms of life sound. We can sit still and serene in the midst of chaos. Our Heavenly Father extinguishes fires that would otherwise consume us. He gives us His peace within.
A Swiss Martyr, approaching death at a stake, noticed the man overseeing the execution was nervous about handling such a distasteful task. The martyr calmly steadied the executioner’s trembling hand and said, “I am about to die by fire. Lay your hand on my heart. If it beats any faster than it ordinarily beats, do not believe my religion.” Pressing his hand to the martyr’s chest, the shaking executioner found a heartbeat as calm as if the victim were going to bed.
Jesus gives us peace with God, others, and self. No wonder angels proclaimed on the night of His birth, “On earth peace, good will toward men.”