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 have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:26-27 ESV
At this Christmas season, one of the recurring themes related to the coming of Christ is that of peace. On the night of his birth the angels sang “Peace on earth.” That seems entirely appropriate since as Isaiah tells us he is the Prince of Peace, and of his kingdom and peace there will be no end (Isaiah 9:7). Yet he himself said he did not come to bring peace to the world, but a sword (Matt 10:34). What are we to make of this, especially in the light of the verses printed above? Is Jesus confused, or what?
First of all, he is not confused. But these verses are talking about three different things: the ultimate impact of Christ’s ministry in the world, the short-term impact in the world, and the means by which Christ intends to achieve his goal. Intimately connected with all that is the Biblical concept that we translate with the English word “peace.”
The English word primarily connotes the absence of conflict. While the Biblical terms, rooted in the Hebrew words having the consonants sh, l, and m can connote that idea, they go much deeper. They speak of making something whole and complete. One of the words is used for paying a debt. That is, as long as the debt is not paid, the arrangement is incomplete, it is not “at peace”. But when we pay off the debt, we make it whole. So, what is God’s ultimate goal for his cosmos through his Son? All wrongs will have been righted; all sins atoned for; nothing left unsettled or undone: peace. What a day, the day of his Second Coming!
But what of the immediate impact of Jesus’ ministry, the day of his First Coming? Did it put things together for the Jews? Far from it! It forced them to make difficult decisions. Was this itinerant preacher from Nazareth the Messiah? And more than that, was he the Son of God? As Jesus said, he brought a sword that would divide families and nations into warring factions. His stupendous claims could do nothing else in a world where sin holds so many in its iron grip.
But what about this period between the two comings? Are we simply to resign ourselves to a hopeful anticipation of that last day, all the while echoing Longfellow’s hymned words “there is no peace on earth”? No! That is the beauty of what Jesus said in John 14. He can give a peace about which the world knows nothing. He can make each of us whole, complete. He does not offer absence of conflict; calm, shining days where trouble is far away. No, he told us that in this world, before his Second Coming, we will have trouble. But he offers a “peace” that the world cannot give! He can take our divided hearts, partly his, and partly our own, and make them one for him. That is peace, the peace that Christmas has made possible, here and now. That is my Christmas wish for you, that you have or you will allow the Holy Spirit to take all the strands of your life and make them all his. Merry Christmas indeed!