Reading: John 14:1-31
The final hours with someone you love are never enough. So much to say. So little time. You start cramming together everything you can think of in rapid succession, piling thought upon thought until your time is gone. That’s the feeling we get when we read this final conversation Jesus had with his disciples on the night before the cross.
This was all complicated by the fact that he had continued to insist on giving everyone mental whiplash. For some time now, he’d been driving them all crazy with talk about his coming arrest, and suffering, and death. He told them about his resurrection too, but they always seemed to stop listening before he got to that part. On this night, he had suddenly risen from the table to wash everyone’s feet, and suggested that they should all start doing the same for each other from now on. He followed that up with an announcement that one of them would betray him, and another will deny him before the night was over. About that time, Judas suddenly got up in the middle of everything and left the room. No one really understood why. Everyone was on edge.
Then he took the bread and broke it, saying something about this representing his body. What’s he saying? After that, he took the cup and explained that this represented his own blood that was to be poured out for them. Oh no, not that again! Some might have connected this to something he had said before. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) No one at the table even wanted to guess what he was talking about.
It was becoming increasingly clear, however, that Jesus would not be with them much longer. Each man there, against his will, was being drawn to the realization that Jesus was saying goodbye. Finally, he said it clearly. “Yet a little while I am with you. . . . Where I am going, you cannot come.” (John 13:33) It had to feel like a kick in the gut. What about that kingdom you promised? What will we do now? His next words would be, probably, the most strategically important words he ever spoke to his disciples.
Receive my peace.
Don’t miss the fact that, at the time when everyone’s heart was the most troubled, Jesus instructed them to be at peace. “Let not your hearts be troubled. (v.1)
Someone must have thought, “Excuse me, you’ve just told us that everything we’ve believed in and hoped for these last three years is about to suddenly disintegrate. As of this moment, we have no sure future. Even our own lives are in doubt. But you sit there and tell us not to be afraid, as if that choice is really ours to make.”
But the truth is, Jesus was calling upon his disciples to do exactly that. The essential lesson here is that, even in the most extreme circumstances, it is possible to choose a peaceful mindset. It is vital for us to choose a peaceful mindset. After all, it’s his peace. He can give it to anyone he wants, and he’s promised to give it to us. But we must deliberately choose to accept it. .
It’s a question of choosing what we will allow to be the central reality of our lives. Will we allow those things that rattle our emotions and produce fear to dominate our thinking? After Jesus told these shaken men not to give into their fears, he added, “Believe in God. Believe also in me.” (v.1)
Simply put, fear cannot coexist with belief in God. If God were not with us, or if he was somehow unavailable or unreliable, peace would be impossible in this restless world. But he’s here. He’s available. And he has never failed yet, at anything. Believe it! You can stake, not only your life, but your eternal soul on this truth.
Don’t misunderstand. We’re not talking about deliberately closing our eyes to unpleasant realities. We are realists, and real world stuff happens, Not only the good, but also the bad, and the ugly. Nevertheless, we are aware of a higher reality. Jesus is very near to his people. And because he with us, anxiety has no rightful place within us. Really. Jesus announces his peace to his people, every time he stands among them. (John 14:27-28) This peace defies the odds. It sees realities the natural eye cannot see. It considers assets that the world never considers. It’s the Lord’s own peace. The world has no clue. And he’s given it to us. If we’ll believe it. And take it.
Paul reminded the Philippian Church that, because the Lord’s presence was among them, anxiety must be replaced by prayer and thanksgiving. When we do this, we aren’t shouting nervously into the heavens. We’re turning to face the friend standing right there with us. He already sees. He already knows what he plans to do about it. His peace, (shalom) protects our hearts in a way the world cannot understand. (Philippians 4:5-7) So, speaking as an adopted Texan, Shalom, Y’all!
Trust my plan.
You may have heard someone say, “Plan your work and work your plan.” I want to say that God has been doing that since the beginning. He created the heavens and the earth according to a perfect plan. He created you and me, in his image, according to plan. When Adam and Eve rebelled, he wasn’t surprised. He had a plan. It was a plan to both crush the rebellion, and redeem the rebels with one supreme thrust. It was accomplished by Jesus. It was unfolded in six stages. We’re still waiting for the final stage, in fact. So, he’s still working his plan.
First, he came to earth, becoming flesh to be one of us. We sometimes call him Immanuel, “God with us.”
Then, he lived among us. He went about doing good. He demonstrated his power over demons, disease, and storm-tossed seas. Most of all, he taught us about life in his Kingdom. The king sat down in the dirt with us, to teach us his laws. Among those who sat with him were his disciples. They were still sitting with him on that final night while Jesus was telling them not to be afraid to experience the rest of the plan. The disciples were terrified. Jesus repeatedly spoke peace to them that night, because everything really was under control. He was working his plan.
On the next day, he died, according to plan. It wasn’t the result of bad luck or poor planning. It was purposeful. This had all been foretold by the prophets He deliberately sacrificed his life as a payment for our sins. (Mark 10:45) Then he was buried. Evil men rejoiced, thinking they had finally seen the last of him. Satan nervously watched the tomb for three days. He had to know that God was planning something.
Then after three days, He rose from the grave. He came forth as victor, over death and hell. He was, and is the mighty conqueror. The champion. The plan was working to perfection. For the next forty days, he continued to meet with his disciples, clearly explaining the plan
After that, he ascended back to the Father. As many as five hundred men and women stood, transfixed, staring at a cloud that covered the place where Jesus had been. Angels were sent to bring everyone’s attention back to earth. They still had work to do. That’s the plan. (I Corinthians 15:3-8; Acts 1:9-11)
Two thousand years later, we’re still here. Now we’re part of God’s master plan. Now we have work to do. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) And as we go about our Kingdom work, we sometimes wonder why this plan has taken so long to complete. We’re still waiting for the final act. . .
He’s coming again! Jesus said it to his disciples on that final night, before all hell broke loose against him, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also. (John 14:3)
On that final night together, when the disciples just knew their world was crumbling around them, Jesus was assuring them that he was simply working his plan. Don’t be afraid. Believe God. Believe me. Trust the plan.
Now it’s our turn. It’s funny how we can read about the disciples on that night and want to scold them for their lack of understanding, their lack of faith, and their fear. We can clearly see the plan and we wonder why they can’t.
Then we become annoyed when something interrupts our plans. The delays. The disappointments. The tragedies. The fear. It shouldn’t be hard to understand what the disciples were feeling. In fact, we’ve been there ourselves, many times. Some of you are there right now.
For starters, stop a moment to recognize the difference between your plan and God’s plan. Know that God is still working his plan for you. He’ll never stop until it’s completed. Believe it.