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Sixth Sunday of Easter
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael J. Moffitt, May 22, 2022

The Path to Peace That Lasts Forever

Text: John 14:21–29

Since Easter and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we have been on a journey together towards the day of Pentecost.

For three weeks we looked at the disciples before Jesus’ crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension back to the Father and compared the disciples, especially John's relationship to the Savior 50–60 years later. When the Apostle John wrote his gospel a great deal had happened in those years and all that Jesus promised came to pass and the disciples' commitment to the glory of the Savior grew in intensity and they even found great joy in the midst of sorrow and tribulation. On Wednesdays we have been studying the Book of Revelation also written by the Apostle John as were the three epistles, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John. We’ve considered the writings through the lens of a disciple who served the Lord faithfully for many years even through severe persecution and trials.

Today we’ll take a look at the promise that Jesus gave to the disciples concerning the sending of the Holy Spirit after Jesus returned to the Father. The Spirit would be another counselor and guide, and the one who would bring them into deeper truth concerning Jesus and the glory that He had with the Father.

In the upper room that last night after they celebrated Passover together with Jesus, He told the disciples all that was coming. It was to begin that same night when Jesus was arrested. He had spoken to them many times about returning to the Father and sending the Holy Spirit, but it wasn’t registering with them.

They still didn’t comprehend all that Jesus was preparing to do through His crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at the right hand of the Father. It would be later before they understood that Jesus was showing them the unity of the Trinity as it was being played out before them. The glory of any one person of the Trinity overflowed into the others, a glory that all believers would be invited into, but we’ll leave that for next week on Ascension Sunday.

Today we will continue the journey to the fullness of God in anticipation of all that Jesus was promising them, as Peter would later explain on Pentecost, this promise of the Spirit would be “for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39).

John chapter 14 begins with Jesus offering comfort to the disciples as he has told them once again that he would be betrayed, arrested and crucified but that he would return for them. I have to admit that the question would certainly have included, “How can a person return if they have been crucified?” However Jesus told them in John 14:1–3:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 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.”

In addition to comforting them Jesus seeks to bring clarity to everything that he had been teaching and showing them for the previous three years. Their preparation was almost over, and they would soon see that Jesus had been preparing them for a mission that, had they seen it beforehand, they may have run away. They were completing basic training and next there would be on-the-job training, in the sending of the Holy Spirit it would be as if Jesus was right there with them.

Before we look at our gospel passage this morning I would like to consider how the Apostle John builds on the relationship between obedience and the promise of the Holy Spirit. He begins with this promise In John 14:15–18;

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” 

The word that Jesus uses for commandments is “entole” which is usually translated as an order or command given by reason of the office or authority of the one speaking. A general might command his troops to do something because he has the authority to command based on his rank. In scripture this word is often used ethically in regard to the Mosaic law or Jewish tradition but in John’s gospel the divinity of Jesus is revealed and so in this passage he is teaching that if those who call themselves “his disciples” love him they will keep His commandments because He is the God who commands.

This is not to be seen as an encouragement to a legalistic view of salvation but as the definition of what love looks like in action. Essentially Jesus is saying that if his disciples, because of their love for him will follow him, their Master and Teacher, then he will ask the Father to send them the Holy Spirit the “Paraclete,” the one destined to take the place of Christ with the disciples after his ascension to the Father. The Paraclete would lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth and give them divine strength needed to enable them to persevere even while having to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom.

The foundation had been laid and training had been given; now all that they would need to succeed would be given to them in and through the Holy Spirit who would finally open their eyes to the realization of who Jesus was in truth.

This leads us to the gospel passage for this morning where Jesus continues to define what he is teaching them by adding a new understanding of what love for him looks like. Again he tells them,

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."

In verse 15 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” but in verse 23 he adds, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.”

In the Greek the word used for “word” is “logos” which means a living voice or a teaching or doctrine. The idea is not referring to keeping his words as commands, as someone would obey a traffic law but in hearing his words in the same way that the Son hears the words of His Father. In other words, obedience to the word should be done because of who was speaking the words. Jesus’ words would be their life because the Spirit would reveal that he was their life. Jesus’ teaching is not just interesting thoughts about God and the world, but he is revealing the heart and life of God and is introducing the way to share life with the Father as Jesus has eternally shared life with the Father. To obey his teaching then is to adopt God’s perfect pattern for life but the condition is love for Jesus.

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

In John’s gospel, “the Word” denotes the essential living Word of God, Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom, and power in union with God. Jesus was the Father’s agent in creation and government of the universe, the cause of the entire world's life both physical and ethical. This message was how the Apostle began his gospel:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:1–4

Remember that the Apostle John is writing his gospel account through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit but is still telling the story from his perspective. He was there for those three years with Jesus but in writing this gospel some 50–60 years later he has the advantage that during all the years he lived it out in the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit was poured out in power at Pentecost it opened up their understanding of all that Jesus had said to them and they were indwelt with the same power of the Spirit and the authority of the name of Jesus.

John had learned and now was the teacher who had learned that love for Jesus involved both an attachment to him and a joining with him and his passions which led him to walk as Jesus walked in loving obedience to the Father. John would later write in 1 John 2:3–6:

“And by this we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

So this amazing promise that anyone who loves Jesus and keeps his word then the Father and the Son will tangibly act in love by dwelling with them. The Son does not come to the disciples on his own, but just as in the incarnation itself, this new indwelling presence will be initiated by the Father's love. While the Father and Son coming to dwell with those who have loved Jesus and his Word would be fully realized in the new Heavens and new Earth, in the meantime God would send the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity to assure that those who would lovingly follow Christ would be able to persevere.

“…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.”

Without the Holy Spirit the disciples would continue to see dimly and have difficulty understanding the deep things of God and would not be able to fully comprehend who they had been traveling with, living with, and learning from for three years. The Holy Spirit would shine the light of Christ into their minds and hearts and suddenly everything would change. The perspective of life’s purpose would change because their reason for living now would radically change.

With new eyes to see and a new heart of understanding they would finally wake up and see the offer that Jesus was making to them. Follow me to the Father and we will dwell together for all time. The Holy Spirit would reveal that this promise was not only true but would take them to a level of reality in their relationship with God that would make living in this way, the way of the cross, as not only worth it but, well… normal. Suddenly the question that is very commonly asked by the unbeliever, “Why would you live like that?” or as a boss of mine once said to me in exasperation because of my faith, “I would never worship a god who wouldn’t allow me to do what I want!”

Often to the unbeliever God’s word seems oppressive but to those who have given their lives to the service of the Messiah and have been filled with the Holy Spirit, it seems like the only thing that makes any sense—it’s normal. To the world it seems like “Radical Christianity,” over the top, out of control and fanatical but to the servants of Jesus it just feels right. Why? Because fellowship and peace with God is what we were made for. Living in rebellion to God’s Word is what is abnormal and what we are experiencing around the world is the effects of this abnormality.

Jesus then reveals one of the blessings that attends the presence of the Holy Spirit and that is peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (v. 27). Here is the fulfillment of the word that God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel, a promise of peace. Ezekiel 37:26–28:

“I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

The peace Jesus is talking about is not the end of hostilities from enemies, but rather the gift of calmness and confidence that comes from union with God and faith in him and his purposes. The world's idea of peace is something that comes through destroying of enemies and consists of physical and emotional comfort. The peace that Jesus gives is grounded in God and not in circumstances. It is the peace that Jesus himself exhibited in this Gospel and exhibits in this farewell discourse, even while he knows he is about to be killed.

In the next two chapters, John 15:18–16:4, still in His “Farewell Discourse”, Jesus speaks of the continued trouble his disciples will experience in the world, but they will simply be living out what he himself had already been experiencing. His disciples will share his troubles, but they will also have his peace, for they will share in his own relationship with the Father.

This promise of the gift of his own peace serves as the foundation for the command he now gives: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (v. 27). He repeats exactly the command that began this chapter (v. 1), adding now a reference to fear. To be troubled is to have a fear or dread of something and is always presented in a negative sense, as the opposite of courage. Those who are ruled or discouraged by such fear show a lack of faith in God and a denial of his presence, his goodness, and his power. Those who experience such fear, which includes virtually all of us to some degree, may take comfort that as God's life grows within us and as our hearts are healed, we enter into the inheritance of Jesus' peace, which replaces our sinful fear. Jesus here calls us to receive his peace. The grounds of this peace is the "perfect love" that "drives out fear" that John would later write in 1 John 4:18. This love is ultimately a sharing of the relationship between the Father and the Son, of which Jesus now goes on to speak.

“You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”

His announcement that he is now going to the Father should have caused them to rejoice for Him because he would be going back to the one who had sent him on this mission. It was Jesus’ love for the Father that brought him coming to the rescue of those who had been stolen from the Father. Jesus is revealing the nature of the relationship between the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus was willing to come to accomplish the desire of the Father because he loved the Father more than his own rights of divinity. Paul wrote of this attitude of love in Philippians 2:6–8:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

There is no quibbling in the Trinity, no power play but mutual love and passion for each other. The Father has his position as does the Son and the Holy Spirit and the Father's response to the Son’s willingness to come and dwell among us as a living sacrifice is seen in Philippians 2:9–11:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This is why Jesus told his disciples that they should be glad for him and for themselves that he was returning to the Father. This had always been their plan and Jesus asking the Father to send back the Holy Spirit was also a wonderful part of the plan made before the foundation of the Earth. What the disciples did not know at the time, but the Apostle is teaching us is that everything went off without a hitch, just like it had been determined. We should find great peace and comfort in the promise of the resurrection and of the coming of Pentecost.

All of the passages that we read this morning point us to the hope and promises that Jesus came to secure for us. The reading from Joel 2:21–27 written between 500–700 years before Jesus points us forward to the life that the Messiah would bring for us in the new creation. A life of peace with God and the restoration of all creation to what it was originally intended to be.

The Apostle John would write later of a vision that Jesus gave him in the Book of Revelation in chapter 22:1–5:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

The Psalmist anticipates the day when all of God’s people will clearly see what he has done for them and we will respond accordingly:

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

It's the model of what we were created for, but sin blinded our hearts and minds to the degree that only through the finished work of Christ upon the cross can we be restored. The Holy Spirit empowers us to walk and live in the light of Christ in order to return to peace with God.

I’ll close with the first question of The Westminster Confession of Faith Larger Catechism:
        What is the chief and highest end of man?
        Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

Let’s pray.

©2022 The Rev. Michael J. Moffitt

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