Pentecost – 2019 LSB #’s 500, 730, 502
Text – John 14:27b-c
Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES
It’s the time of year for summer camp, & especially in places where it’s not as cloudy as Lansing, it’s common to take young people out on a nighttime hike to study the stars. Since most youth today have never hiked in the wild when it’s dark, the counselor gives an orientation lecture before they begin.
First, each child is to remain with their assigned partner for the hike – to look after each other. Second, should anyone get lost they need only look to the sky. The counselor explains how to find the North Star. And if the sky is too cloudy, you can normally see lights from the nearest town. The North Star or the city lights will give you direction.
You & I live in a world where people turn to various guides to find their way: money, materialism, power & pleasure, yet many still feel abandoned, empty, afraid & lost. They do not have the peace that surpasses all human understanding. So the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel is about Jesus’ total concern for the comfort, the confidence, the faith of His followers.
God is love so He never gives to you as the world gives. The world offers fame & fortune one day; takes it away the next. What have you done for me lately is the constant mantra. Who won the Super Bowl this past February, or the year before that, or three years ago? We hardly know & hardly care. It’s not relevant to the struggles of our lives in any way.
The world holds up events like the Super Bowl as the end all & be all of living. Billions of dollars are thrown around leading up to it, & yet, it’s here today & gone tomorrow. Even if your team wins, it doesn’t take long & the guidance that gives to you momentarily eventually leaves you with those feelings again – abandoned, empty, afraid & lost. The world offers you Facebook to keep in touch with all your friends, but then social media becomes your world. At some point you realize that you don’t know how to interact with real human beings in person. And that doesn’t even address how much of social media is actually very anti-social.
The world is filled with promises. In our country the 2020 presidential campaigns have begun. Guess how many promises you are going to hear in the next 17 months? Guess how many have any realistic chance of being fulfilled? Advertisements promise you the world if you buy their product, but you discover otherwise once it arrives in your home.
People make promises to love each other for richer, for poorer, in sickness & in health, till death parts them, or the divorce court. As one saying goes, “Promises are meant to be broken.” That’s not a very positive reality. The brokenness we experience in our day-to-day living is quite the opposite of what Jesus was talking about in the 27th verse of John 14:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” In our thinking, peace is the absence of conflict, but in Jesus’ mind the word shalom is life as our Creator intended it to be. It is a completely positive reality. It is the presence of life, health & wholeness, on a scale we will not know until after the resurrection of the dead.
Until then, the grace of God working in our lives gives us a glimpse here & there of the peace Jesus has left with us. When the people of God had finished conquering the land of Canaan, Yahweh’s grace left them with shalom in their new land. That shalom, like the Promised Land itself, was a picture of the eternal rest that was to come. We call it heaven.
Joshua was given these words to describe what Yahweh had done for His people Israel: “And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” (Joshua 21:44-45 ESV) Our Creator never fails to keep His promises. He never fails to bless you through them. The new heavens & the new earth will also be filled with promises, & not one of them will ever be broken.
God’s promises are meant to give you direction in this life, so you arrive in the next one. The world offers flames of glory that burn out all too quickly. The world welcomes you to join with it as it strives to gain status & wealth. Like, in the reading from Genesis, the world is still striving to make a name for itself through what human beings can do without God.
And like Satan, the only thing the world can do without God is to steal, kill & destroy. The only power that Lucifer has is to corrupt what the heavenly Father has already created. In Genesis, even God was impressed by the outward accomplishments of mankind. He said: “And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:6b ESV)
The problem is those people were trying to do all of it for themselves. They said, if God is up there we’re going to build a tower & get there on our own. Jesus could tell that their hearts were not focused on Him. When your heart, or mine, is not focused on Christ, where does it lead? You’ve been there & done that. You can answer that question.
Even when the world gives something to us, it is never whole hearted, but always a giving that’s primarily looking out for its own interests. Jesus demonstrates the opposite on the cross where there is not a trace of selfishness. The world gives & does grudgingly. Jesus gives freely & gladly. Jesus gives & He does with the interest of the receiver at heart.
And that makes it all the more difficult for the disciples to hear that Jesus will be leaving them. So the Son of God tells them in V. 26 of the Gospel reading, “…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things & bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” After V. 26 Jesus tells us what is the natural result of the presence, within us, of God’s Spirit. It is peace, which involved the concept of perfect health, life & blessing. Peace in v. 27 is the 1st word in the sentence. In the Greek language that makes it emphatic: “Peace I leave with you!”
In other words, perfect health, life & blessing I leave with you. Stop being troubled! Stop being afraid! Having described the benefits of His coming death & resurrection, Jesus takes us right back to verse one of chapter 14 in John’s Gospel, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid!”
So before Pentecost the disciples are still cowardly & afraid. After Pentecost, they truly end up willing to die in order to spread the light of Jesus Christ into the darkness of their world. Nothing the world has to offer is that powerful, that wholesome & that eternal.
We, too, have the Holy Spirit at our side to lead us into all truth, that being Jesus, who is the way, the truth, & the life. We too have the Holy Spirit working through us to carry out the mission of Jesus since He has returned to the Father. His power is necessary – not to help us with our will, but to get into our heads & hearts the will of the Father through the Son.
Even God’s children are troubled inwardly. Christ’s total endeavor in our lives is to quiet our troubled hearts. So, a little girl was seen hopping along as she went through a cemetery. Someone asked if she was afraid to be there. She replied, “Oh, no, I’m just skipping through on my way home.” So are all of us! We are skipping through this world on our way home. Amen.
What is the world to me with all its vaunted pleasure when You, & You alone, Lord Jesus, are my treasure! You only, dearest Lord, my soul’s delight shall be; You are my peace, my rest. What is the world to me! The world seeks to be praised & honored by the mighty yet never once reflects that they are frail & flighty. But what I truly prize above all things is He, My Jesus, He alone. What is the world to me! Amen. LSB 730:1-2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet