“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid.” These words of the Lord are not a concession that the world gives us some peace, but Jesus gives us more. It is not that the world gives you your bodily peace, your health, your financial security, a nice place to live, but Jesus gives you a spiritual peace and that’s better. And it’s not that the world can give you peace for a time, but Jesus can give it for eternity. No, Jesus gives all peace, complete, anything that can be given the name peace, Jesus gives, whether it touches your present or your future, whether it touches your body or your soul, the two cannot be separated, what God has joined together let not man’s thoughts pull asunder.
The world can give you no peace. What is “the world” anyway? If you conceive anything truly good and beautiful in the world, the mountain say, or a good meal, or family, or good government, or good friends, or a healthy body, your Lord gives it all and so the peace that comes from these things comes from Jesus. But if “the world” is the ruler of this world, as Jesus calls him, the devil, then it gives no peace at all, it only detracts from what Jesus gives. The healthy body that gave peace gets sick and decrepit and dies. That’s what the world gives. The family that brought contentment and companionship falls apart because of selfish pride and stubborn grudges and leaves discontent and loneliness and regret in its wake. The wine that should have gladdened the heart makes the mind dull and depresses the soul. That’s how the ruler of this world gives.
The foundational example, what gets repeated again and again in human history, is what you find first in Eden. Eve was at peace, not only in soul – she was good with God, loved Him, knew His love, her soul was at peace, but so was her body. She had a husband she completely trusted, the best of food to nourish her body, an excitement to have children and raise a perfect family. There was nothing lacking and she knew it all came from God. The devil only detracted. You will be like God. She was like God already – made in His image. She lost it, became instead like the devil. You will know good and evil. She knew good and evil already – good was eating of all the trees in the garden, especially the tree of life, evil was eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She lost that too. Instead of good and evil, she knew only evil after she ate. She was at peace with her body, now she was ashamed of it. She trusted her husband, now she suspected him. This is how the world gives, how the ruler of this world gives. There is promise of something, always, with the deception that God has held something back, but the devil gives worse than nothing. This is why Jesus says, “He has nothing in me.” That’s what the Greek says. He has nothing in Me. So it’s not that he can give one thing, but Jesus another. No, the devil can give nothing. He can only detract from peace, only take away enjoyment, only tarnish and destroy the good God gives. That’s sin. The deficit of good, the cancelation of peace.
So when Jesus says the ruler of this world is coming, He’s making a very specific reference to what Judas His betrayer is about to do, but He is also showing us how the world gives. Judas had everything that could make for his peace. Jesus gave it, gave him even His own body and blood; he had everything. But the devil, in promising more money which wasn’t going to give him any more peace, took from him all the peace he had. That’s how the world gives.
This is the promise of sin. You’ll find peace if you satisfy your lust. You’ll have rest once you’ve vented your anger. You’ll be content once you’ve got enough mammon. Get another tattoo, die your hair blue, change your gender, and you’ll have peace. It’s always a lie. It only ever hurts. The devil never gives peace. He only takes away from the peace Jesus gives.
But Jesus gives peace. The peace He leaves for us, that He send the Spirit to give, is full and eternal, without any lack.
My peace I leave with you, Jesus says. He leaves it with His Church. And it answers to every misery that the devil brings on body and soul. Let not your hearts be troubled. Neither let them be afraid. Why? Not because death and sin and persecution and the devil aren’t frightening. Not because cancer and sickness and temptation aren’t troubling. They are. But because Jesus has left His peace in His Church and His peace answers literally everything that could and does frighten and trouble you. He leaves it here and that means it can be found, it isn’t hidden, you don’t have to dream it up, or seek for it, it’s right in the open here in His Church, and with it is Jesus Himself, His Father, and His Spirit. God, the Holy Trinity, dwells among us, the Lord is on our side, of whom should we be afraid?
His peace is the treasure of His body and His blood. It is the Baptism which bestows the name of God on us and calls us children of the Most High. It is the absolution that forgives our sins and sets Christ before us as our righteousness and purity and innocence. It is every word of God that instructs us. He leaves it here, places it here. If you are afraid of your sin, because you have done or thought or said horrible things and you know God is angry with you, then you find here the peace of sins forgiven, Christ’s own body that bore your sin and His own blood shed to make you one with God. If you are afraid of death, then you find here your risen Head who will not leave or forsake His Body. If you are troubled by temptations to sin, then you find here the strength to resist by the power of His Spirit. If you are lonely and forsaken, then you find here the family of God. If you are in pain, then you find here that God will work even this for good and will give you a perfect body at the last.
Jesus says that whoever loves Him will keep His Words. We guard His Words as our most precious possession, every one of them. And this looks like something. It looks like what we see on Pentecost and what we see here on a Sunday morning.
The great conversion of 3000 souls on Pentecost was a horrible logistical problem for the earliest church. It was a wonderful problem to have, but it was a problem, because they needed to meet together now – and that takes space. They didn’t get baptized that day and then just go on their way. No, they kept it, they guarded it, and that meant meeting together weekly, even daily, and hearing the word of the apostles, eating and drinking the body and blood of their Savior, praying by the Spirit to the Father who put His name on them in their Baptism. Peace had found them and they would not give it up. This is how the day of Pentecost ends – “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” That’s the Divine Service. That’s the culmination of the Day of Pentecost. The great gift of Pentecost is not the miracle of speaking in tongues. If it were, the day of Pentecost would have ended with that. But the 3000 never speak in tongues. Instead the day of Pentecost culminates with the 3000 in the Divine Service, in getting baptized, listening to preaching, praying, and breaking the bread of the Lord’s Supper. This is what Jesus promises when He says – My peace I leave with you. This is the Holy Spirit’s great work. It is our peace against all trouble and fear. Here our Savior meets us and is with us always to the end of the age. And look at the beauty of the Spirit’s gifts! Look what happens when He inspires Christians to trust in Jesus. They direct their lives, their homes, their mammon, their time to keeping Jesus’ words and having His peace given to them. 3000 people need to meet somewhere, need to hear sermons somewhere and pray together somewhere and break the bread of the Lord’s Supper together somewhere. So they opened up their homes to one another, they held things in common, they exercised hospitality.
Keeping Jesus’ words meant and means guarding the precious treasure of the Divine Service, exactly what we have today. Jesus leaves it with us and His peace finds us here. There is so much that robs us of peace in this life, so much that troubles our hearts and makes us afraid. Look around you and see how desperately this world needs the peace Jesus gives, needs to know its God. Look at your own life and see how empty and vain it is without Jesus there. We cannot ascend with our own wisdom or our own strivings or our own virtue to heaven and wrestle this peace from God. He will not give it that way. The only ladder to heaven is Jesus Christ, His Son. He has located Himself in His Church and here we find Him. The ladder is not from us to Him, but from Him to us. It is not a tower that we build, it is the Church that He has bought with His blood and raised up by His resurrection.
Everything that robs you of peace, it does not matter what it is, the peace that Jesus gives within His Church answers it. You are guilty of sin, Jesus clothes you here with His righteousness and innocence; you suffer from the sins of others and the persecution of the world, Jesus comforts you with His own victory over the devil and the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. You feel the pain and corruption of your body, Jesus makes you share in His resurrection and look to the life of the world to come. You are worried about life, about money, Jesus makes you care about the riches of heaven and the wealth of His Supper. You are afraid of the death that waits for you, Jesus has already died and He lives and He gives His life to you in His body and His blood.
Whoever keeps His Word, Jesus says, the Father loves him and makes His home with him. This is in the singular. It is not only that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwell here in the Church as only in some building. His Baptism is yours, His Supper is yours, His Word is yours. He dwells in His Church so that He may dwell with you, personally, so that when you cry out, Abba Father, you are crying out by the Spirit, to the Father, and through the Son who will not only hear you but who is already with you. He will give you peace, He will care for all your needs of body and soul, He will be with you through everything, until at last you see Him in the everlasting glory that belongs to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and is ours forever through the merits of our Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace. In nomine Jesu.