Grace and Peace - Part 7
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
July 02, 2017
When things get really stressful (pastors have no stress, right?), I find myself imagining a cabin deep in the woods, somewhere in the mountains (for you it’s a hut on the beach, but humor me). Outside the ground is covered with snow. Inside a fire pops and crackles fireplace, giving warmth and light to the cozy room. And I’m sitting in the front of it drinking a cup of coffee.
I do that because, when things get tough, I Iong for peace, for an escape from the reality that in this world there really is no peace, or at least not lasting peace. I used to feel kind of bad about that because I thought if I were really spiritual I’d face those things head on and say “That all you got?”
Not too long ago I was reading through the Psalms and discovered something I’d never seen before.
Psalm 55 was written by King David on the occasion of suffering a bitter betrayal, possibly when his son, Absalom, took over the throne and he had to flee Jerusalem. As he left, he was told a close friend and advisor, Ahithophel, had sided with the rebellion.
Psalm 55:1–8 (ESV) — 1 Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! 2 Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, 3 because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me. 4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. 6 And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; 7 yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah 8 I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”
Thousands of years ago King David, one of the godliest men ever to walk the earth, was doing what I do (what we all do): daydreaming of a cabin in the woods to get away from his troubles. David, like all of us, longed to escape the raging wind and tempest that is the world we live in. He desperately wanted peace.
Why do we long for peace? It doesn’t make any sense if the atheists are right and evolution (apart from any divine intelligence) brought about all we know.
Evolution is about genetic mutations and natural selection (survival of the fittest). If we evolved from lower animals then we would have come into being out of chaos, disease, and a brutal fight for survival. Peace wouldn’t be in our vocabulary. It wouldn’t be something we long for because we wouldn’t know what it is.
No, like David, we long for peace, I believe, because a part of us remembers where we really did come from, a place, a garden, created by a loving heavenly father who declared all things “good.” We want that back, whether we realize it or not.
But we cannot know that kind of peace (for now) because it was shattered by one selfish act of rebellion. In an instant sin and death were ushered into the world, and with them came pain and suffering.
Creation itself was cursed. We were cursed.That fallenness in us and in others now disturbs our peace. Relationships are strained, but even worse (far worse) we are now enemies of God. Where once we were in perfect relationship with him (Adam and Eve in the garden), now we are at war with him.
A hard pill to swallow, I know, but we must if we want any hope of knowing true peace.
Which reminds of us of our big take-aways from last week…
1.) We can’t experience God’s grace or peace apart from knowing how undeserving and incapable we are of possessing them.
That’s the whole idea of repentance. Realizing and admitting to God that apart from him we are hopelessly condemned to eternal separation from him. May I say this yet again? You have to get lost before you can get saved.
2.) We can’t appreciate God’s grace or peace apart from knowing how undeserving and incapable we are of possessing them. Those who are forgiven much, love much.
Today I want us to go back to that verse I shared last week and explore it further. Jesus was nearing the cross when he said to his disciples.
John 14:27 (ESV) — 27 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.
Now what interests us is Jesus said he would leave us with peace and then clarified further “my peace I give to you.” What kind of peace did Jesus have that he could give to us? And why was it different than what the world gives.
To understand we must look at why Jesus’ life was unique compared to any man ever to live, even men like King David (who was known as the apple of God’s eye) or Noah (who walked blameless before God) or Moses (who saw God’s back).
I know what you’re thinking. Jesus is God come to us in the flesh, pastor. That’s what made him unique. You are right. Jesus was and is fully God. But he was also fully man at the same time.
Sometimes I think we forget that. He came into this world just like us (minus being born of a virgin and angelic hosts and everything). He was raised by parents just like us. He ate just like us. He sweated just like us. He bled just like us. But even in his humanness he was unique.
To understand how, let’s go all the way back to when Jesus was 12 years old.
His parents and all his extended family had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. They were a day’s journey on their way home when Joseph and Mary realized Jesus wasn’t with them.
They traveled back and frantically searched for Him. It took three days, but they found him at the temple of all places. They were upset and asked why would he do that?
Luke 2:46–49 (ESV) — 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Even at an early age, Jesus directly addressed God as my father not the father. The idea of God being a father to Israel wasn't new, but personally addressing him as father was.
Fast forward 18 years when Jesus was 30 years old and he went to John the Baptist for baptism.
Matthew 3:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
God acknowledged from heaven that Jesus was His BELOVED son.
We have here evidence of a special relationship, a deep and abiding fellowship between a man and God. If you read the gospels with this thought in mind you find that Jesus consistently addressed God as his father not the father. You will also find he spent hours and hours fellowshipping with Him in prayer not as a discipline but as a delight.
Study the Gospels further and you’ll see how Jesus loved, cherished, and nurtured His relationship with His heavenly Father. He was always talking to Him and about Him. His life revolved around Him.
The reason for that is Jesus, unlike anyone since Adam before the fall, enjoyed a perfect relationship with God. He could because he was born free from sin. He had been born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 2:22 (ESV) — 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
Hebrews 7:26 (ESV) — 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
1 John 3:5 (ESV) — 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
Since Jesus was free from sin, he wasn’t at war with God like us. And since he wasn’t an enemy of God, Jesus enjoyed perfect peace with God.
Everybody, and I do mean everybody (atheists, philosophers, you name it) admires Jesus. There’s just something about him. It’s his peace. The world can be crashing down around him and he is all like, “No problem. It’s all good.” Look at this familiar story with me in the Mark’s gospel.
Mark 4:35–41 (ESV) — 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.
Jesus in is humanness got tired and slept. But how could he sleep through such a crisis?
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV) — 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
That alone is striking and unique. But because Jesus was more than just a man, he often let his power leak out a little…
And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Now this is good and all, but what does it have to do with us? We aren’t born of virgins. We aren’t God in the flesh. We cannot know that kind of peace can we?
To answer that we go to another garden. Not the one in Genesis where our peace was lost. It’s a garden called Gethsemane where Jesus was praying…
Mark 14:32–36 (ESV) — 32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”
Jesus, throughout his ministry experienced sorrow and tears (such as when Lazarus died or he looked upon the lostness of Jerusalem), but never do we see him like this. This is different. There is dread and maybe even fear. Is this the same one who slept in a boat while the storms raged?
35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus, addressing God as Daddy, prayed that the cup he was about to drink, would pass from him. This is just moments before the agony of the cross, so we think he must have dreaded the pain, the lashes, the nails in his hands and feet, the humiliation, the mocking, the slow death by suffocation.
That’s not it at all. It wasn’t the physical suffering he wanted to forego, it was something far worse he knew would happen.
Let’s go to Matthew and see what that was…
Matthew 27:45–46 (ESV) — 45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Quoting an OT Psalm, Jesus cried out in anguish, asking why God (he didn’t call him father) had forsaken him. How does Jesus go from being in perfect fellowship with his Father, enjoying the perfect peace that goes with it, to crying out, asking why God had turned his back on him?
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
What does a holy God do when it comes to sin? He separates from it. He cannot have fellowship with it. He threw Adam out of the garden when he sinned. He withdrew from him. What does God do when His son becomes sin? He forsakes him, withdraws fellowship from him.
And for the first time Jesus knew what it was like to lose that perfect communion with his father, his daddy. That is what he feared; that is why he prayed “take this cup from me”, asking for another way.
Jesus became sin on the cross so it could be judged, paid for, when it should have been us hanging there making payment (it’s our sin).
Paul, in his letter to the Christians at Colossae gives us more insight into this…
Colossians 1:15–22 (ESV) — 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…
Jesus suffered a severing of perfect peace with his father, so he could make peace between us. Through Jesus the war ends and we are no longer enemies. We are, in fact, now God’s children!
That is why Jesus is our Prince of Peace.
Conclusion: When Jesus said, “My peace I give to you” he meant that in going to the cross and then the tomb and then rising up and out of the tomb back to heaven, he was selflessly and gloriously making the way for us to be in relationship and fellowship with his father so that we too could call him Abba, daddy.
This gives even more depth and meaning to an OT text, a prophecy by Isaiah, concerning Jesus…
Isaiah 53:4–6 (ESV) — 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The world cannot give you that. It can give you the temporary and fickle peace that comes from possessions, people, or places, or books, or whatever. But it cannot give you what Jesus gives you.
Tim Keller says, and we will close with this…
“Christian peace is based on the fact that Jesus Christ died, paid every debt, and fulfilled every requirement you have before the Father. Christian peace is based on that. He has given you a clear deed, a clear title to adoption into the family of God.”
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