Click here for the reading: John 14:23-31.
This pericope cuts in the middle of a conversation. Beginning in chapter 13, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his departure. This preparation is necessary because the disciples do not yet understand. As plainly as Jesus has spoken to them, they still cling to his fleshly presence in this moment, just as Israel craved a king like the nations had (1 Sam. 8:5), someone they could look at and touch. Peter plans to follow Jesus wherever he goes (John 13:37) or compel him to remain there with him (Mt. 17:4). Peter, who will deny Jesus at the provocation of a servant girl, must learn that there is something more sure even than his eye-witness experience of Jesus’ majesty (2 Peter 1:16-19). Jesus offers something far better than a warm embrace or the preservation of cozy feelings. He leaves the disciples with his word, brought to remembrance by his very own Spirit, so that his presence with them does not depend on physical proximity alone. Rather, in answer to the question of Judas (not Iscariot, 14:22), he will manifest himself to them by making his home with the one who loves him, keeps his word, and receives the love of the Father.
That helps us to interpret the peace that he promises to leave with his church. It is a peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7) because it relies on things not seen but believed. The world promises a deceptive peace. It is a temporary and fleeting peace. But it is also a peace that is tangible to our flesh. We can see it and feel it, and the invitation to rest at ease in the pleasures and vanities of this life is alluring. But like the young man who heeds the invitation of Lady Folly, we do not perceive that such peace leads to the grave (Prov. 9:18).
It is precisely that delusion that Jesus has come to dispel. And in its place he has come to deliver something permanent, a peace that does not fade away, and indeed, the peace that he himself enjoys. It is the peace that comes from the good pleasure of the Father (Matthew 3:17), whose Word promises that all who call on his name will be saved. That is a peace that can withstand the troubling of hearts wrought by the temptations of the devil and the trials of this world and even the departure of Jesus himself.
All of those things that trouble hearts are overcome by Jesus in his death and resurrection. The ruler of this world comes for Jesus, but he has no claim on him. By Jesus’ obedience to the Father, he uncovers the lies of the devil and establishes his promises. Here is a faithful one who trusts in God and is not put to shame. Here is a faithful one whose word can endure even through the grave. Here is the one the disciples have believed in, whose peace is greater than they realize and sufficient to dispel the fears they do not yet know they will face. All they must do is keep his word.