Because the Father would remain with him, and because he would be faithful in making his sacrifice for sins, Jesus followed his warning with words of comfort in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.” Though the disciples faced trouble, Jesus would leave them a legacy of his own peace. He had spoken of this same gift earlier saying in John 14:27, “ 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.”
Leon Morris describes a painting that matches Jesus’ meaning. It depicts a storm beating against a rocky shoreline with waves crashing and foam flying high. A ship has been driven up against the rock and is falling apart, bodies falling into the deep. But in the foreground is seen a mighty rock with a crack. In the crack is a dove nesting securely, the storm unable to reach within. This expresses Jesus’ gift of peace. Morris explains, “Believers are not immune to the storms of life. They must bear them.. But they are secure. The Rock of Ages is their sure refuge and there they have peace.”[i]
Jesus qualifies his offer of peace in two ways. First, he says that we may have peace “in me.” Believers have peace only in Christ; he is the Rock in the cleft of which we are secure. In Christ, we enjoy peace with God, knowing that our sins are all forgiven. Believers also experience the peace of God, as the Holy Spirit works assurance and hope in our hearts. We gain this peace through prayer. Paul told us this in Philippians 4:6-7, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” If you have not turned to Christ in saving faith, this might explain the restlessness of your heart. Our hearts were made to be given to him, and “he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). James Montgomery Boice notes that not only do we gain peace by first coming to Christ in faith, but we must also realize that “A conscious dependence on him and staying close to him.. is the prerequisite to joy and fruitfulness in the Christian life.”[ii]
Second, Jesus says that believers gain his peace through the teaching of His Word. John 16:33, “I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace.” “These things” that Christ has said refer to the whole of this Farewell Discourse, the purpose of which was to provide peace to the disciples in light of Jesus’ coming death and departure. All through the Farewell discourage, Jesus expressed his care and concern, which apply not only to the original disciples but also to us. Knowing Christ’s loving care gives peace to our hearts. Jesus promised to secure a place for every believer in heaven: John 14:2-3, “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?[a] 3 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.” Believers know that whatever else happens to us as we follow Jesus in life, the destination will be our own prepared place in the glorious eternity of heaven. What a source of peace this should be to every Christian heart.
When it comes to following Christ in this world, Jesus also told about the provision of God’s Holy Spirit to comfort, encourage, empower, and lead us. Not only will the Spirit “take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14), but he will grant divine conviction to empower our ministry to the world: “he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement” (John 16:8).
Finally, Jesus’ teaching has repeatedly stressed our great privilege in prayer by appeal to his name. What a source of peace it is to know that God in heaven hears my cry and attends to my pleas. John 16:23, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” This provides us with every incentive to try out our access to God in prayer, and to lay our anxieties into the Father’s hands, requesting his gift of peace. Peter learned this in future years, urging us to cast “all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Are you living in the peace that Jesus has left to believers? If you are not a believer, you have every reason to turn to Jesus, seeking peace with the Father through the forgiveness of sin and the peace of the Father as he lives in you by his Spirit. If you are a believer living without peace, does this not warn you that you are not living in close communion with our Lord or that you are failing to derive the blessing of God’s Word? Many Christians struggle for peace in their hearts, some because of their sinfulness and other because of their weakness. All Christians should turn to Christ, turn from sin, and seek His blessing. Jesus gives his people peace, and we should make sure that we receive this peace in him, through His Word, and in answer to our prayers.
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[i] Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1986), 563.
[ii] Boice, John, 4:1242