Peace?

It was just after sunset. The sky was dusky, and the shadows in the alleys grew deeper. The Temple took on hues of pink and gold as the marble reflected the last rays of day, a glorious sight for those who had eyes to see. The women did not see the beauty; they were consumed with making the perfect meal, centered around lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. The tradition dated back centuries, to the time of the great exodus, and it was surrounded by specific rituals, prayers, and songs. Jerusalem was crowded as people from all over pilgrimaged to the holiest city they knew. Many of those pilgrims had surely been part of the great crowds that sang, “Hosanna” on the first day of the week. While the sacred meal was primarily for families, individuals could also gather as companies, temporary families united by being among the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

By this time, the noise of the crowds had diminished as the sacrifices were completed and the men returned to their homes to partake in the Passover meal. They led their children for a search of hidden leaven in the house. As guests arrived, servants would wash the dust from the travelers’ feet. Wine was served for both sacred and non-ritual consumption. Throughout the meal, family members would retell the exodus story as they recalled God’s miraculous freeing of the people of Israel from slavery under the Egyptian pharaoh.

This night, a group of men met in the upper room of a home they knew. There were thirteen in all, but when the meal was eaten, one left mysteriously, before the final cups of wine were blessed: “Blessed are you, o Lord our God, King of the universe, who has created the fruit of the vine…[who said,] I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements.”

By now, the men in the group were concerned. Why had one left their midst before the final prayer? Why did Judas not sing the words, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever?” And then the Master spoke to them, words of a new commandment to love even though some of them would shortly depart, even denying they knew Him. He told them He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He reminded the remaining eleven that, even when He left them, they would not be alone, but that He would send a Counselor, a Holy Spirit, to walk with them and through them as they kept His commands.

He spoke plainly to them, that the next moments and days would be the worst they could possibly imagine. And then Jesus spoke these words:

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.

John 14:27

As the group departed when the meal was complete, Jesus told them more about what was to come. He finished by warning them that they would indeed face tribulation, but they could endure because He conquered the world and the sin that inhabited it (John 16:33).

The world in which we live is indeed troubled. Culture is as evil as in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, and it seems there is no redemption ahead. What was once thought to be evil is now celebrated as good, and what was once good is now portrayed as offensive to a progressive society. As Jesus followers, it might be easy to be discouraged by the daily manifestations of Satan’s rule in this world. We may fear the consequences of expressing our faith in the open. It’s true, our livelihoods may be threatened by our spoken convictions. We may lose credibility with our secular friends when we speak the truth, even when we say there IS Truth (not my truth or your truth, but REAL Truth). The disciples lost more than credibility; they all lost their lives in their proclamations of Jesus as Lord and Savior. For hundred of years, Jesus followers around the world have faced everything from ridicule to persecution to their very lives. Yet Christianity has endured.

Christianity has endured. Not because Christians are perfect. People have done horrific and vile things claiming the name of Jesus. The name “Christian” has been misused, misplaced, and maligned for so long that its very meaning has been altered in the eyes of a secular society. But being a Jesus follower is unchanged over the centuries. It is not an easy road to travel. It requires stamina, discipline, and trust in the One who gives us peace.

That Passover meal so long ago was the portal to a world where ordinary people did extraordinary things because Jesus. As complicated and complex and corrupt this world becomes, we can persevere. We can sing, “His love endures forever” no matter what we face. Jesus is our salvation. He is the Cornerstone of all Truth. He gives light in the darkness, hope in distress, and peace in all the trials we face.

We can trust in His love, His mercy, and His grace. We can give thanks in all circumstances because He is working in us and through us for His glory.

Resources:

Strange, J.F. (2014). Jesus’ Passover. Friends of Asor, 2(4). https://www.asor.org/anetoday/2014/04/jesus-passover/

Wallace, D.B. (2004). Passover in the Time of Jesus. Bible.org , https://bible.org/article/passover-time-jesus This is a transcript of a Seder meal practiced according to first century traditions.

Pathway to Peace

John 1; Isaiah 9:6; Ephesians 2:14-18; 1 John 4:9-11; Romans 5-6; Titus 3: 5-7; Hebrews 11:1-12:2; Luke 2:22-38

Prayer from Anglican Book of Common Prayer (2019)

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us. As we are sorely hindered by our sins from running the race that is set before us, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever, Amen.

For God so loved the world. John 3:16.
Original watercolor by Sherilee. Remix by Stephanie Loomis

In the beginning was the Word. All things were made by him. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Sin had come into the world through one man, Adam, and the death the results from sin became part of human nature, severing the relationship with God that leads to peace. But God made a way. A child would be born for us. A Son would be given to us. And he would be named Prince of Peace.  And He, Himself is our peace. Wholly God and wholly human, he reconciled us to God, preaching peace while enduring the consequences of our sin in our place. Through Jesus we have access in the Spirit to the Father, not by our acts of righteousness, but according to the mercy and grace of God.

a remix of verses from John, 1 John, Romans, Isaiah, Ephesians, and Titus

Peace between people is impossible until we have peace with God. The Incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us paves our only path to peace with God and with each other. The Law could not reconcile us; the Law could only illustrate how hopelessly broken we are. In Jesus, we are reconciled to the Father and in that relationship we dwell in peace. Simeon and Anna both saw the infant Jesus and knew that the promise of the Messiah was with them. Simeon held the baby and prayed, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, You now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles , and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). The Son was given, the child born, and He would be our peace. We can live in peace with others because God has made a way of peace for us. The Prince of Peace rules our hearts and minds and souls in love. 

Peace comes in confidence and assurance in things unseen; this world is not our home. By faith we join with those who have gone before us, and they are now the witnesses to our lives as we pursue peace among people. We look to Jesus as we purposefully disentangle from the sin that persists as long as we live. We look beyond this life, as Simeon did, to an unshakeable kingdom. Our faith is not in people or governments or education or influence; our faith is in Jesus. His love is perfected in us both now and into eternity. The promise of salvation is fulfilled in the Incarnation. Our peace rests in the fulness of His grace upon grace.