John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
I have heard numerous sermons on this passage in my lifetime and they all seem to interpret this passage as Jesus telling his disciples that he is the source of genuine peace. The world can give you peace but it is a false peace, it is only temporary and will not last.
The problem I have always had with this interpretation is peace, even if it is temporary or even false, is still a good thing, it is better than fear, violence, stress etc. So what is so bad if I am stressed out and I get a little of that worldly peace, even if it is for a few moments, is that not a good thing? Then again if God is the author of all that is good then where does this worldly peace come from? The enemy cannot be the author of something good like peace? Can He? Is Jesus just referring to a deception that really in the end is harmful, like drugs or alcohol? This is how the verse is commonly interpreted. Yet, if that was the case, Jesus would have used another word rather than world. After all He created the world and created it as good; He would have been more specific and indicated a corrupted or sinful world.
If we jump back in time to this period that Jesus walked the earth we would have found that the normal method of finding peace in the world would be to go to a garden, a quiet stream, to go off alone and meditate, to burn fragrances, and if you were wealthy enough to hire musicians to play a harp or other stringed instruments to sooth you troubled mind. They did not have a film industry, television, electronic games and other things created by man to distract your thoughts and give you a chance to rest your troubled mind.
Then again, maybe we are missing the point entirely. Jesus was speaking in Aramaic and when he said, My peace I leave with you, was He simply saying goodbye, in a Near Eastern way as we would say in our Western Culture, see ya, so long or tootles. If that were the case He would have simply said, salama ala laku, which is peace I leave with you. But then He adds the word dali which would suggest my own peace. He then follows this with a curious phrase, nor that the world gives give I unto you. The word for world used in the Greek is kosmos which has the idea of the world and its inhabitants of the world or the affairs of the world. It could mean the worldly system or worldly thinking.
The Aramaic word used, which would be the word that Jesus spoke, is alma. Alma means, again and again from which we get the idea of eternity or forever. But in its Semitic root it has the idea of hiding or to conceal. The past and future are really concealed to us. Archaeology can only guess at what has happened in ancient times as no one is alive to bear witness of it. The past is really concealed as is the future; no one can really know the future. Again, this is how the idea of eternity comes from alma. In its feminine form you have almah which is an unmarried woman or a young woman, sometimes rendered as a virgin. The idea is that a young woman will one day get married and have a child. In other words she is the key to the race continuing or going on and on or again and again. Within other Semitic languages, like the Ugaritic and Akkadian you have the root word as Al which means to repeat.
Within Jewish literature I have found that the sages teach that there are two types of peace, both come from God but one is directed to the spiritual part of man and the other is directed to the physical or natural part of man. One cannot receive the spiritual peace until the body is rested and frayed nerves are soothed. Hence the Jews prepare themselves for worship by relaxing the body. They will recite Scripture verses or prayers; they may even do it with a soothing chant. In ancient times they burned fragrances, and they stood quietly before God. As the physical body became relaxed and calm, they could then receive the true peace of God as they entered into worship with God.
We in our Western Christian culture really understand this, but we do not recognize it. We go to a church which we call a sanctuary. This sanctuary is meant to separate us from the cares of this world, in this sanctuary we become quiet, there is a peaceful atmosphere, we sing songs to sooth our trouble minds, we pray, we recite Scripture and we become what we call reverent. The mistake we make in our thinking is that this is showing respect for God. Actually, in its origins, this was done to prepare us for worship. In fact I often hear pastors calling their congregations to worship by saying, “Let us prepare for worship.” We understand this concept of relaxing and calming ourselves before worship but over time we have gone from a quiet candle lite dinner in a violin playing, wood paneled, table clothed restaurant, quietly whispering our meal order to a formally dressed wait person to a lunch hour rush at Taco Bell. Our worship services has gone from a formal quiet meditative preparation time to entering a meeting hall type room, shouting to some guy on the other side of the room, “Hey Bert, how’s your hemorrhoids this morning,” to the first drum beat, while a worship team belts out in handheld microphones an I like God song and dive into the worship like diving into a back yard pool fully dressed.
The ancient Hebrews prepared themselves for worship with prayers, meditations, reading Scripture, burning or diffusing fragrances and sometimes with music. They would not enter the presence of God until their physical bodies were ready and relaxed.
When a man and woman share an intimacy, it is usually after the kids are in bed, after they talk over the frustrations of the day, after they share their struggles and stresses and worked out all the kinks that trouble their minds, after they find themselves reflecting on peaceful, loving things, then they quietly and naturally begin to embrace each other. If we understand that on a human level, then why can we not understand that on a spiritual level? It takes time to enter into worship. Worship is not a slam, bam thank you God, it is a time of rest, peace and reflection, and then the drum beat, if that is your way of worship.
Jesus said, My own peace, I leave with you, not the alma (again and again, repeating) peace. The alma peace is one that needs to be renewed over and over. It takes repeated trips to the garden, a discipline of stopping to smell the roses, of watching birds dance and listening to them sing. God has provided for us a way of peace in this world through His creation, but He has also now given us a spiritual peace through the death of His Son Jesus Christ who gives us spiritual peace which is no longer plagued by the guilt and the shame of sin. No natural peace can relieve the guilt and shame of sin; we need a supernatural peace for that. But that does not mean we ignore the other peace that God has provided, the peace that comes through His creation, the singing and dancing birds, the snuggling of Riley the cat, the warm welcome of Sparky the Wonder Dog (well at least for my neighbor), the fragrance of roses, frankincense and myrrh, the quiet gardens and beautiful streams, the music that speaks to our soul, the poetry that calms our troubled minds all these gifts come from God.
We cry out to God, give me peace. Well, He has given us many alma(s) in this natural world to bring us peace, search that out, and find your garden, your fragrance, your song or your poem. But they will not relieve you of your guilt and shame of sin. That comes from another source, a supernatural source. That comes from Jesus Christ who died on a cross 2,000 years ago to forgive and redeem us from the agony of our guilt of sin.
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