31 March 2020 – Peace I leave with you

Jesus in His last lengthy conversations with the twelve closest disciples prior to His death made it very plain to them that they would soon no longer have Him with them. He sought to provide support to them to enable them to carry on the work He had begun over the previous three and a half years. 

John14:25-27 states: All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

 There was a ‘P’ word that described the feelings of the first disciples that evening but it certainly wasn’t peace! It was panic! They had enjoyed the security of the same daily routines for several years as they travelled around the country with Jesus. Of course, there were unpredictable events that intruded into their days. Some of these turned into extraordinary opportunities for Jesus to perform miracles of healing or feeding multitudes that were hungry. On such occasions they carried out stewarding duties or other modest practical tasks, but were certainly not in charge. Whatever problems arose they had been able to turn as a first or last resort to Jesus to fix. But now they have grasped that He is going away for an indefinite period of time and they have to take responsibility for carrying on the work. 

The questions flowed swiftly through their minds, what if….? How can we do….? Plenty of questions but precious few convincing answers; Help! As they began to feel emotionally overwhelmed at the responsibilities now laid firmly at their feet. Is it possible to carry on? Can we work in the new ways that this situation will demand?  

Does it sound familiar? Or should I put it another way –is there anyone out there whose routines have not been changed or whose responsibilities are exactly the same as only a few weeks ago. Leaving aside those living in full-time residential care homes that are rightly cared for by those set apart to fulfil those responsibilities, everyone else has had to make majoradjustments as to how they operate on a daily basis. 

For some of us ‘working from home’ has become the new normal with probably varying degrees of success. But when there are young children or pets around who do not adapt very easily to new social arrangements during the day there will be times when little work is accomplished.

For others, work will be juggled with assisting family members, friends or neighbours who are self-isolating. Of course there are others unable to go to work due to current restrictions and the extra free time may quickly become a burden when the DIY jobs around the house or garden are all completed. In such cases, anxiety about how long this crisis will continue and concerns about being able to restart work will become a growing concern. What was Jesus offering to help His followers then and now through this time that was for them about to commence?

First of all the Holy Spirit would give them the necessary strength and resilience to carry on. All they had to do was pray from their hearts for God to intervene in their lives and their prayers would be answered. We must be very careful here to say that God’s answers to our prayers can be ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ when we request things. Most of the time it is us not our circumstances that are changed; He enables us to adapt to our new situations then and now. We have to deal with the reality we experience, but with God’s help we can survive and sometimes even thrive when given new ways of working.        

Secondly, Jesus said: Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Peace is not merely an absence of conflict or war or silence instead of constant noise.  It is something much more significant He is offering to us.  It is a sense of well-being or wholeness in the midst of the current crisis. Being paralysed by fear at what cannot be done doesn’t help anyone.

By contrast, Jesus promises to help us calmly see things in perspective to work out what we can do in a situation and leave the rest to Him. It is remarkable how often when we do what we can and other people do what they can, how much has been accomplished. This current crisis is likely to continue for some time, so ask God one day at a time for the strength to do all you need to do that day and trust Him to take care of the rest. 

Brian Talbot