1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
6 Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
23Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
What scares you?
What troubles you?
Jesus kept saying it, kept repeating it that night: Let not your hearts be troubled. But it’s difficult to imagine a more troubling context in which to try to say such a thing! Jesus kept talking about peace, but all hell was about to break loose on Jesus and on his band of followers. In fact, the mayhem at hand had already begun. Judas had already fled the table by the time Jesus said the words contained in these verses. What’s more, Peter’s impending denials of Jesus had also been foretold. The atmosphere was as taut as a snare drum. It was also unspeakably sad.
It would not surprise me in the least if the words Jesus spoke in verse 1 had been spoken even as Jesus’ lips trembled and as tears formed in the corners of his eyes. The Bible almost never tells us how a given line was spoken—unlike novels or short stories or movie scripts, the Bible does not have descriptive adverbs like “He said sternly” or “She said softly.” So we’re left to imagine in what tones of voice various lines were spoken.
In the case of John 14, we often assume Jesus was speaking confidently, strongly, bravely. But what if—having just seen one disciple flee to betray him and having just told another disciple he would soon deny him—what if Jesus’ tone were more sorrowful, a bit fraught with emotion in a tone of voice not unlike the way some of us may speak at a funeral when we’re struggling to keep our own voice from breaking in case the emotion of the moment catches up with us?
If we can imagine Jesus speaking these words of comfort and peace in a tone of voice that matched the acoustics of that room on that dark night in which he was betrayed, then the poignancy of it all hits home in a new way. After all, even Jesus said he did not give peace as the world gives, and it’s a good thing, too. This world is, after all, anything-but peaceful most of the time. And so what little peace it has to offer us is always provisional, always suspect, always precarious. The world cannot finally give what it does not firmly possess itself. A poor person can promise you all the money in the world but they have none to give you in the end. A world in love with war can promise you peace but in the end there’s seldom enough real and lasting peace to go around.
These are troubling times.
These are fearful times.
If there is to be peace at all, it has to come from somewhere else. That’s where Jesus comes in, of course. But the fact that he can extend even this lasting peace in perhaps a broken voice and with a tear or two streaming down his face lets us know for sure that the very features to this world that make us most pine for peace cannot ruin or snatch away that peace. It is possible to embrace Jesus’ peace in the midst of turmoil and woe, and we know that for certain because even the time and place and manner in which Jesus spoke about such peace in John 14 was proof positive that the terrors of- this world cannot cancel the shalom Jesus brought. It didn’t do so that night. You really can believe in lasting peace AND cry in sorrow at the same time.
Nor does the presence of hardship in our lives, therefore, mean that the Holy Spirit that Jesus also promises here has abandoned us. The two can and do co-exist: the Spirit and our hurts, Jesus’ peace and our hardships.
And I suspect we all know deep down in our hearts exactly why that fact is such very good news indeed. So as we struggle through this pandemic. As we seek out toilet paper and hand santizer. As we check on friends and neighbors. As we wait for this chaos to subside. May we hold onto Jesus words:
23-24 “Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.
25-27 “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.
28 “You’ve heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, and I’m coming back.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.
29-31 “I’ve told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in me. I’ll not be talking with you much more like this because the chief of this godless world is about to attack. But don’t worry—he has nothing on me, no claim on me. But so the world might know how thoroughly I love the Father, I am carrying out my Father’s instructions right down to the last detail.
“Get up. Let’s go. It’s time to leave here.”
Commentary provided by Elizabeth Johnson, Scott Hoezee, David Lose and Karyn Wiseman