6th Sunday of Easter, Year C
Jesus’s Definition of Peace—Not Ours
My favorite line in this gospel is, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you” (v. 27). It’s a much needed reminder that we simply don’t understand how God works. Our definition of peace and Jesus’s definition of peace are not the same. It reminds me of Isaiah 55:8, “For your thoughts are not My thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.”
When I think of my definition of peace, I picture the four of us in Maine. We’ve just had a great hike—no family squabbles—followed by a plunge in the chilly pond. Darkness has begun to envelop the water, the loon calls, and we can spot a distant sparkle of a star. We clear the dishes, pour a drink, and pull out a board game or a deck of cards—again no family squabbles. In this dream scenario, I know where my children are going after our vacation—what school, what job. I know they will have good and fulfilling jobs and be able to take care of themselves, that they will also feel the importance of giving both their time and their treasure to those less fortunate. In my reverie, I know that Mark and I will always be able to do fulfilling work, and that we won’t ever be a burden on our kids. I also know that my kids will be healthy and live long and fruitful lives. Just typing this makes me smile. A concern about world peace niggles at the edges of my imaginings, but I silence it with the thought, “If everyone could have this kind of peace, we’d all be set. There’d be no strife in the world,” and go back to my reverie.
As pretty a picture as that is, it’s not the peace Jesus was talking about. Not that He doesn’t want us to have all of that, but none of it is promised or guaranteed. Yet, Jesus still wants us to have peace. His peace. The question is, do we want what He offers?
What Jesus offers is, essentially, peace in the unknowing, in the chaos, in the fear. Jesus never says because we believe in Him we won’t have chaos and fear, that we will know or understand everything. Jesus never says He will solve our problems, but, even better (though it may not seem like that at the time), He does say He is with us in all our times of difficulty. He had His own issues here on earth, and He empathizes with us down to the minutiae. He is here.
Jesus’s peace “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), because we can’t understand it.
We aren’t supposed to. We’re just supposed to enjoy it. But to take advantage of His gift, we have to be open to His peace. In times of trouble, it may seem more mature to be frantic or worried or otherwise distracted. That’s the world talking. That attitude denies the peace Jesus offers. Jesus’s peace is there all the time; we just have to be willing to be open to it.
There was a period in our lives when my husband and I had several surprise curve balls thrown at us all at once. But, you know what? That was one of the most peaceful periods of my entire life. Literally going day-by-day, not looking too far ahead, we were forced to live in the moment, an odd position for two planners. I’m glad that time is over, and I hope we don’t have to go through it again, but Jesus was there. I could feel Him.