I had so many questions that I had no idea where to begin. I met my mother in my early twenties and spend years trying to figure out how to start the conversation. I expend time going through a catalogue of questions, saying to myself; maybe this one, no I think this one is better. It took me a long time, in fact it was only about four years ago that I dare ask my first question. I had many other questions but I did not want her to feel guilty or become defensive.
I imagine that is how the disciples felt about Jesus. The gospel of John dedicates five chapters to narrate the farewell conversation between Jesus and his disciples. John begins his story by saying: "It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love." (John 13:1) Because of this great love that Jesus had for his disciples, he is trying to reassure them as the time of his death approaches.
During his conversation he tells them: “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come." Obviously these words only bring more anxiety to the already fearful group. So Jesus responds by telling them that there is a difference between them and the rest of humanity. "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
Upon hearing this Judas, one of the disciples, asked “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus responds saying that it is not Jesus choice to do this but people's choice. Jesus answer to Judas is strange. Jesus said, “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. Whoever 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."
To actually understand what Jesus is saying to have to go back to the beginning of John's gospel. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1, 14) If you love the word of God, you love Jesus, because Jesus is God's word made human.
When you love God's word, when you allow God's word to become part of who you are that word will be manifested in your daily life. The psalmist reminds us about the power of God's word: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth." (Psalm 33:6) The connection with the powerful word of God will help you live by Jesus example. Psalm 119 tells us, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11) The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us: "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
Christians will not be left alone, the Holy Spirit will come with two main purposes. One is to teach them everything they need to know and the other is to remind them what Jesus had already taught them. I do not have to be afraid of anyone misleading me because the Holy Spirit will be reminding me the words that will keep me on the way of life. And if there is something that Jesus never addressed, the Holy Spirit will teach me what I need to know.
After that sense of security based on our love for the word of God, Jesus gives his disciples and us a parting gift. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives." The more I hear about what stress can do, the more I appreciate Jesus gift. Peace is one thing that everyone wants, but it seems to escape most people. Jesus says that he does not give this peace as the world gives. What does that mean? It could mean that the peace is different or that the giving is different.
One way that the world attempts to give us peace is by force. The comedian Bill Cosby have a line in which he tells his son, "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out." The strong imposing peace on the weak is one of the most common strategy used by the world. The other interpretation is that the peace itself is different. The world means something different than what Jesus means by peace.
Many believe that peace is when there is no danger or trouble ahead of us. The gospel of Matthew tell us that on one occasion Jesus and his disciples got into a boat to cross the sea of Galilee, when "without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." (Matthew 8:23-26) Jesus was not promising peace from trouble, but peace in the midst of trouble.
The biggest threat to peace is not danger, but fear. When Jesus gave his peace to the disciples he warned them saying: "Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." Fear not only shows our lack of trust in God, but it destroys our peace. We lose our ability to think, which is our most precious human gift. When we act under the influence of fear we dehumanize ourselves and our neighbors. And yet the church has been one of the biggest sources of fear.
A couple of weeks ago I received an invitation to attend a live simulcast of an event hosted by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. The event is entitled: Epicenter Conference 2010. According to the invitation the event is about “building a global movement of Christians to bless Israel, come what may. In order to raise the interest of possible participants they pose three questions: Can a full blown train wreck between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government be averted? What will happen to the United States or any nation if that nation stops blessing Israel? How can Christians truly demonstrate unconditional love and unwavering support to Israel in real and practical ways?
I may be getting old and sensitive but I felt like I was being threatened. I felt as if I were to criticize the Israeli government for how they are treating the Palestinian people something awful will happen to me. In fact, if our president pushes too much Mr. Netanyahu about justice and mercy the plagues that felt upon Egypt during the exodus will visit our country. Fear is a great motivator for action, but not necessarily action for good.
For the past week the news media have been telling us about Faisal Shahzad who a week ago Saturday parked a Pathfinder packed with a homemade bomb. In this failed attempt Mr. Shahzad left so many evidences that it is an easy case. Especially since he has been cooperating; telling interrogators more than they ever wanted to know. He told investigators that he drew inspiration from the teachings of Imam Anwar al-Awlaki who is also a US citizen. Mr. Shahzad himself became an American citizen last year. In an article in the Wall Street Journal of Friday May 7 they write about the need to monitor US citizens.
On thursday, only four days after Mr. Shahzad arrest, senator Joseph Lieberman and senator Scott Brown, introduced legislation that would allow the government to revoke American citizenship from people suspected of allying themselves with terrorists. It would appear that Mr. Shahzad was successful in terrorizing these two senators into dangerous territory. All is needed is to be suspected of knowing a terrorist and your citizenship is gone. You will become someone with no country.
"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." Please listen to Jesus.