The Spirit’s gifts of love, joy and peace lie at the heart of God the Father’s relationship with us. They really belong inseparably together, but last week’s blog would have been too long if I had commented on all three in it! So we just looked at joy last week and now move on to love and peace. Thank you, Father, for these three amazing gifts!
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. The music of this old chorus is of course now totally antiquated, but its heart message remains. What a wonderful reality! And it is not only Jesus who loves us, but also “The Father himself loves you”, Jesus assures his disciples. For so many people God seems to be a distant and irrelevant ‘old man up top’, but for those of us who follow Jesus he has shown himself to be the Father who loves us. What an immense privilege it is to love and be loved by a parent, spouse or children and grandchildren! The assurance of love is so precious. And even more amazing is the truth that as Christians we can have a loving relationship with God the Father himself. I personally never knew my human father because he died a few months before I was born. Some other people have bad memories of their human father. But for us all we can bask in the warmth and joy of an intimate relationship of love with God himself as the eternal, ideal and perfect Father. Rejoice! Take a moment to be still and let the Father’s love warm your heart!
Because the heavenly Father himself loves us, Jesus declares that he does not now need to mediate for us and ask the Father for us – although we know that he nevertheless ‘lives to make intercession for us’ (Hebrews 7.25) and he is at God’s right hand in glory “interceding for us” (Romans 8.34).
Λέγουσιν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ Ἴδε νῦν ἐν παρρησίᾳ λαλεῖς, καὶ παροιμίαν οὐδεμίαν λέγεις.
In this context Jesus feels free to speak openly and clearly to his disciples. Formerly he had often used proverbs and parables in figurative forms of communication because he feared that people would twist or misunderstand his teaching. Now, however, with the immediacy of his cross and resurrection, ‘his hour’ has come and he doesn’t need to avoid misunderstanding any more. Now he speaks (Greek = proclaims, a more significant word) ‘boldly’. In NIV this latter word is translated as “plainly” and “clearly”, but it really conveys the sense of a boldness which is based on absolute assurance of its truth. Thus in Ephesians 6.19 Paul asks people to pray that he may “fearlessly (same Greek word) make known the mystery of the gospel”. Jesus says that now he will boldly proclaim the good news of us being loved by God the Father. This relationship of love is the very heart of the gospel. It is indeed very good news in a world which is full of unhappy relationships!
What leads to us being loved by the Father? Jesus makes it clear. God loves us “because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (16.27). As good Pauline evangelicals we might have expected him to emphasize faith in Jesus’ atoning work for our sin. But this is not a major emphasis in John’s Gospel. In John’s Gospel the key is our faith in Jesus as the one who is sent by the Father into the world in order that through faith in Jesus we might come into a relationship of love with the Father. Again, good news indeed!
Jesus’ disciples may abandon him and leave him to the horrors of his trial and then his crucifixion all on his own without their support, but he reassures them that actually he will not be alone. His Father is constantly with him (16.32) and will be with him when his disciples ‘forsake him and flee’. Likewise Jesus reminds them that they have (continuous present tense – not just future) affliction and suffering in this world (16.33). But in this context of tribulation, Jesus encourages them with the assurance that he has “overcome the world”. It may seem that this world’s anti-Christian opposition and indifference reigns supreme, but finally the victory lies in Jesus’ hands. He is king, while Satan is merely the prince of this world. Jesus and his righteousness will be vindicated. Through his cross, resurrection and ascension he is victorious over all the evil powers of this world. With this message of victory he reassures his suffering and apparently weak followers.
“I have told you these things”, Jesus says, “so that in me you may have peace” (16.33). In a world full of troubles and insecurities, what a lovely gift Jesus’ peace is! Jesus points out that this gift of God’s peace is “in me”. It is only as we rest in in the loving arms of the victorious Jesus that we can enjoy his peace. It is only as we remember in faith that Jesus has won the victory and now rules supreme over the affairs of this world that we can have God’s peace permeating our hearts and thoughts.
Joy, love and peace. “Against such there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires”, Paul declares (Galatians 5.23/24) as he lists these wonderful fruits of the Spirit. He then exhorts us, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” So let us allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with joy, with love and with peace!