The Power Source

Where do we get the energy, the strength, to be a peacemaker in the middle of a violent, chaotic world? My recent posts have discussed some of the hard teachings of Jesus about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek – radical teachings for sure, so how can we do this?

There have been many times in recent years when I have faced some difficult challenges in Russia, when bureaucrats or political extremists have tried to block our efforts to build a school. My initial response to opposition is to fight back, but when I reconsider and decide to respond as a peacemaker, I then often get very discouraged because I sometimes lack the energy for another struggle. It is times like this when I have learned that I need to find energy, to find power, in another source. That’s what I want to share in this post.

Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”

When Jesus met with his disciples in the Upper Room during the week before his trial and crucifixion, he said some remarkable things that the Apostle John recorded in his Gospel. But first let me set the context. After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem during Passover week, he withdraws from the crowds who celebrated his donkey ride into the city. Instead of seizing the opportunity to mobilize the crowds who hailed him as a political liberator from Roman rule, Jesus orders his disciples to rent a private room where he pours out his heart to these twelve men.

You can sense the intensity of Jesus’ words to his disciples as you read through chapters 13-17 of John’s Gospel. Jesus washes their feet, talks with them about being servants, and predicts his own betrayal. Then he tells them that he will ask God the Father to send “another Counselor [Helper] to be with you forever.” He explains that “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, . . . will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you“ (John 14: 15 and 25-27).

Jesus summarizes his message in the word “peace” (shalom), the gift he would give to his followers, a gift promised by the Old Testament prophets. Jesus says: “Peace 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 be afraid” (John 14: 15 and 25-27). His gift of “peace” was not something that non-believers would understand, but it was a fulfillment of his life, death and resurrection.

Caravaggio’s “Doubting Thomas”

After his resurrection, the disciples are hiding behind locked doors because they fear they will also be arrested and possibly executed. Jesus enters the room and says “Peace be with you!” This was not a typical “Hello.” After showing his followers his wounds, Jesus breathes on them, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the “breath of God.” What Jesus had promised in the Upper Room, he gives them this night in anticipation of Pentecost, fifty days later when he poured out his Spirit in ways the disciples never expected.

Jesus gave his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit and he offers this same gift to us. Jesus knew that his followers would never be able to be peacemakers and reconcilers in a broken world without the power and energy that they receive from the Holy Spirit. We simply are not able to be people who live a life of shalom without the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. But with the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can do amazing things — in fact, Jesus said we will be able to do greater things than he had done (John 14:12)! Isn’t that incredible? Why are we so fearful and unwilling to take risks as peacemakers, when we have these promises from God?

So What?

  • One of the key issues followers of Jesus face is whether or not we trust the promises he makes to us. God is a God of covenants, of promises, yet isn’t it easy to forget these when we face tough situations?
  • Can you think of a circumstance in your life when you faced a difficult time, but chose to believe in God’s promises despite what others might be saying?
  • We need to remember that God desires to use us to achieve his purposes in our world, but that our ability to be used for making the world a better place is not because of our talent, but because of the Spirit of God in us. Doesn’t this help us to relax?