“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” John 14:27 KJV (Cambridge Edition)
Peace – The Greek word for “peace” is eirene. In Classic Greek it meant, “the absence of war.” By implication, it came to mean “health, well-being and prosperity.” But the Greek meaning placed the word in a context of a state of being. It was a description of external or internal conditions. The Greek concept assumes that the natural state of the world is war. Peace is merely a respite between battles.
When the word was used in the New Testament, the Hebrew influence changed this context. The word took on the sense of relationships, not of conditions. In the New Testament, the word is not primarily associated with resolution of political conflict, good health, personal well being or even prosperity. It is associated with words like love, grace, glory, honor, righteousness and mercy. Its opposites are also words about relationships: anxiety, anguish, fear, confusion, division, distress. In spite of the fact that shalom is the typical greeting of a wish for well being, the context of shalom is not primarily in the material world of possessions or assets. Shalom begins with right relationships because right relationships determine all the other factors in life. Fixing my retirement plan will not improve my relationship with my wife, but improving my relationship with my wife will certainly have an effect on my retirement plan.
We would like to read this verse as if Yeshua were granting peace to His followers. But Yeshua is not telling his disciples that He is leaving them in a state of blessed euphoria. He is not granting them a condition of happiness, prosperity and personal well being. He says that He is leaving them His peace. What is His peace? This statement comes before the death and resurrection, during the conversation at the Last Supper. Yeshua is preparing His followers for events that will appear to be the end of everything. He will die. Yet He tells them not to be afraid. He is leaving them a special relationship made possible only because He is finishing His mission. This is not peace that will some day be theirs. It is present-moment peace. It is the settled confidence that my relationship with God has been repaired. It is the declaration that God has opened the door for me. Notice that Yeshua “gives” this peace and “leaves” this peace with us. It is not an announcement that we have accomplished something. It is a gift left behind for us to enjoy. Yeshua is giving His followers a going-away present. That present is unbroken fellowship with God. It is a present that we can have now that will last forever. It places a safety net over our lives that nothing can take away.
Peace begins with the gift of God’s presence. Any form of pseudo-peace, of false security or illusory tranquility built on a foundation other than right relationship with God is simply an intermission between conflicts. That’s not what Yeshua gives, not even close. Maybe it would be worthwhile to ask what kind of peace you are pursuing.
Topical Index: peace, eirene, shalom, war, well being, John 14:27