John Reed, an American, communist journalist, reported on the 1918 Russian Bolshevik Revolution. He called it, ‘Ten Days that Shook the World”. John Reed would have done better to report on the ‘tenth day’ that shook the world. What came that day is what Jesus promised in John Chapter 14. It is one of two bequests He has given. Let me remind you of these two bequests. In our troubled day they will enable us and our churches to live, grow and flourish.
Revolution is in the air. The repulsive George Floyd incident is in the rearview mirror. Marxist tantrums are erupting. America’s soul is being tested. Congressional leaders, mayors, and governors are abetting street revolutionaries. These revolutionaries do not just want to bring down Washington and Lincoln statues; they want to bring down our constitutional republic - and the Judeo-Christian faith with it. A bureau of government has committed treason. Attorney General William Barr recently said the Trump-Russia probe is the closest the United States came to a coup to remove a President since the assassination of Lincoln.
According to recent academic studies, universities and the media are in collusion with these forces; they are hostile to our constitutional, free market society which presupposes God. The LGBTQI campaign is pressing hard to foist on America its atheistic program of deconstructing the nuclear family and dismantling ‘Cisgender Privilege’. Where’s our church? Neutralized by idolatry and irreconcilable division - and weakened by our governor and bishop.
The evening news seems bad on every front; I feel embattled, pummeled, and fearful. Recently, I read again Jesus’ summation of John Chapter 14. Let me remind you of two bequests He promises His disciples, including you and me. In these troubled times, Jesus’ bequests are the only reasons you and I and our churches will live, thrive, and grow.
At the end of John Chapter 14, Jesus summarizes His last words to His disciples. He is on the cusp of the crucifixion. He brings into the summary key points He has been stressing. He is telling them these things while ‘I am still with you’. Jesus wants to assure them what is coming is not happenstance; it is according to God’s foreknowledge and divine plan. The disciples will not be left to the ruler of this world, to his chaotic forces of evil - for our Lord says he ‘has no power over me’.
The disciples are trying to wrap their heads around Jesus leaving. His leaving we still have to reckon with today. Jesus had told his disciples earlier, ‘I am with you only a little longer’. Jesus’ leaving feels like a parent’s desertion. Some in our community know that reality. He assures us, ‘I will not leave you orphaned’ - parentless, without protection, and alone to fend for yourself against the dark forces. ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever’ says our Lord. The Paraclete is the ‘Spirit of truth’ who will ‘remain with/beside you and will be in you’…forever; the Paraclete will ‘teach you all things and remind you all that I have said to you.’ Pentecost was the ‘tenth day’ after Jesus’ ascension. This is the tenth day - the day the Holy Spirit came and shook the world.
In these troubled times, we are not orphaned; we are not alone; and we are not deserted. The Paraclete remains with you, beside you and in you and me…forever. Who is this “Paraclete”? There is no English equivalent for the New Testament word “Paraclete”. “Paraclete” was used in ancient secular Greek and by rabbis as a legal defender of someone accused before a Roman ruler. Shakespeare’s character in “Henry VI” quipped, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”. We may feel that way some times. On the other hand, I saw my daughter defend in court a boy that a male teacher had tried to seduce; I had tears in my eyes: the helpless has a defender! Today, in these disturbing times we citizens, Christian believers, and the Christian church feel helpless. Do not despair. We have the Defender! Guess what? The other side does not! The world does not know or see Him. It is not empowered by and cannot receive the Spirit. The world is outmanned! It is overpowered! It is without the Agency of Heaven!
The legal metaphor doesn’t fully describe the “Paraclete”. He is more than an advocate or legal counselor. ‘Helper’ is a broader term to describe the “Paraclete”. “Paraclete” describes one who comes to the aid of someone in trouble He is a ‘champion’. The “Paraclete’ is the One who intervenes for the defenseless giving help, protection and defense. Novelist Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is a 6’5” ex-military policeman. In a recent Jack Reacher novel a middle age man has an ill daughter. He and his wife have exhausted their resources trying to pay for new treatment for her. In desperation, he borrows money from a shady loan shark with ties to the Ukrainian mob. Ukrainian tough guys bully and threaten him. Jack Reacher feels sorry for him. He comes to the man’s aid and single-handedly intervenes against the mob. I have come to think of the “Paraclete” as a kind of holy Jack Reacher, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, or the Avengers. Count on Him to intervene; maybe not with their visual muscle or panache, but trust Him to interpose Himself our behalf!
In His summation, Jesus reassures his disciples with another bequest: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, or cowardly.’ Peace? What does peace mean? The Old Testament word for peace, ‘shalom’, has different shades: a) soundness of body b) general welfare or prosperity c) contentment d) reconciliation. In the New Testament, the reconciliation of the cross comprises all these shades.
In the 1960’s, I had no peace: there was strife between America and the Soviet Union; strife in the streets between black and white: strife between the radical protester and the government; strife between male and female; and strife between my parents. At the time, I did not know all of these become flashpoints because of our estrangement from God. My problem - each person’s problem - and those in our country’s problem is enmity with God. ‘We were enemies’ says the apostle Paul. I had to own up to it; I was enemies with God like Winston Churchill was with Lady Astor. She said to him, “If I were your wife, I’d put poison in your tea”. He replied, “Madam, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.”
God broke the impasse: he sued for peace. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us”. God brings Christmas to give us Easter. He comes in the flesh dying on the cross to bring me into friendly relations with Himself: “God and sinners reconciled!” Abraham Lincoln said, “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” Jesus made a friend of me. In accepting him by faith, I found ‘he is our peace’. The peace Jesus leaves is reconciliation with God and with one another, male and female, black and white, young and old. This is the peace we pray nihilists bent on destruction will find.
In conclusion, Jesus bequeaths us the Helper, the Champion, and ‘peace’; therefore, ‘do not let your heart be troubled, agitated, disturbed’, or cowardly’. Jesus says this in the imperative and presents us with a conundrum: how can Jesus tell us not to be troubled He himself ‘was troubled’? The same word used to describe his state at Lazarus’ tomb and at the betrayal at the Last Supper is used here: he was disturbed and shaken. His troubled state never kept Him from doing His Father’s will. Every time over the last forty years I have gone to the floor microphone to speak at the California-Pacific and Virginia Annual Conferences, I have trembled, hyperventilated, and been a general basket case. Whatever else I may say about myself, I have not been cowardly. Even though I was greatly agitated, I spoke on! We have to not be troubled with being troubled!! Go on, even if you cannot go on. Go on…in spite of feeling trouble and distressed. Think on, speak on and act on in these troubled times. ‘Do not let your heart be trouble’. Do not be cowardly. We have the Helper -the Defender- the Paraclete. We have peace… and that is more than enough!