John 14: 27-31
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
30 Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
31 But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.
In these Bible verses, Jesus begins his farewell to his disciples, and the chapter closes with the words: ‘Rise, let us go hence.’ The natural continuation would then be the verse which opens chapter 18: ‘When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.’ However, Jesus continues to teach his disciples through chapters 15 to 17. We are aware, then, of the rearrangements which seem to have taken place as John composed his Gospel. The following chapters build on the themes of farewell, of the glory to come, and of Jesus’ relationship with his Father, as John hands on to us more of Jesus’ teaching, so that we may understand more fully. Perhaps, through the preceding words, ‘Arise, let us go hence,’ we may feel ourselves more inclined to hear these teachings of Jesus in the context of his imminent departure, and with the sweet sorrow this entails.
The gift of peace, bequeathed to the disciples by Jesus, is of a quality distinct from civic peace, the peace of the world. Under Roman rule, the Pax Romana was enforced, often brutally, by an occupying power, and came with entrenched, institutionalized inequalities, between, for example, Roman citizens and the occupied Jews, and too between freemen and slaves.
The peace given to us by Jesus completely transcends the peace of the world. It is founded on justice and equality of worth, the human dignity of each and every one of us. It is our reconciliation with God and with our fellow man. It is serenity of mind, in faith, in hope, in love, in charity. It is a gift of God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is the peace which we offer to each other as we celebrate the Eucharist.
While he has been on earth, Christ’s divine glory has been hidden behind his human nature. It is when, through his crucifixion, Jesus returns to his Father that he will be glorified, and in doing so will open the way to our eternal glory. For this reason, the disciples should rejoice at Jesus’ parting, however they are saddened, aware primarily of the physical separation that is to come. They have yet to learn that the gift of peace is to be completed through the parting of Jesus to go to be with his Father, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
‘For just as the vine-stock supplies and distributes the virtue of its own inherent natural quality to the shoots, so too the only begotten Word of God implants in his people a sort of affinity with his own nature and that of the Father. By the gift of the Spirit they are united with him by faith and every kind of holiness. He nourishes them so that they become devout, and he moves them to knowledge of all virtue and good works.’ St Cyril of Alexandria