Peace and Distraction
It is always an arresting thing to read the Bible and realize how many times the Lord promises ‘peace’ to his people. I was reminded of this again this last week as I listened to the sermon at Christ Church. David Court, preached on John 20:19-23. What was striking was David’s point that the first words Jesus says when he comes into this locked upper room is, “Peace be with you.” This is a group of his disciples. They are beleaguered, fearful, and unsure about the future. Jesus shows up and he blesses them with peace.
This isn’t something unique that moment. In the book of Numbers we read the Aaronic blessing, and it says:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24–26
We all long for peace, but can never seem to find it. How often do we say, ‘If I just get through xyz, then everything will slow down, and I can get some rest.’ The irony being the moment that we finish whatever it was we were working on, there is another pile of work to get done that makes us even busier than before. So, we search for peace and rest in other things. We distract ourselves with entertainment, with food, with power, with money, thinking these things will give us the peace for which we long. Yet, time and time again we find that what we think will satisfy our longing for peace, only leaves us more empty than when we started. Bavinck put it this:
Therein exists, just as, Pascal has so profoundly developed, the greatness and at the same time the misery of man. He thirst for truth, and yet he is untruthful by nature. He longs for peace and yet he throws himself from one distraction to another. He hunts for an enduring, eternal, happiness and yet he seizes the pleasures of the moment. He seeks for God and yet he loses himself in the creature. He is born the son of the house, and yet he feeds with a pig in a foreign land (Luke 15:11-32). He forsakes the fountain of living waters and hewed out broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13). He is like a hungry man who dreams, and behold, he is eating, and awakes and is still famished and his soul is thirsty (Isa. 29:8).
The peace we are created to experience can only be found in one place. We search for it everywhere, but it is only in the one who promises peace that it can be found. Early in Jesus’ ministry he promises that all those who come to him will receive the peace, the rest for which their souls long:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. - Matthew 11:28–30
The thing that is amazing about this is that immediately after making this promise to give rest to the souls of those who come to him, Jesus starts to heal people on the Sabbath. The peace that we long for, Jesus promises to all who would come to him, and then he shows us this by giving us a taste of it on the Sabbath. On the Lord’s Day, as we gather for worship the thing that our souls long for the most is tasted even if it is only for a moment. We taste the peace that has been promised as we come to Christ and he meets us there in worship.
Augustine, in his Confessions, reminded us of this same thing:
You move us to delight in praising you; for you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
We are a restless people. We think that distraction is the same thing as peace, but deep down inside we know it is not. We long for peace. We long to find rest. Thus, the Lord holds it out before us. He promises it to us. He says, ‘Come!’ So, let’s run to the one who promises the peace that our hearts so desperately need.