TROUBLED HEARTS John 14
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me” (John 14:1).Jesus’ words of comfort and encouragement continue to relieve our troubled hearts.
The Holy Spirit.
These chapters, which contain the Last-Supper dialogue of Jesus, are filled with teaching on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Christians understand the Holy Spirit not as an influence or force, but as a Person, who with God the Father and the Son are united in Scripture’s one God. Here in John 14 the Spirit is given a personal name: Counselor. What ministries does the Holy Spirit have in our day? (1) He is the Source of believers’ spiritual power (John 14:16–17; 16:5–15; Acts 1:8). (2) He bonds us to Christ and to each other, making us one church and one family of God (1 Cor. 12:13). (3) He enables us to know God’s will and to control our sinful natures (Rom. 8:5–11). (4) He transforms our character and makes us more Christlike (Gal. 5:22–23; 2 Cor. 3:18). (5) He equips us for ministry, distributing spiritual gifts that enable us to contribute to the salvation and growth of others (1 Cor. 12–14; Rom. 12). In a very real sense, the vitality of our Christian lives depends on the Holy Spirit, whose ministries Christ introduces in this and the next few chapters of John’s Gospel.
Jesus encouraged His disciples to trust (14:1–4), calling Himself the “way, the truth, and the life” (vv. 5–7). Jesus had fully revealed God the Father in His own person (vv. 8–11): He would enable believers (v. 12) and would answer prayer (vv. 13–14). He would also give the Holy Spirit (vv. 15–20), and those who obey Him out of love will experience God’s presence (vv. 21–24). The Spirit, who would come after Jesus left, would bring believers peace (vv. 25–31).
Understanding the Text
“Do not let your hearts be troubled” John 14:1. The disciples seem to have had reason to be troubled! The leaders in Jerusalem were plotting Jesus’ death (10:31; 11:45–53). Jesus Himself predicted He would die (12:23–28). Jesus had just said one of them would betray Him (13:21), and that Peter would disown Him (v. 38). It was undoubtedly a troubled group of disciples that huddled around Christ. But Jesus had a solution for them—and for us. “Trust in God and in Me” (14:1). However grim the circumstances that threaten us, trust in God and Jesus has the power to quiet the troubled heart, and bring us peace. “In My Father’s house are many rooms” John 14:2–3. The image is in stark contrast to the “many mansions” of the dW¸ translators, who pictured manor houses on a hilltop, where aristocratic landowners lived in splendid isolation. In the Oriental house there were instead many rooms, frequently constructed around a central courtyard. There the entire family—the father, all his sons and their wives and their children—lived together. This is an image of the experience that awaits us when Jesus returns. Not splendid isolation, but the warmth of intimate fellowship, gathering together as a family to share endless joys. Whatever troubles us these days, Paul says, is “not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). This is one defense of the troubled heart. We can look ahead, sense what lies beyond our experience in this world, and find comfort. Yet as Jesus went on, He showed His disciples other sources of comfort for the believer: comfort here and now. “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” John 14:5–7 Thomas is the disciple we all recognize: the pessimist. He saw the dark side of everything, and was sure to point it out! Yet before we criticize Thomas, we need to remember that even when he was sure Jesus and all His disciples would be killed if they returned to Judea to help Lazarus, Thomas said to the rest, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (11:16). One of my good friends, the pastor of a church I attended for many years, is very much like Thomas. He can always be counted on to see, and to feel deeply, the dark side of things. Yet he is one of the few men I know who despite premonitions of doom is always ready to “also go” in any direction God leads. How I admire the pessimist who sees danger everywhere, yet loyally follows where Christ leads. If you’ve been dismissed as a pessimist—and the pessimist is often criticized in our churches—take comfort. Thomas, a pessimist who remained totally loyal, provides an example you can follow. Seeing difficulties is not the measure of a man. Being obedient despite them, is. “Lord, show us the Father” John 14:8–11. The remarks of both Thomas and Philip seem to be interruptions that cause Jesus to digress from His main line of teaching. Yet Jesus’ answer to each disciple adds important truth. Jesus told Thomas that if he realized fully who Jesus was he would know the Father also (v. 7). Philip’s question led Jesus to expand on this thought. “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (v. 9). Jesus so perfectly expresses the very person of God that to know Jesus is to know the Father. The individual who wonders what God is “really like” need only to look at Jesus Christ, and he or she will know. “He will do even greater things than these” John 14:12. This is another of those puzzling verses of Scripture. How can a mere human being, even though he or she believes in Jesus, do “greater things” than Jesus did here on earth? One suggestion is rooted in the observation that Peter, in preaching just one sermon (Acts 2), won more converts than Jesus did in His years of ministry! I think, however, that something more significant is implied. The works Jesus did here on earth were in accordance with the will of the Father, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. They were special—but not amazing. After all, Jesus is God the Son and as God, not only knows but is in full harmony with the Father’s will, and is always receptive to the Spirit’s leading. You and I on the other hand are mere creatures, and sinful creatures at that. It is a far more amazing and wonderful thing when we act in full harmony with the Father’s will, and are receptive to the Spirit’s leading and His power. Our “greater works” are greater in wonder—in the awesome realization that God can use weak, sinful creatures like us to accomplish His purposes in our world. “Whatever you ask in My name” John 14:13–14. The Christian’s power to do “greater works” is clearly rooted in prayer. We are not able to perform them: it is Christ in us who “will do” whatever we ask. But note that we ask “in My name.” This means more than tacking “in Jesus’ name” to the end of every petition. In Hebrew thought the “name” expresses the essential character of the thing or person named. To pray “in Jesus’ name” is to make requests that are in fullest harmony with Christ’s character and His purposes. When we pray in this way, we can be sure our prayers will be answered, and that God’s power will flow. “Another Counselor to be with you forever” John 14:16. Jesus would soon leave His disciples. Yet He would not leave them alone. The word translated “counselor,” parakletos, means “a person summoned to one’s aid.” The word translated “another,” allos, means “another of the same kind,” in distinction to another of a different kind. Jesus would leave, but God the Father would send the Holy Spirit, who like the Son is God, to be present for our aid and comfort. This Counselor is with us now, and forever. “I too will love him and show Myself to him” John 14:21–24. These verses contain one of the most significant teachings on the Christian life. How do we experience the presence of Christ? No one can see Him, and yet in some mystic sense believers through the ages have known His real presence. The principle Jesus laid down was: Love and obey. And the linkage between the two is that love stimulates obedience. In fact, the two are linked in an endless spiral. As love moves us to obey, obedience brings us closer to Jesus, which stimulates even more love. But a lack of love will lead to disobedience and a sense of unreality in our faith. If Jesus seems unreal to you, look first to your love, then to your obedience. “[He] will teach you all things” John 14:26. The Holy Spirit reminds us of what we have learned. The person who has made no effort to study and understand what Jesus has said will have nothing to be reminded of! “My peace I give you” John 14:27. At best the world knows an uneasy peace, for the world’s peace depends on circumstances. An earthquake, an outbreak of war, the loss of a job, a sickness—these are just a few of the things that destroy the world’s peace. In contrast Christ’s peace is independent of circumstances. It is rooted in the knowledge that God is our Father, Christ our Saviour, and heaven our home. Nothing that happens in this world can affect these realities.
Don’t Miss the Way(John 14:1–6)
As my dad got older, his eyesight began to betray him. It wasn’t that he couldn’t see. It was just that he didn’t see as well—or respond as well to what he saw. I’ll never forget the reaction of my two sons, Paul and Tim, after they took a rather wild ride with Dad in northern Wisconsin. He drove his camper—equipped truck along a narrow dirt road, tree branches whipping at its sides, as my two teens gripped whatever they could hold on to in the cab. “I’m not going to ride with Grandpa again!” they later announced. I could understand. Whenever I flew into Detroit, I always arranged to drive the car home when Dad picked me up. It really is dangerous when people can’t see that way. It’s dangerous spiritually too when people assume that there are many roads to God, and set off blithely down one of them, confident that it will ultimately lead them to Him. Jesus made it unequivocally clear that there is just one way that leads to God, and that He is the way. His words, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” stake out Christianity’s most exclusive claim. Other religions offer paths to follow. Others exhibit moral insight. Others hint at a life after death. But only in the person of Jesus Christ can anyone find THE way to God, THE truth about the universe, and THE life that is eternal. Only through Jesus can anyone approach God. My teens were right about not wanting to take a ride with my dad. And we’re right in trusting ourselves to no one except Jesus. Everyone else has missed the way.
The road to God really is marked with “One Way” signs.
You, my son, Have shown me God. Your kiss upon my cheek Has made me feel the gentle touch of Him who leads us on. The memory of your smile, when young, Reveals His face, As mellowing years come on apace. And when you went before, You left the gates of heaven ajar That I might glimpse, Approaching from afar, The glories of His grace. Hold, my son, my hand, Guide me along the path, That, coming, I may stumble not, Nor roam, Nor fail to show the way Which leads us home. -Grace Coolidge