John 14:1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me."
Whenever we enter into John 13-17, one of the major themes we find throughout those chapters is that of "trouble". Christians often think that following Jesus will mean exemption from distress. Whenever we turn to the pages of the Old or New Testaments, we find troubles and trials unwelcome companions in the life of faith. Jesus knew that the hearts of his disciples were roiling waves of anxiety. He had announced to them that one of them was going to betray Him. As the eyes of each disciple darted from one of their fellow-disciples to another, such a thought as betrayal brought instant pain. Only one found it to his benefit - Judas.
In today's post we want to explore Jesus' prescriptions for soothing our hearts when troubles arise. Let's briefly look at four of them found in John 13:36-14:4.
1. Prayers of Jesus. Luke 22:31-32; John 13:36-38
We know from early on in Jesus' ministry that prayer was a priority (see Mark 1:35). The comforting thought for the Christian today has to do with Jesus' current ministry on their behalf. Whenever we turn to the letters of the New Testament, we find spelled out the High Priestly office of the Lord Jesus Christ as He occupies at the Father's right hand. Hebrews 4:14-15 states - "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." The comfort found in the high priestly ministry or "session" of Jesus is that it not only persists at this present moment, but will continue on into eternity. Hebrews 7:24-25 reminds us - "(B)ut Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." To know that Jesus prays for His people in their defense is further stated in 1 John 2:1 - "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
Now as we return to the scene of the upper room on the eve of Christ's crucifixion, we find the disciples troubled over the announcement of someone betraying Jesus. The Apostle Peter speaks up and says He will never betray Jesus, with Jesus informing him that Peter will betray him before the rooster crows (John 13:36-38). In Luke's Gospel we find the same incident with the added caveat of Jesus stating to Peter that He is interceding for Peter not to fall away in Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
The same Lord Jesus that interceded for Peter's faith not to fail (and it didn't) is the same One that prays on behalf of believers today. At times I feel like life is going to cave-in on me. Yet, I know Jesus is praying for me and thus - my heart is soothed.
2. Presence of God John 14:1
Not only do Jesus' prayers soothe the troubled heart, but notice also the presence of God. Jesus asserts His equality with the Father in John 14:1-6. By asserting His co-equality with the Father, Christ is saying that His presence is God's presence; His promises are God's promises and therefore - the disciples can find comfort. As we noted before, the theme of trouble weaves its way through these verses. However, let me hasten to note that the presence of God meets these troubles every step of the way.
We read for example of “Jesus troubled in spirit” in John 13:21, yet, He knew at the beginning of the chapter that all things were in the Father's hands (John 13:1-4). Whenever Jesus states in John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled”, He backs this up with the statement "you believe in God, you believe also in me". In John 14:27, Jesus asserts His ability to give the God-kind of peace in the following way - “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you”. John 16:33 is perhaps the most helpful of these passages - "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
In all these instances, we see the presence of God incarnate. One writer notes: “Christ is God standing forth as separate but not essentially different from the Father.”
3. Place called Heaven. John 14:2-3
As Jesus speaks on in John 14, we find Him making reference to the believer's heavenly home. What makes "Heaven, Heaven?" Is it the streets of gold? The mansions? As wonderful as these things are, there is only One Person that makes Heaven Heaven - Jesus Himself. Heaven is described in quite literal and physical terms. Jesus uses the word "place". The text of John 14:1-3 can be taken to refer to what Jesus is going to do when He returns. In one respect John 14:1-3 is describing the Lord's promise to take with Him believers who are alive and those who are in the grave (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
However there is a second sense in which these passages speak - namely the current place of residence for the saints who go on ahead in death.
2 Corinthians 5:6-7 notes - "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight." I can recall when my father passed away years ago. One of the most comforting texts was not only John 14:1-3, but also Hebrews 12:22-24 "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight." When I have done funerals for those whose Christian loved-ones have passed away, I love sharing 2 Peter 1:10-11 "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."
The place called "Heaven" is the third heaven referred to by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. As wonderful as that place is, it won't compare to what will be the "New Heavens and New Earth" of which Peter and John write of respectively in their letters and books (see 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21-22). John MacArthur notes in a fairly recent sermon on this text:
"Yes, He will come again and rapture the church, 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, gather the church to Himself. Yes, the rapture of the church is the next eschatological prophetic event. We don’t know when it’s going to happen. But in the meantime whenever a believer dies, the picture here is of the Lord standing to receive him. And that’s what he says: “I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am, there you may be also. What is heaven? It is the place where Christ is and where He receives a believer to Himself. It is where we will all be related to Him in a perfect relationship, personally receiving each believer."
4. Personal return of Jesus. John 14:4-5
So we have seen three prescriptions for soothing the troubled heart thus far: prayers of Jesus for His people; presence of God and the place called Heaven. Let's consider one more prescription - the personal return of Jesus. Now we alluded to this in the last thought. Jesus was thinking in terms of what happens to Christians after death as well as what will occur at the end of this age. The realities of Heaven, though subtly distinguished in the scriptures (third heaven now, new heavens later), yet there is still a lot about heaven that we will yet to behold once we get there.
Thankfully, Christ's return and promise in bringing all those who have trusted in Him by faith need not remain an abstract thought. This promise brings with it concrete hope. 1 John 3:1-3 notes - "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." As Jesus was talking to His disciples, there is implicit the prospect of He being alive and well - referring of course to His resurrection, ascension and what will be His second coming.
Today we have considered four prescriptions to sooth the soul:
1. Prayers of Jesus
2. Presence of God
3. Place called Heaven
4. Personal return of Jesus
May these four truths bring peace to us in times such as these.