Sunday 14th May 2017
John 14 verses 1- 14
Maggie Cogan – Reader
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Words we so often use at funerals
Which of God’s commandments would we say is the most difficult for us to obey? Perhaps we would say, “The commandment, ‘Do not lie’ is most difficult because when we’re in a tight spot and we can twist the truth just a little, it seems harmless.” We might say, “The commandment not to covet is really difficult to obey in a materialistic society. If somebody we know gets richer or they achieve a status that we want for ourselves, it’s hard not to be jealous of them.” Perhaps we might point to Jesus’ command not to lust as one being very difficult to obey in a sensual society. Or what about Paul’s commandment: “Do all things without grumbling?” Maybe we have thought complaining is our spiritual gift. There’s no way we could obey that commandment?
Indeed, there are many difficult commandments. I think one of the hardest commandments to obey is: “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. There’s so much to be troubled about: potential war and terrorist attacks, political corruption, Brexit – the General Election - crime and violence, and economic pressure. If we weren’t feeling troubled, we probably are now. On top of the various national and international troubles, there are many “what if?” scenarios. What if I’m in an accident? What if I lose my job? What if I lose my friends and am rejected? All this and much more can bring on heart felt troubles. That’s why some people have said that we live in “The Cardiac Age.” Everyone seems to have heart trouble.
However, our heart trouble may not be based upon national or international concerns or “what if” scenarios. Our worry and fear may be intensely personal. We may be a single mother wondering how to be a good parent and provider. We may be a parent or grandparent agonizing over the rebellion of our children and grandchildren. Perhaps we’re recently divorced and facing life with one income, twice the obligation, and a lot of loneliness and rejection. We may be barely making ends meet and are feeling overwhelmed with our financial obligations. We may be a student standing on the horizon of the future wondering what direction to go. Or perhaps we’re dealing with chronic health problems and we’re weighing up the many options for treatment.
Today, if our heart is troubled and we’re feeling confused, concerned, and overwhelmed, we’re in good company. In John 14, Jesus’ disciples felt the very same way. At the ripe young age of thirty-three, their Lord is leaving them. The disciples were not expecting this. They were counting on Jesus being around for a very long time. They were anticipating Jesus to set them free from Roman oppression, and they were preparing to rule and reign with Him. Now it finally begins to dawn on them that Jesus is going to die, and their hearts are heavy and deeply troubled. Fortunately, Jesus addresses His disciples’ heart trouble with some heart-to-heart words. He says to them and to us: “Believing leads to seeing.”
Martin Luther called this passage "the best and most comforting sermon that the Lord Christ delivered on earth, a treasure and a jewel not to be purchased with the world's goods." These verses become the foundation for comfort, not only for these disciples but also for us. If we ever get to the point in our life where we think we've run out of escapes and there aren't any more places where we can rest, we'll find a tremendously soft, downy pillow in John 14:1-6:
Do not let your heart be troubled," in the original Greek literally means, "stop letting your hearts be troubled."
It is amazing how Jesus will wrap his loving arms around us during our darkest times. God's love for us is truly amazing. We sometimes believe that if we do more for God, he will love us more. If we witness more, or if we give more, or if we go to church more, then he will love us more.
I’m sure we think this way because we are prone to love others based on conditions. It often seems that we love those who love us, we love those who are kind to us, we love those who agree with us and view things as we do. And how often have we worked for the love of others. That is conditional love. The Love of God is unconditional. There simply is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make him love us less. 1 John 4:8 says "Whoever does not love -- does not know God, for God is love."
This is good for our souls, because sometimes we think that God has forgotten us. We think that he cares about everyone else's pain, everyone else's situation, but for some reason we believe that he has forgotten about us. We may think that being perfect will make God love us. It may surprise us to know that the disciples were not perfect men either.
At one point, Paul approved of the murder of Christians, Peter denied knowing Jesus, Thomas doubted Jesus' resurrection. And the Old Testament servants didn't fare any better. Moses murdered a fellow Hebrew, King David lusted after his friends’ wife and committed adultery with her and then essentially had him murdered to have his wife for himself. If we were to accuse any of these men of God for these specific things, we would not be wrong. It should give us some comfort to know that even the most devoted disciples, were no more worthy of God's love than you or me. God is Love.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me."
Just prior to Jesus saying these words he dropped three bombshells on his disciples. He says that he will be going away and they could not come. He told them one of them was a traitor. He told Disciple Peter he would deny him three times. That is a lot to take in and you can imagine how the disciples were disheartened.
But what is amazing is that even as Jesus was haunted by the foreknowledge of the coming ridicule, the humiliation of the crown of thorns and as the dreaded cross loomed before him like the darkest shadow - knowing that he would have to carry it, in total exhaustion up a shameful hill called "the skull." His only reprieve from its weight would be when it was finally placed into the rocky ground where he would then be nailed to it. And yet as he alluded to this dismal appointment with his disciples, he puts all of his own dread for it behind him so that he can comfort his disciples with this command: "Do not let your hearts be troubled."
And of course, Jesus knows when we are troubled!
What he says is instructive: He says "Believe in God. Believe also in me." He comforts us with a command not to be troubled. Because there is no reason to be troubled when we trust in God and when we trust also in Jesus.
In the next two verses Jesus comforts the disciples with a commitment.
"In my Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may also be.
Jesus must leave them so he could prepare a place for them and the disciples must go out to prepare a people to meet him there. As Jesus was preparing a kingdom - the disciples were to go out and prepare a people for that kingdom.
"And you know the way to the place where I am going"
As soon as he heard this, the pessimistic Thomas said "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus said "I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me."
Jesus knows that His followers will be controlled by what they gaze at. So He turns their attention to the glories of heaven. The reality of our heavenly home can help guard us from troubles of the heart. No matter how badly things may be going in our life today, Jesus has promised us a glorious eternity. When we plan family holidays, do we just drive off with no prior preparation? We obtain brochures, we talk to our friends, we look at Trip Advisor and many other web sites. How much more we should prepare for eternity - for our heavenly home.
The guarantee of heaven is confirmed by Jesus’ promise: “Would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” In the Old Testament there are over 1,800 references to the return of Christ. Of the 260 chapters in the New Testament, there are more than 300 references to the Lord’s return—one out of every thirty verses. Twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books give prominence to this subject. For every prophecy in Scripture concerning Christ’s first coming, there are eight prophecies about Christ’s second coming. In our fallen world, we can gain relief for our troubled hearts from the fact that Jesus is going to take us to be with Him. Often, this may be the only thing that will carry us through.
For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, which we deserve but to save the world through him.” We earned death because of our sins and yet God made a “way” for us not only to be saved, but to have eternal paradise. It requires us choosing the road less traveled. It requires traveling a road of trouble. It requires us to take a step of faith. But if there are only a few that find it, then we must make sure that we are one of the few!
Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life no man comes to the Father except through me.” The only way to the Father is through the Son. The only road to Heaven is the road to Calvary. The only gate to paradise is the gate of Jesus Christ! There is much to be comforted with - especially when we know the world is mostly against us ---- but we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. He comforts us with commands, his promises and his word that shows us the way.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”