Lesson 75: Comfort for Troubled Hearts (John 14:1-11)Related Media
December 7, 2014
According to U.S.A. Today (11/16/11), “More than 20 percent of American adults took at least one drug for conditions like anxiety and depression in 2010 … including more than one in four women.” The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports (adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics, bold type theirs), “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).”
I realize that some of you have taken or are currently taking medication for anxiety or depression. I am not a doctor and I recognize that there are complex factors that affect our mental condition. I would not recommend that you go off any medication without your doctor’s consent. But at the same time, I would urge you to think carefully about whether or not you have truly laid hold of the cure for troubled hearts that Jesus promises in our text:
Faith in Christ’s person and hope in Christ’s promise will comfort your troubled heart.
You may think, “That’s overly simplistic! That’s a nice thought, but it’s impractical and out of touch with reality!” But these are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to troubled hearts. Either His words are true or they’re not. So I would ask you to consider whether perhaps you just haven’t applied these words before you conclude that they are simplistic or impractical. And I also point out that Jesus’ words have given genuine comfort to countless believers in the midst of horrible trials over the past 2000 years of church history. So before you shrug them off, consider whether or not you have truly applied them to your troubled heart.
Jesus is in the Upper Room with the eleven disciples after Judas has left to betray Him. Except for John and perhaps Peter, the others didn’t know yet who the betrayer was, but they were troubled by the news that one of the twelve would betray Jesus. The Lord has also announced that He is leaving them and that they cannot follow Him. These are men who had left their jobs and families to follow Jesus in the hope that He was the promised Messiah. They were ecstatic a few days before when He rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd. But now He was talking about His death, not about His messianic kingdom. And to top it off, He had just told Peter that before daybreak, he would deny Jesus three times. So these men were anxious and troubled! And so the Lord’s emphasis in of all of John 14, not just in our text, is to comfort their troubled hearts, especially as they witnessed His brutal execution the next day. If you apply them, these words will also comfort your troubled heart.
1. Faith in Christ’s person will comfort your troubled heart (John 14:1, 4-11).
Faith is only as good as its object. Trusting in a faulty airplaine won’t make it fly! As we’ve seen repeatedly, everything in the Christian life depends on the correct answer to Jesus’ question (Matt. 16:15), “Who do you say that I am?” If Jesus is who He claimed to be and who all of Scripture proclaims Him to be, then He is absolutely trustworthy in every trial that you encounter. If He is not who He claimed to be, then eat and drink, for tomorrow you will die (see 1 Cor. 15:12-19, 32). Or, as church historian Jaroslav Pelikan said just before he died, “If Christ is raised, nothing else matters. If Christ is not raised, nothing matters.” (Cited by David Calhoun, in Heaven [Crossway], ed. by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, worldmag.com/2014/11/the_hope_of_heaven.) In our text, Jesus makes four claims that show that He is trustworthy:
A. Jesus claims to deserve equal faith with God (John 14:1).
John 14:1: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” There are several legitimate ways to translate that verse because in Greek, “believe” in both instances can be either indicative or imperative. A few versions translate the first verb as indicative, “you believe in God,” and the second as imperative, “believe also in Me.” But most versions translate them both as imperatives: “believe in God, believe also in Me.” Since Jesus’ opening words are an imperative, “Do not let your heart be troubled,” it’s likely that He is commanding them both to believe in God and to believe in Him.
But either way that you translate it, Jesus is claiming to be on exactly the same level as God when it comes to trusting Him! What mere man could claim, “You need to trust in God, and to the same degree, you need to trust in Me”? Alexander Maclaren wrote (Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], on John 14:1, p. 257, italics his):
The peculiarity of His call to the world is, “Believe in Me.” And if He said that, or anything like it … then, one of two things follows. Either He was wrong, and then He was a crazy enthusiast, only acquitted of blasphemy because convicted of insanity; or else—or else—He was “God manifest in the flesh.”
As Jesus will go on to affirm, because to see Him is to see the Father, you cannot separate faith in God from faith in Jesus. And since Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who created all things (John 1:3), and who was in control over all the events surrounding His death, then you can trust Him in whatever overwhelming circumstances you are facing. Nothing is too difficult for Him and no one can thwart His sovereign will (Jer. 32:17; Job 42:2).
B. Jesus claims to be the exclusive way to God (John 14:4-6).
We’ll come back to verses 2 & 3, where Jesus promises that He is going to prepare a place for us and that He will come again. Then, He says (John 14:4-6),
“And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
I’m glad for the disciples’ dense comments and questions (we’ll see another one from Philip in verse 8), because they resulted in some wonderful answers from Jesus that we otherwise might not have! The word “way” is emphasized by being repeated in verses 4, 5, & 6; it refers to the way to heaven or to the Father (John 14:3, 6). Significantly, Jesus doesn’t say, “I know the way to heaven and I can point you to it.” Rather, He says, “I am the way.”
A missionary hired a guide to take him across a vast desert. When they arrived at the edge of the desert, the missionary saw before him trackless sands without a single footprint or road of any kind. He asked his guide with a tone of surprise, “Where is the road?” With a reproving glance, the guide replied, “I am the road.” Jesus is the way to heaven. We must trust Him to take us there.
This is the sixth of Jesus’ seven “I am” statements in John (6:48; 8:12; 10:9, 11; 11:25; 15:1). It’s another claim to deity. Jesus is saying that we can have access to God only through Him. Just as in the Old Testament, the only way for the Jews to come to God was through the high priest, who could only enter the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement, so Jesus is our high priest through whose sacrifice of Himself we can come into God’s very presence without fear of being consumed. He Himself is the way.
Jesus also claimed, “I am the truth.” Again, He did not say, “I can teach you the truth,” although He did that. He said, “I am the truth.” In this context, He means not only that He is totally dependable, but also that He Himself is the only true way of salvation (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 641). He alone is the manifestation of the eternal God of truth. We can only know ultimate reality through knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Jesus also claimed, “I am the life.” Again, He doesn’t say, “I can tell you how to have life,” but rather, “I am the life.” In John 5:26, Jesus claimed, “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.” Having life in Himself, Jesus “gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21). Because of sin, the entire human race is under the curse of eternal death, or separation from God. We can have eternal life only in Christ. Eternal life means knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom He sent (John 17:3).
The three articles, the way, the truth, and the life imply the exclusivity of Christ’s claims. But His final statement cinches it (John 14:6b): “no one comes to the Father but through Me.” He is the only way to God. Peter underscored this fact to the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 4:12), “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (See, also, 1 Tim. 2:5).
Jesus’ claim to be the way, the truth, and the life, the only way to the Father, confronts our postmodern era in two ways: First, there is such a thing as absolute truth in the spiritual realm; second, Jesus only is the absolute truth; all other ways are wrong. People today don’t have a problem if you say that Jesus is a way to God or that you personally believe in Him, as long as you don’t say that all other beliefs are false. But when you claim that Jesus is the exclusive way to God; that He is the only spiritual truth, so that all other beliefs are false; and that He alone can impart eternal life—you will be accused of being intolerant and arrogant!
R. C. Sproul (in Tabletalk, date unknown) points out that the notion that all religions are valid is logically impossible because, if all religions are valid, then Christianity is valid. But Jesus said that He is the only way to God, which eliminates all other ways. So either He was right or He was wrong. Sproul concludes, “If He was wrong, then Christianity has no validity at all. If He was right, then there is no other way.”
Here’s how Jesus’ claim in verse 6 can comfort you when you’re troubled: Believing that Jesus is the way will comfort your troubled heart because you have access to the gracious Father through Him. Through Jesus you can bring all your troubles into the very presence of the God who spoke the universe into existence. Believing that Jesus is the truth will comfort your troubled heart because all else is subjective, shifting, and uncertain. You can stand securely in the truth of who Jesus is. Believing that Jesus is the life will comfort your troubled heart because trusting in Him gives assurance of eternal life and escape from the second death.
Thus Jesus claims to deserve equal faith with God. He claims to be the exclusive way to God.
C. Jesus claims to be the unique revealer of God (John 14:7-9).
“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
There is a variant in verse 7 supported by some early manuscripts, which reads, “If you have come to know Me [as you do], you shall know My Father also.” If this is the original reading, then Jesus is emphasizing the truth of John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” To know Jesus is to know the Father. Jesus alone reveals the Father to us. Jesus’ words, “from now on,” refer to the events that will transpire shortly, especially to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The Spirit will guide them into all the truth (John 14:17, 26).
But Jesus’ comment that the disciples have seen the Father prompts Philip to ask (John 14:8), “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” He may have been thinking that if Jesus was going to leave them, some vision of God such as Moses had on Mount Sinai would sustain them in Jesus’ absence. Jesus’ reply is a rebuke that reflects some personal grief (John 14:9), “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
Again, I’m thankful for Philip’s inappropriate request, because Jesus’ reply is another clear claim to be God. As Leon Morris states (p. 644), “These are words which no mere man has a right to use.” Jesus is the visible representation of the invisible God. As Paul wrote (Col. 2:9), “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” This claim of Christ can comfort your troubled heart because often in a time of trouble, God seems distant. The fact that He is invisible makes it difficult to trust in Him. At such times, look to Jesus, who was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He reveals to us the tender mercies of the Father.
D. Jesus claims to be in intimate union with the Father (John 14:10-11).
John 14:10-11: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.”
This brings us back full circle to verse 1: To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father, because the two are in inseparable union. God is one God who subsists in three co-equal, eternal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (John 14:10, 17). Jesus reveals the Father to us. The Spirit reveals Christ to us (John 16:13-15). To know Jesus is to know God.
Jesus gives two reasons to believe that He is in intimate union with the Father: His words and His works. Jesus says that He didn’t make up what He taught, but rather His words came directly from the Father. This is a repetition of Jesus’ earlier claims. In John 8:26, He told His enemies, “I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.” He repeated (John 8:28), “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.” (See, also, John 5:19, 30.) Jesus’ words confirm that He is in intimate union with the Father.
But also Jesus’ works prove that He is in intimate union with the Father. This refers to all that He did, but especially to His miracles. Skeptics, of course, challenge Jesus’ miracles because they claim that they have never seen a miracle. But Jesus’ miracles are reported by credible eyewitnesses, most of whom were willing to lose their lives because they believed Jesus to be the truth. At the heart of a skeptic’s rejection of Jesus’ miracles is not science, but rather his love of his sin and his refusal to submit to Jesus as Lord.
Note that Jesus challenges us (John 14:11), “Believe Me that …” Faith in Jesus isn’t a vague, “I believe for every star that falls, a flower grows.” Rather, we are to believe specifically what Jesus claimed: that He deserves equal faith with God; that He is the exclusive way to God; that He is the unique revealer of God; and that He is in intimate union with the Father. Jesus adds that if you can’t believe His words alone, at least believe because of His works. Believing in the person of Christ will comfort your troubled heart.
2. Hope in Christ’s promise will comfort your troubled heart (John 14:2-3).
John 14:2-3: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Biblical hope is closely allied with faith. Someone has described it as faith standing on tiptoe. It looks ahead to the promised, but yet unrealized future. It’s not like saying, “I hope my favorite team wins their big game today.” You don’t know whether they will win or lose. Biblical hope is like watching the video replay of the game after your team won. You know the outcome, but you eagerly watch the game unfold. Here Jesus makes two promises that are certain because He is the truth:
A. Christ is making a reservation for us in heaven.
The picture is an Oriental house where the father would add rooms to accommodate his grown children and their families so that they all lived in the same compound. There are several comforting truths in this picture. First, heaven is a real place, not just an immaterial state of being.
Second, going to heaven is like going home. It’s not like traveling to a foreign country, where you don’t know the language, geography, people, or customs. It’s like going to a familiar, comfortable place where you are welcomed by a Father who loves you and by brothers and sisters whom you know.
Third, Jesus is there right now preparing a place for us. This doesn’t mean that He is working with His carpenter’s tools to add rooms for us. Rather, it looks at His present ministry of intercession for us, of being our advocate, and of keeping us for that day.
It’s always comforting when you travel to know that you have a confirmed reservation when you arrive. Jesus promises that if you believe in Him, you have such a reservation in heaven.
B. Christ will make a return for us on earth.
He promises to come again and receive us to Himself, that where He is, there we will be also. When Christ comes or when we go to heaven, we will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us. But being with Jesus Himself will be the best part of His coming and our going to heaven. As Martin Luther said (cited by Randy Alcorn, Heaven [Tyndale], p. 187), “I had rather be in hell with Christ, than be in heaven without him.”
The certainty of Christ’s bodily return means terror for those who reject Him, because He will come to “tread the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 19:15). But His return means comfort for all that believe in Him, because we will always be with the Lord. Paul concludes his discussion of Christ’s return by saying (1 Thess. 4:18), “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Jesus’ words (John 14:1), “Do not let your heart be troubled,” mean that we can do something about our troubled hearts. It’s a command, indicating that we have volitional control over our emotions. We don’t need to be victimized by our feelings. We can do something to deal with anxiety or a troubled heart, namely, believe in Jesus as God and hope in His promise of heaven. As the psalmist told himself when he was in despair (Ps. 43:5), “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” And, since Jesus was troubled on our behalf (John 14:21), we don’t need to be troubled by life’s problems. God is now on our side!
So the next time you’re troubled and anxious, before you do what the world does and pop a pill to calm your soul, do something radical: Believe in God; believe also in Jesus Christ. Faith in His person and His promise will comfort your troubled heart.
- What are the practical implications of the statement: “Faith is only as good as its object”?
- Discuss: Is it okay for Christians to take psychotropic medications to deal with anxiety and depression? Why/why not?
- A person you witness to says, “It’s fine that you believe in Jesus, but I have my own spiritual beliefs that work for me.” Your reply?
- In light of Psalms 42 & 43, is it wrong to be troubled by trials or is it just wrong to remain troubled? How does the psalmist deal with his despair and trouble?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation