Advice from John 14
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1, Other
scriptures from Contemporary English Translation unless otherwise noted.)
by Jonathan Gray
Try to imagine yourself as one of the twelve invited by Jesus to share the Passover meal on his last night on earth. Consider your observations, and what you might have thought as you heard Jesus take on a new, more solemn tone.
Jesus pauses during dinner. You see that he is deeply troubled, but you do not understand why. Then he says abruptly, “I tell you for certain that one of you will betray me” (John 13:21). You look at the others, who are staring back, each of you wondering, “What is Jesus is talking about?” Slowly, each of you begins to inquire, “Is it I” (Matthew 26:22 NKJV)? Finally, the impetuous Peter whispers to John: “that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake” (Matthew 26:24 NKJV). Jesus speaks quietly to John, then to Judas, “Go quickly and do what you have to do” (John 13:27). Judas leaves, but you only surmise that as the treasurer of your group he has a mission to buy something for the feast. “Is it I?” still lingers in your mind.
But then Jesus continues with another troubling statement, “My children, I will be with you for a little while longer. Then you will look for me, but you won’t find me. … You cannot go where I am going” (John 13:33). What? Jesus is leaving and we cannot go? How can he tell us this after we have been with him all this time?
Betrayal. Abandonment. Why is Jesus saying these things? He now responds to Peter, who said, “I would die for you.” “Really … before a rooster crows, you will say three times that you don’t even know me” (John 13:37,38). What? Is Peter to deny Jesus? How could he do this? How bad are things to be? Will I deny him as well? Have we all been deluded?
Did we misunderstand when Jesus promised that we would sit with him in his throne (Matthew 19:28)? Just five days ago we heard the crowd shout, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” as we walked with him through the streets of Jerusalem. This makes no sense. What does it all mean? Abandonment and denial? Sensing your puzzlement and anxiety, Jesus looks at each of you and speaks the comforting words,
“Let not your heart be troubled … In my Father’s house are many mansions: 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 receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (John 14:1-4 NKJV).
As the disciples heard Jesus say that he was leaving, they would have been confused. Jesus had told them that they would be with him judging the tribes of Israel, but they did not understand the time period to be involved, the length and work of the entire Gospel Age, or the distinction of the then opening Gospel Age from the Millennial Kingdom. He would be leaving in order to prepare a heavenly place for them and those who would believe after them. He would return, but it would be long after their own deaths. He would personally raise them from the dead and welcome them into a new home, an abode made especially for them.
Even now, during our consecrated lives, we can dwell in a special place with our Heavenly Father and His son, our risen Lord (Psalms 91:1-4). There we experience God’s generosity through forgiveness, mercy, justice, compassion, healing, love, wisdom, hope, courage, and joy. If we dwell on these gifts, they can ease our troubled hearts, ground our minds in the present, and help us to abide in our Father’s house — re-centering our hearts and minds on spiritual things.
“Thomas said, ‘Lord, we don’t even know where you are going! How can we know the way’” (John 14:5)?
In the upper room, John records conversations between Jesus and three of his disciples. Thomas, who would later question Jesus’ resurrection, was not afraid to die with Jesus. Of the twelve, he was the one who stepped forward when Jesus said he would return to Jerusalem, where the forces of evil were plotting to kill Jesus. “Thomas, whose nickname was ‘Twin,’ said to the other disciples, ‘Come on. Let’s go, so we can die with him’” (John 11:16). Jesus replied to Thomas’ query, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life!’ ‘Without me, no one can go to the Father’ ” (John 14:6).
We know through the holy Spirit that this way can be entered only through our faith in the merit of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. In order to follow him, we must know his “truth” — his words, invitation, instructions, and guidance. Jesus is the “Life” in that all humanity, under a death sentence as the posterity of Adam, can only be lifted by redemption from sin available through him. Jesus is our Ransom and instructor in righteousness and truth. He is our life-giver and eventually will be the life-giver for all humanity in his promised Kingdom on Earth.
“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need’” (verse 8).
Philip had approached Jesus while the disciples were still pondering the meaning of his answer to Thomas. However, Jesus knew there was still confusion in their minds. “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does the works’ ” (John 14:9,10 NKJV).
Philip had been one of Jesus’ first picks as a disciple. The familiarity is indicated by Jesus’ response to Philip’s request: “Have I been with you so long?”
The disciples heard Jesus’ earlier words that no one had ever seen God (John 1:18), but they had not appreciated that Jesus was the perfect reflection of his Heavenly Father. Jesus’ reply to Philip was meant to help them understand that he and his Father had the same will, the same purpose, not that they were the same person. Jesus was a perfect representation of Jehovah.
“If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another helper, that e may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees (it) nor knows (it); but you know (it), for (it) dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:15-18 NKJV).
Jesus promises “another helper,” the Greek parakletos (Strong’s 3875), “counselor, helper, advocate, or comforter.” Jesus himself is called by this name (translated advocate) in 1 John 2:1. So this helper, the holy Spirit, would help them understand, to help soothe their fears, kindle their zeal, and help sustain them during the difficult trials and tests ahead as they embarked on their evangelical missions.
There was a condition, however. Jesus said they must love him and keep his commandments. Not only faith and obedience are necessary, but there must also be growth in love. Similarly, the comfort and strength we receive comes from Jesus through the holy Spirit. Apart from him and his merit, we have no standing with God.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Here is the ultimate consolation for troubled hearts. This peace transcends the formal rites of religious practice. Jesus promises a deeper peace that increases proportionately as we comprehend his word through the holy Spirit and apply that word personally. It is not a worldly peace that comes through either ignorance or indifference; nor the peace of idleness nor self-indulgence; nor the peace of fatalism. It is the peace that comes from knowing Jesus intimately. It is the same peace he had that night despite knowing all that lay before him. Lack of knowledge impeded his disciples that night. They had not yet received the holy Spirit. We, like them that night, lack a complete understanding even though we possess the Spirit. “For we know in part and we prophesy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9 NKJV). We have, however, the testimony of this night and the subsequent events that would follow.
We can rejoice in promised comfort through Jesus’ message in the upper room: that he is the truth and the light, and he has prepared a place for us among his many mansions. However, in the din around us our hearts may be troubled because we cannot see the details of this world’s consummation. We can perhaps understand how the disciples felt when Jesus said he would be leaving and they could not go with him.
They did not know that this night would be popularly known as the “Last Supper.” Only Jesus and his Heavenly Father knew.
There had been discussion of betrayal, abandonment, and denial. Yet they could not foresee the impact of the next few days. Jesus had veiled their eyes with words of comfort. These promises sustained them through perhaps the most difficult night of their lives.
At this end of the age we must also take comfort with the words, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” The scriptures and writings we possess give us great understanding, but even with them, we do not know all the details of God’s work in ending this night of sin, directing the remainder of our Christian walk and showing His great power. For our best interest, God kindly veils our eyes. If we knew the future in detail, our anticipation and anxiety might overwhelm our faith. Let us avoid the human tendency of allowing our minds to ponder worst-case scenarios. Let us instead focus on the promises Jesus gave that night to all who were and were to become his disciples, leaving the details to him and his (our) Heavenly Father.
So on I go not knowing,
I would not if I might;
I’d rather walk in the dark with God
Than go alone in the light;
I’d rather walk by faith with him
Than go alone by sight.
(“He Knows,” Hymns of Dawn 110)