“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” ~ Jesus
How hard or how easy is it for you to live this encouragement out in real life? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your difficulties? Have you ever found yourself frustrated by verses like the one above because, try as you may to believe, your troubles are relentless? I know I certainly have.
We’re going to be reading John 14:1-14 this Sunday, where Jesus issues the directions quoted above. It is couched in the section commonly called “Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples”. Judas has gone out to betray Jesus to the authorities, Peter has been identified as one who will deny Jesus in a crisis, and Jesus has made it clear that he will soon be gone from them. All in all, the evening has really turned into a bummer. We can just imagine the distress and confusion that is beginning to mount in the midst of this group.
So Jesus gives direction – truth to calm their troubled hearts. His encouragement isn’t given in a promise to make all the troubles go away – but rather, in providing a fresh perspective from which to view the looming wave of tribulation.
This section is interesting because it contains *three familiar passages that have often been isolated and, I believe, misrepresented. Something we’ll take a look at as we go on Sunday.
Jesus’ first encouragement is a promise about his Father’s big, big house, with lots and lots of room (if you were a Christian in the 90’s, you’re welcome for the ear worm that should be playing in your head right about now). We mostly take this as a picture of heaven, which I think the idea does contain, but it has more a sense of the bigger picture of redemption, which is unfolding right now in our lives. How does thinking about life after life now, or the way that God redeems broken things provide a sense of encouragement and assurance in times of trouble?
This section also contains another of Jesus’ clear self-identifications as being united with God the Father. To see Jesus is to see what God is like. To trust in Jesus is to find the way home to God. Jesus actually promotes an intentional trust; “LET not your hearts be troubled” – don’t live there, don’t form your identity from your difficulties. Instead, we’re called to trust Jesus in an act of our will. What are some ways we can intentionally trust Jesus when all hell is breaking loose? Can you identify ways in which that intentional trust would promote assurance in your heart?
*V2, V6 and V13-14 are problematic verses in this section. V2 is charged with encouraging an irresponsible escapism; V6 is accused of advancing religious intolerance and bigotry; V13-14 have been abused by some to promote “Christian” materialism. Do you have thoughts you want to share about these controversial verses?