May 17, 2020
John 14 – selected verses
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe[a] in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 And if I go and 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. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”[c] 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know[d] my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
15 “If you love me, you will keep[f] my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[g] to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in[h] you.
18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you… Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
“PEACE FOR THE TROUBLED HEART”
Less than 24 hours before his crucifixion Jesus said to his disciples – John 14:27 “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Jesus had told his disciples clearly that he was leaving them, that one of them would betray him, that even dear Peter would deny him three times. The disciples’ minds were racing. There was a knot in their stomachs. Jesus was going to die. This was all happening too quickly. Of course their hearts were troubled and afraid. But Jesus gave them a command. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled; don’t let your hearts be afraid.” Now Jesus never gave his disciples a command without supplying the resources to do it. So Jesus also prefaced his command with a gift: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you.” Jesus gave them his peace so that they did not have to let their hearts be troubled or afraid.
Have you ever had a troubled heart? I don’t mean physical heart troubles which can be serious and even fatal. Thankfully the medical treatment for heart troubles has vastly improved and often give people a new lease on life.
But I’m speaking here of hearts that feel troubled or afraid. We’ve all experienced them from time to time. How could we not in these days? Anyone who has not felt troubled or afraid must be on another planet, or living where there is no cell phone or internet or television service. This COVID-19 pandemic is a burdensome reality on every level – socially, medically, emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually. Every aspect of life has been affected. We’ve all had troubled and fearful hearts at various times, but this time the feeling is so persistent.
So Jesus’ word comes to us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.” Jesus gives us his peace so that we do not have to let our hearts be troubled or afraid.
Now sometimes Jesus’ peace comes to us, unexpectedly, out of the blue. Circumstances dictate that our hearts should be in turmoil but instead we are at peace, inexplicably. It’s something we can’t predict or control. But receiving Jesus’ peace is not totally beyond our control. Jesus’ peace comes to us as we engage in certain activities and believe certain truths.
First, Jesus’ peace comes to us when we believe in God as he really is.
Jesus said in 14:1, “Believe in God; believe also in me.” The “believe in me” is very important. Christians believe in God as Jesus revealed him to us. We believe in God the Father. That is God as he really is. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” said Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Now we usually take that as a salvation verse. And it is, for by his life, death and resurrection Jesus opened the way for all people to come to God in this life and in eternity. Jesus is the way to God. He gives the life of God to us. But this verse is also about revelation. For Jesus is the truth, the revealed truth about God. You can search through all the world’s religions and only in Jesus’ teaching do we find repeated reference to God as “Abba, Father”. The Jewish people had a hint of it, but this was a startling revelation to the pagan Gentiles, whose gods were often angry, unfriendly and needed constant appeasing. But throughout his ministry Jesus proclaimed and revealed the Fatherhood of God. Jesus said to Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” We come to the Father only through the Son who reveals the Father to us.
Now some people find it hard to relate to this image of God because of a bad experience of their earthly fathers. But we don’t start with our earthly fathers and then project that image onto God. We start with God and take our image of fatherhood from him. He represents fatherhood as it should be. He is the perfect father. He is our Heavenly Father, the Creator who knows and loves and cares and provides for his people.
How does believing in God as he really is, help bring peace to our troubled hearts? Well, the image many people have of God is of an austere, distant deity, waiting to punish our wrongdoing. It’s not far from what the ancient pagans believed about God. But knowing God as Father takes away our dear of him. God who desires that all be part of his family now and in eternity. And he is overjoyed when a person accepts his offer of salvation in Christ and says “Yes, I know that I am God’s beloved child forever.”
Now God takes our sin seriously. Human sin and disobedience offend his holy character. But rather than punishing us for our sins, God takes the penalty upon himself in his only Son. That’s why Jesus was going to the cross – to die in our place and for our sins. That’s how much the Father God loves us. Now God is teaching us lessons through this time, and we’re still thinking about what they are. But COVID-19 is not God’s punishment upon a rebellious human race. No, it comes from another source. God is with us in it, fighting against this powerful evil on our behalf. The God Jesus reveals is a God of suffering, searching love, a God who is for us in all he does. He is the God of Jesus’ famous parable – the father who runs to meet his returning prodigal with joy and tears and an open door.
The daughter of Karl Marx was brought up without any religion. She said she didn’t believe in God. But one day she read a prayer in an old German book and said, “if the God of that prayer exists, I think I could believe in him.” Asked what the prayer was she replied, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Well, that is God as he really is. Jesus reveals that God to us and leads us to him, so that by faith we become his children forever. Jesus’ gift of peace comes to us as we know and believe in God as he really is.
Secondly, Jesus’ peace comes to us as we do God’s will.
Have you ever awakened in the night worried and troubled about something? At 2 A.M. you can’t do a thing about it. But in the daylight when you can do something about it, you are more at peace.
I think of Jesus in Gethsemane, so troubled as he prayed. But strengthened by God’s angel, he said to God, “Not my will but they will be done.” And a divine peace came upon him as he rose up to face Calvary.
Jesus said, “Those who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.” When we walk in God’s way and do his will a peace comes that the world can’t give. Now the world may well make life more difficult for those who walk in God’s way. The world pushes back against those who represent God in the world. That’s why the Jewish people have been so relentlessly persecuted through their history. It’s not because they are perfect, they’re not, but because their very existence reminds the world of the God whose ways are higher than our ways; the God who alone can bring us life and health and peace. And yet the world desires to go its own way.
Certainly the world gave Jesus little peace in his lifetime, and his followers shouldn’t expect worldly peace, either. But Jesus’ peace comes as we obey God and walk in his way. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you…. therefore, you do not have to let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
One simple way we obey God is though worship, by giving God the glory due his name. I was clearing out my desk recently and found a note someone wrote to me some years ago. The person said “thanks for the worship” and described some things in her life that were making her troubled and afraid. But she had come to worship that Sunday and left feeling at peace and strengthened for the situation. By simply doing what God asked her and all of us to do, she received the peace of Jesus. It’s been true for so many of us, as we obeyed God by worshiping, reading Scripture, praying, walking in his way, and serving others. The peace of Christ has come to our troubled and fearful hearts.
Thirdly, Jesus’ peace comes to our hearts when we know that we are not alone.
Jesus said to his disciples, “I am going to be taken from you, but I will not leave you orphaned… the Father… will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever…” We are never, ever alone; we are never orphaned; we are never forsaken. Whatever would cause God to forsake us has been borne by Jesus in his death, and defeated in his resurrection. Jesus said, “I will never fail you or forsake you.” The presence of God and the resources God gives are with us…always. Plus, we belong to the Body of Christ, a loving, supportive, praying community of believers. In the church we lean on one another when our hearts are troubled and afraid. We have been doing that during these troubling days. When your heart is troubled, God is with you, and other Christians are there for you, as close as a phone call, text message or email.
The experts are telling us how important window visits are with residents in long-term care homes. Some of the residents are quite confused by their present circumstances. But visits by family members assure residents that they have not been forgotten or abandoned. But we all need that that kind of assurance from when we are infants through to our last earthly breath. That assurance is given to us by God through Jesus Christ. The peace of Jesus comes to us when we know that we are not alone.
Finally, Jesus’ peace comes to us as we look beyond this present world.
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you.” Of course, we have earthly responsibilities and interests. But it’s good for us to sometimes look forward and look up. There is much more to come beyond this world. The Bible tells us that we have not seen, nor heard, nor even conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. And yet in Jesus we have a foretaste of that new age where as Revelation tells us, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the former things have passed away.”
Look up and know that a place has been prepared for you in the Father’s house, and for all who love the Lord. As you do the peace of Jesus comes to your troubled and fearful heart. Perhaps it’s happening today as you hear Jesus’ word, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you…therefore, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”