Has your heart ever been troubled? Have you received news which made your heart sink and stomach churn with worry and concern? The week began like that for Kitty and I and then I sat down to start to think about the sermon and the first words I read were Let not your hearts be troubled.
Jesus speaks these words to the disciples after they had eaten the last supper. In chp 13 the disciples had heard shattering news which had caused them to experience a surge of emotions. They were sad because Jesus had told them he would leave them; they were ashamed because they had been arguing about who was the greatest and Jesus then washed their feet telling them that they should humble themselves in service; they were perplexed because Jesus had told them that one of them would betray him. What began as a wonderful celebration of the passover meal that evening had turned into a roller coaster of emotions as the disciples tried to digest what they heard.
And Jesus knowing that they were shocked, now gives them teaching on how to stop them worrying. The best sense of Jesus’ words in v1 is Let not your hearts be troubled any longer!. This is not a “It will be OK in the end” statement – nor is he saying “Don’t be sad” – he tells them to stop being troubled right there and right then. Now we know that it is far easier to tell yourself to stop being troubled in your heart than to actually to do it. Our emotions can overwhelm us despite our best intentions and efforts to not feel worried, or stressed.
Jesus gives his disciples three assurances which are to help them to stop their hearts being troubled. They are about to face the storm of Jesus’ arrest and execution and so gives them the keys to stop their hearts being troubled. These assurances rest on the vital foundation that the disciples MUST believe in God and in Jesus.
This is so important and it is the place we must always begin in whenever we face hard times. And the reason is that Jesus knows that his disciples cannot trust in their own ability of effort to do the right thing. We have an example of this is In Chp 13. Peter says, will all the best intentions and with true self belief “I will remain with you even if everyone else runs away” and Jesus says “ No you won’t Peter – you will deny me three times this very night.”
The key to not having a troubled heart is not to draw on your own ability or resources or try harder to not be troubled, but to believe in God and Jesus. Jesus says the key to riding out the storms is to believe God and Believe Jesus.
True security comes from focusing on God and Jesus alone. Jesus asks that the disciples rest in God and in himself with their entire being so that their heart, soul, mind and strength will continually go out to the source of their salvation and not to their own resources and abilities.
In our passage this morning Jesus gives the disciples three wonderful assurances to help them focus upon God and Himself.
1. The first is that they were going to heaven. That is the disciples and our destination. You and I are going to heaven. That is our home. It is a real place. It is not a product of religious imagination. Heaven is where God dwells and where Jesus is right now. Heaven is home for God’s children.
Have you noticed something wonderful here – the REASON why Jesus returned to heaven was for the purpose of preparing a place for us. Jesus has prepared a place for us where he dwells. But there is something even more wonderful here. Jesus does not tell his disciples that he will come again and take us to heaven – he says he will come again and takes us to HIMSELF! Heaven is not some giant eternal dorm room filled with Christians – it is a place of intimate relationship with Jesus – we go to be with HIM in heaven. To be in a perfect relationship with Him – to worship Him and experience him perfectly. The phrase I will take you to myself” means To be face to face with me.”
So wonderful is Christ’s love for his own that he is not satisfied with the idea of merely brining us to heaven. He must take us into his own embrace.
And Jesus says that the way to heaven is himself – trusting in him. Thomas’ question We do not know the way” is not totally negative. It reveals Thomas’ desire and devotion to be with Jesus. Such is his love for Christ he cannot bear the thought of being without him and so he needs to know the way.
Jesus tells Thomas that he does know the way, he just has not yet recognized it as the way – those famous words, I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except by me. In other words:
Jesus is the way – He is the direction of life.
Jesus is the truth – He is the content of life.
Jesus is the life – He is the application of life.
These words that Jesus was going away to prepare a place for them, was to give them strength to face the turmoil ahead – to face the imminent collapse of their entire world – they must trust in God and in Jesus and know that heaven is their destination.
As one song says Who could mind the journey when the road leads home.
2. The second assurance Jesus gives them is that they know the Father right now and the Father knows them. You and I are not unknown minions of a great king. The great King knows us by name. He knows us intimately. Jesus says if you had known me you would have known my Father also – henceforth you know Him and have seen Him. The word ‘know’ is used roughly 141 times in this gospel (depending on which translation you use). The greek language has four different levels of knowing:
- to simply know a fact
- to understand the truth behind the fact
- to believe in a person
- to have a deeper relationship and a deeper communion with someone.
Jesus uses the fourth meaning here in the word know. The promise Jesus gives them here is that even though Jesus will leave them they will grow in the relationship with the Father.
When Philip asks Jesus Lord show us the Father Jesus’ response is Have I been with you so long and yet you do not know me Philip? Jesus phrases this question is such a way that Philip is required to answer yes…. Because it is so obvious. To be with Jesus is to be with the Father. We are not insignificant servants but loved children of the Father in heaven. We know him in and through Jesus Christ. We do not have a relationship with a second in command – we have the Father on our side. He knows us – He knows everything about us and He still loves us and longs for us to know and trust Him fully.
And it is by knowing the Father in and through Christ that we shall do even greater works. What does he mean that we will do greater works? Well Jesus has mentioned this twice before in John.
John 1:50 Jesus tells Nathaneal that while he believed in Jesus because Jesus told him he had seen him under the fig tree “You will see greater things than these.”
John 5:20-21 – “The Father loves the son and shows him all that he himself is doing: and he will show him greater works than these so you will be astonished Indeed just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the son gives life to whomever he wishes.”
Greater works are conversions. What we will do is not greater in terms of quality – but quantity. From 12 disciples came billions of believers – that people will commit to, give their lives to and even die for Jesus Christ with far less physical evidence than the disciples experienced.
The assurance that Father God, the sovereign Lord of the Universe knows us and loves us should calm our troubled hearts.
3. The final assurance that Jesus gives is that we have prayer. Prayer is the untapped power for many Christians. Someone has written these words:
O What peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in Prayer
What is your prayer life like? Do you see prayer as a duty, a chore, a requirement, a necessity? Or do you see prayer as a privilege? Prayer is our life line to God. The biggest danger we have is that we tend to stop praying when a storm hits. We tend to stop praying and starting worrying and start having troubled hearts. The exact opposite needs to happen – the storm comes and we quit worrying and we quit having troubled hearts BECAUSE we know where our home is, we know the father and we know the privilege and power of prayer.
Notice – God will do everything we ask in Jesus name. Does this means what it says – God will answer all prayers that are in the name of Jesus? The answer is yes. Not that God will answer all our prayers as long as end with the magic formula “In the name of Jesus”. But God WILL answer every prayer that we pray which is in complete accordance and unity with the will of Jesus Christ and that glorifies and further the kingdom of heaven.
If we are in a storm and we ask God that his name would be glorified in this difficult time and that we would be his servants during the storm we face I can guarantee you that that prayer will be answered.
How would we categorize our prayers – would we be able to say that at the heart of our prayers is a desire to glorify Jesus’ name – to advance the kingdom of God in harmony with the will and wishes of our savior?
To know that God hears our prayers and will answer every prayer which is in his will should give us great assurance – it should mean our hearts should no longer be troubled because God will answer the prayers which are for our good and will not answer the prayers which will lead us into trouble.
So, Let not your hearts be troubled any longer. How? By believing God and believing Jesus. By knowing that our home is heaven. That the Father knows us and we know the Father. And our prayers are heard in heaven.