Series: Face to face with John (John’s gospel), by Rosie Moore.
In John 14, as Jesus draws near to his death, he says some of the most consoling words to his disciples that have ever been recorded. “Do not let your hearts be troubled…I have gone to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:1-4; 27).
Presence, place, presence, promises, peace.
Jesus leaves his disciples with some comforting promises if they trust him in the dark days ahead. He reminds them of their eternal home, where they are already part of the perfect circle of love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (John 14:1-10). He reminds them of the immense privilege of being able to ask God anything in prayer (John 14:11-14). And he assures them of the intimate presence of the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, who will “teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:15-24).
But consolation is not Christ’s only focus. In the same chapter, He makes some of the most confrontational, controversial claims ever heard. His words were as offensive to the pluralistic first century culture as they are to our postmodern ears. In John 14:6, Christ claims to be the only way to God and the only way to heaven.
“I am the Truth, the Way and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Clearly, from the context, Christ’s words of consolation are only for those who have put their trust in Him as the only Way, the Truth and the Life.
We will focus on Christ’s words of confrontation next week, but for today, let’s look at what Christ’s words of consolation meant for the disciples, and what they mean for believers today.
Words of consolation.
The setting is the upper room on the night that Jesus was arrested. The disciples must have felt lost and confused, fearful and sad, disoriented and perplexed all at the same time. I don’t think we can begin to understand the emotional turmoil that must have gripped their hearts at the prospect of being left on their own, without the Lord Jesus. Their future was bleak and they were overcome with doom.
Christ had been speaking of his imminent betrayal and death, and had just announced that their bravest member, Peter, would deny him three times before the next morning. It was to this troubled group of friends, huddled together in the upper room, that Jesus spoke these tender words of consolation. Only the good Shepherd would have have cared more about comforting his sheep than his own troubled heart:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:1-4).
Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in me.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled” is a negative command to resist the natural hopelessness we sometimes feel. The positive command is to trust in the Lord instead. For followers of Christ in every generation, these words are full of reassurance, not merely positive thinking. They remind us to resist our troubled, anxious condition by trusting in God, to cast all our cares on the Lord who cares for us. To call the disciples to trust in these circumstances was no platitude. Let’s bear in mind the reasons why those first disciples had good reason to be very troubled:
The disciples had found love, truth and purpose in following Jesus as their Lord and Master. They’d lived with Him and learned from Him ever since they first left the security of their careers and homes. They’d watched his stunning miracles and rejoiced at the conversions of many who had put their faith in Him. Three of them had been with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Recently they’d witnessed a dead, decomposing corpse emerge from a tomb after Christ called, “Lazarus, come out!”
The disciples had heard Christ’s extraordinary claims of deity and seen the accompanying signs: I am the Bread of Life; I am the light of the world, I am the Gate; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the Resurrection and the Life. But although they had all the proof they needed to trust Jesus, their hearts were still troubled at their circumstances.
Naturally, they were scared of what it would mean to follow a betrayed leader, a political and religious outcast, someone considered as a dissident by the Jewish and Roman establishment. They weren’t superhuman. They knew the power of the people who were plotting to kill Jesus. And they knew the might of the Roman empire. There were many crucified bodies to remind them that Rome didn’t tolerate dissidents and troublemakers, no matter how false the accusations.
Rome was determined to make an example of anyone who would not bow to its gods and its Emperor as Lord. The great offense of Christians was not that they followed Christ per se, but that they believed that Jesus was the only way, and the truth and the life. They could not follow other gods or bow to Rome, as only Christ was their Lord, not Caesar.
None of their fears were unfounded. After Christ’s death and resurrection, Christians would soon be called the “Christ-ones” or “the Way”, and many would be shamed, dispossessed and persecuted for pledging their allegiance to Jesus only, rather than bowing to the idols of the age. Beginning in Jerusalem at the hands of the Jews, the pattern of persecution would spread to the rest of the world, wherever Christians gathered and lived out their faith consistently. They would not worship other gods, and this refusal to compromise endangered their lives and livelihoods.
And so it was reasonable that the disciples felt troubled. They thought they’d be left to fend for themselves in a dark and hostile world.
But they were wrong. They were not left alone. In the power of the Holy Spirit, those original disciples carried the gospel outside of Palestine and into the whole world. Jesus kept his promise not to leave them as orphans. He gave them His Spirit.
“I will not leave you as orphans.”
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18).
Jesus promised that He would not leave his followers as orphans, but his presence would remain with them by his Spirit. He would come to them in a spectacular way on the day of Pentecost.
These words from God’s written Word are as comforting for believers today as they were for Christ’s first followers. Without the Holy Spirit, there’s no way that John could have recorded his detailed Gospel, letters and the book of Revelation. The Spirit of truth, the Counsellor, spoke in and through him, reminding him of everything that Jesus had done and taught in his lifetime (John 14:16-17; 26). And there’s no way that Christians today can survive in a troubled world without the Holy Spirit either.
And so, when we read the Bible, we can be sure that the words recorded in it came from Christ’s own lips. We can rely on Scripture as the truth, no matter how different our culture or circumstances may be. And if we are followers of Christ, we can also take comfort from Christ’s promises in this chapter– the three big P’s, which have big implications for our lives: Our place, prayer and peace.
The way to our eternal home is as secure as our trust in Jesus (John 14:2-4; 1-7). Jesus gave us His word that He is preparing a place for us. We will arrive in heaven, not by trying to live a good life, but by claiming only Jesus and his atoning sacrifice. Because He went to the cross and rose from the dead, we can be confident of our heavenly home. It is a roomy place with many mansions, a permanent secure home for all God’s children of every nation, tribe and language.
God’s place is our only safe space, because Christ has already paid for our accommodation in full. He is the way home.
Jesus himself fulfills all the promises of God dwelling with His people, in God’s place, for all eternity. We hear strains of this beautiful homecoming song throughout Scripture (Ex 29:45; Lev 26:11; Jer 32:38; Ezek 37:27; Heb 8:10). Our place climaxes in John’s vision in Revelation 21:3:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God”.
Don’t you long for that permanent, secure home? Jesus says he’s coming back for us, but then He asks us, “Will you trust me in the meantime? Remember that I am the Lord of life and death!” Our fearful hearts will be stilled if we think more about heaven as we face our daily troubles on earth.
But God’s place is not just future oriented. He has also promised His presence in our lives. Even while living in this world, we are blessed by a God who lives and reigns among His people by His Spirit. When we trust in Christ, He joins his divine life to ours, now and for all eternity. Isn’t it wonderful to think that ordinary Christians are the holy home of God? We are the place where Christ lives by His Spirit. John says, “He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).
Jesus explicitly tells his disciples what this entails, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
Paul fleshes out the same idea to the Corinthians Christians:
“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Cor 6:16).
How does this apply individually? Well, when God makes his home in our bodies, it follows that we will seek to obey him in all areas, free from the worship of idols (John 14:15). It matters what we do with our bodies and our choices. If we are Christ’s, we are people of the Way, the Truth and the Life. Because we worship Christ as Lord of every area of life, we cannot bow to the lies and idols of our age, no matter how great the pressure to conform or comply.
How does this apply corporately? Well, the Church is not an organization, a business or a building, nor flowing robes, stained glass windows, incense or rituals. No, Christ makes his home amongst his people, who worship the Father in spirit and truth, “for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23). He lives and works in “God’s household, rising to become a holy temple in the Lord…built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Eph 2:21-22). Christ will not make his home in a church that won’t acknowledge His Lordship and is embarrassed by the Jesus who declared, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
Not only are we promised Christ’s presence before we reach our eternal home, but Jesus also invites believers to ask for anything in His name, “and I will do it” (John 14:14). This is the extraordinary privilege of prayer that we so often take for granted or treat lightly.
How do we ask in Jesus’s name, and what should we ask for? I think to pray in Jesus’s name is to pray according to God’s character and will, with sincere and humble faith. It is how Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer and his own agonizing prayer in Gethsemane. We pray to Him as a child talks to their father, with childlike faith, reverence and expectancy.
Of course we will not do more spectacular miracles than Christ, who raised Lazarus from the dead, but through our prayers, God gives eternal life to spiritually dead people and multiplies his kingdom throughout the world, through all the centuries. The era of the Holy Spirit ushered in miracles far greater and more wonderful than those recorded in Jesus’s three-year ministry.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Finally, there is a stark contrast between Christ’s peace and the world’s temporary pacifiers.
Jesus reassures us that His peace is the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. It is not a superficial emotion or a fleeting mood. Nor a few months of respite and relief from Covid or our financial woes. It is deep and lasting peace that only Christ can give. Not worldly peace, which is usually defined as the absence of conflict.
Christ’s peace comes to those who open their hearts to Him as Lord and who put their confidence in Him, not in their own goodness, but in His. It is a peace that comes to all who rest in His gracious sacrifice on the cross and the great truth that Christ alone is King of kings and Lord of lords. If you trust in His promises, if you trust that He is Lord of life and death, you will know that you have a new life and an unshakeable future prepared for you. You will have no need to fear and will be given a peace that transcends your current circumstances.
With Christ’s peace, we have no need to fear the present nor the future, nor the prince of this world (John 14:30). We have no need to fear the time when we are called upon to share the gospel with an individual or even a hostile crowd. We have no need to fear the consequences of following Christ, instead of taking the knee to a false god. We have no need to fear even the greatest enemy of all– death.
We see this kind of resolute peace in the face of Stephen, as he faced his enraged persecutors yelling at the top of their voices and grinding their teeth at him: “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56).
Christ’s peace is nothing like the false pacifiers offered by the world. He does not give as the world gives. For those who trust, He gives the confident assurance of His presence in any and every circumstance. He gives us His Spirit and the wonderful gift of prayer. And He gives us the conviction that He is our home and our final resting place– in this world and the next.
Thank you for joining me today as we looked at Christ’s words of consolation. Please join us next week as we finish our devotion on John 14:6, “ I am the way, the truth and the life–” words of Confrontation.