Sunday, September 09, 2007


I want to spend some more time on the words of Jesus to his disciples "on the night he was betrayed." John records them in his Gospel at chapters 14 through 17. I suggested in an earlier post that Jesus gave special prominence in his talk that night to three things: believing, loving, and abiding. I called this "the triad of discipleship." Now, perhaps these are three words for the same thing, three facets of the same diamond, but I want to take them one at a time and look closely at what Jesus says about each one.

But before doing so I want to insert this routine disclaimer: I am the least methodical of bloggers. As I have said many times, I blog by the seat of my pants. These are not the refined thoughts of one who has meditated long and understands well, but the earnest musings of one who wishes to understand Jesus and follow him. It helps me to write these things down, and this blog is the place I do that.

When you read the Scriptures, always keep the context in mind. What is going on around the particular text at hand. In this case, remember this: this is Jesus’ last evening with his disciples before his arrest, peremptory trial, and brutal execution. The fear and horror of the next 24 hours is going to be acute for them all, but especially of course for Jesus himself. He knows full well what he is facing, and he knows also that it is what he came to do. Though the sheer agony of what lay ahead must already have been roiling in him, his tone now is calm and reassuring. All of his concern at this moment is for his disciples. He needs to tell them that what is about to happen is not an end, but a beginning. He needs to stay their hearts against fear and despair. He needs to prepare them not only for the next 24 hours, but for their lives as missionary Gospelizers thereafter.

So Jesus' first words that night were about his going. He wanted them to see it in the proper perspective. He tells them that he is going away (what horror and what glory is contained in those two words!), but nevertheless that they should not be troubled, because though he and they will be separated for a time, he is going to prepare a place for them. In other words, he is insuring their eternal destiny with him.
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
Notice Jesus' emphasis on believing, and on the content of their believing. If they don’t believe him in this matter, they’re going to be "troubled" indeed. If they don’t believe him now, then there will be no way for them to comprehend what is about to happen to him and to them. All the violence, all the blood, will only confirm them in utter despair.

What Jesus is about to endure is the work he was sent to do. And in doing it, he brings many sons to glory. That is the joy he sees beyond the agony, and for which he endured the agony (Heb. 12:2). That was the reason for his coming, and it is the ground of hope for all his disciples. Jesus has insured our eternal destiny, and he is coming again to take us there. If we don’t believe this, the horror and confusion of this world, and the apparent victories of evil that happen all around us, are going to bring us to despair. "Troubled hearts" only scratches the surface of what we would be feeling.

So what do I conclude? Believing in Jesus is a matter of first importance for the disciple, and it has fundamentally to do with believing what Jesus has accomplished and where he is now. And this stays and steadies the troubled heart.

No comments: