Jesus’ Answer to a Troubled Heart
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; 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.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
I don’t know what shows you get into, but I have this healthy (semi-healthy) obsession with a show called Forensic Files. If you have ever watched it, maybe you understand. It’s the only time I really ever get super into TV binging. I love that series. What happens in the show is there’s a crime that takes place and upfront, there’s really nobody that becomes a suspect, is convicted, or is accused of the crime. It sort of goes on and on and the part that I’ve come to be so interested in (besides the science aspect of this show) is that you meet these investigators who just don’t give up.
I mean, there are cases that have gone unsolved for 20, 30, 40 years and somehow, even if they’re retired, they keep working at it. They are obsessed with bringing justice to someone who deserves it. They will work tirelessly to bring some type of closure to a family.
I was watching this week and I thought about connecting the type of passion and commitment that they have while solving a crime and apply it to the way we look at scripture.
If you’ve been at church or you have any connection to a Bible study you’ve probably heard these verses before. However, what I want is for us to have a renewed digging and a renewed focus on these verses and really see what God brings out of them. John 14:1-7 is an incredible passage. If we look at it as an investigator would, we would start to analyze the words that are said and written here for us. I think you can come away with something profound and helpful.
First, let’s set up what’s going on in this situation. We are at a very interesting time in scripture. In the Jesus timeline, we’re extremely close to the cross. If you think about the ticking clock, at this point we’re now within about 24 hours of Jesus’ death.
Jesus is with his disciples and they’re at the Passover meal which has all these different parts to it. The disciples probably go in with some sense of elation and excitement. There are a lot of celebratory aspects to this meal but things quickly change. You see several major things come up with the disciples. We’re going to look at the events that are really important for us to identify and examine.
The first major event is that the disciples have a bunch of different revelations from Jesus of things that were not good.
First, they find out that there was somebody inside of that close-knit group that was going to betray Jesus. When they heard this, it had to be distressing. Another thing that Jesus tells them is that he’s going to die. This is obviously another cause of distress that leads to the realization that they’re about to be left alone… which is yet another element of distress. What was supposed to be an exciting and celebratory time, all of a sudden takes on a completely different tone.
Something I learned when I was getting my degree in Psychology was a SUDS Score. It stands for Subjective Units of Distress. The way that you come up with this score is through speaking with a client. As you’re learning about the things that person has been traumatized with, whether it’s internal or external, each experience receives a score. Different things get different scores. The loss of a loved one is likely really high up on that list. Another high score may come from some type of abuse. The client will list events and they each receive a score and you start adding up those scores. As you’re working with the client and as that score goes up, you realize more and more what the individual has gone through.
I looked at the disciples during the meal in the light of my counseling side and I was figuring out the SUDS score for them. With every bit of revelation that they get, the score goes higher. They’re going to be alone. That’s not what they wanted and it’s going to add to their SUDS score. Jesus, the guy that they’ve been following and learning from all this time, is gonna die. Score goes up. Somebody in their group is gonna betray him? Score goes up. All of these revelations happen and they have no idea what the future holds.
It brought me to those first couple of verses from John 14. They start off with a troubled heart and Jesus addresses it right away. He says, “don’t have a troubled heart,” and he gives them reasons. The timing is clearly very interesting. Jesus is getting ready to go to the cross and he’s worried about their troubled hearts. Tatiana, our Director of Communications, gave me a great title for this article. It’s “Jesus’s answer to the troubled heart.” I want you to think about that, because as followers of Jesus there is trouble that comes into our life and if you look at the life of Jesus he never promises us an easy route.
Anybody that tells you that it’s going to be easy and that you’ll have prosperity and other kinds of things like that is reading something different. There’s a lot of trouble that happens and Jesus addresses it here for us. Let’s dig deeply and investigate what he says.
Change is very difficult for us to accept and you see it with the disciples. Huge change was on the horizon for them and you can automatically feel their distress. It’s something that’s universal for us. We want comfort. We want things to stay the same when they are good. We try to protect ourselves as much as possible, but life brings change, challenge, and difficulty.
As Jesus works with his disciples, he works with you. The way that he addresses the disciples’ distress is by telling them “don’t have a troubled heart.” I want you to see what he says to them as a foundation. You don’t need to have a troubled heart.
The second major event is who Jesus says he is.
Let’s look at Thomas next. He is such an interesting character–sometimes people call him “doubting Thomas.” You see the freedom that he felt to ask questions. If you ever wonder if you can ask God a question, it appears to be totally fine.
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Now this is the distress, difficulty, challenge, and change that Thomas is already feeling. That emotion prompts the question “Lord, how are we going to go where you are going we don’t know the way to get there?” What Thomas is looking for is what I think a lot of us look for. He wants direction. He wants to see a map. He says “if that’s where you’re going tell us how to get there” and I want you to see that Jesus gives him three things.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
I want to propose to you that he gives you three things that you really need as well. He knows us, he cares about us, he loves us as people. These three things are the answer to the troubled heart.
Maybe today you have a troubled heart and are struggling with something. Maybe life has hit you in a way that you never expected, wanted, desired, or dreamed of. Look at this passage and see it as the way Jesus answers troubled hearts. As believers, this has a huge application to us.
Let’s examine the first two words that Jesus says to Thomas. “I am.” Stop for just a second. This is hugely important. Those words are a throwback to Exodus. The disciples would have known this. In Exodus chapter 3, there’s a scene that plays out where God has had Moses out in the wilderness because he had done something he shouldn’t have.
Moses is really searching and seeking and he finds a burning bush. The bush is not burning like any normal bush would, though. It is burning but it’s not consumed. There, God tells Moses to go to Egypt and get the people. Moses is nervous and confused. It’s not what he was expecting at all. When Moses asks “Well, who am I supposed to say sent me?” God tells him “say ‘I Am’ sent you.”
“I am” becomes a very important group of words for us when we read scripture. This is the investigative part because Jesus is saying “I am God.” He is relating himself back to that time long ago. In John, there are seven different times when Jesus says “I am.” This is the sixth one.
The disciples would have known each time that he is not saying just arbitrarily. Jesus is making a statement about who he is–his deity. He is describing that he is fully God and fully man and they are in the presence of God himself.
We may miss the importance of those words in modern times. If you look in John chapter 8, Jesus says that to a group of people and as soon as he says it, they know exactly what he means. They get furious, pick up rocks, and start throwing them. They wanted to stone him to death because they say he’s blaspheming God by using those words. It’s huge that Jesus says it the way that he does.Not only that but he also adds three things: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No person comes to the father except through me.” I love how right to the point Jesus is in this moment.
I am definitely not the smartest person in the room unless I’m the only person in the room. I don’t know if this applies to anyone else, but there’s times when Jesus talks in scripture and I get really stuck. I’m just being honest with you. Sometimes, it feels like he speaks in code and you have to really pull it apart and try to figure out what is being said. I’ll be honest, sometimes I’ve felt a little bit of frustration trying to come back later with a fresh mind (and maybe a little bit of coffee) and try to dig into it a bit more.
In this passage, you don’t have to worry about that. With a statement like “I am,” he’s telling you exactly who he is. He tells us right up front that the answer to the troubled heart isn’t a map, it isn’t a direction, it’s a person.
When Thomas asks the question, Jesus doesn’t give him a Hallmark answer like, “here are three tips to a better life.” Jesus makes it clear that he is where you find the answer.
Here we look at how Jesus is the direction and the destination. When Jesus says “I am the way,” he doesn’t say “a way.” We have to examine these words, they’re really important. “The way” means there’s only one way– there are no other routes.
How could this show a heart of compassion for the troubled heart? I think we have something in us as people that makes us feel we need safety, we need a foundation, we need to know where we are going. He is saying here, unequivocally, “I am the only way to find that.” Those disciples would leave that dinner with the knowledge of those upcoming horrible events and they would go out into the world clinging to these words. When they hit those moments when life was desperate, difficult, and challenging, they had faith and trusted in Jesus. They had seen what he had done and they knew that he was the way. They had a message that wasn’t their message, it was God’s.
It’s so amazing that it’s God that gave this message. It gives direction and foundation to the troubled heart. Not only does he love and care for us, but there is safety, hope, and security that is found in him and in him alone. Culturally, that is difficult and as much as we seek throughout our lives to find that place of safety and security, He answers it here. The answer that he gives to the troubled heart is himself.
The second thing that Jesus says about himself is “I am the truth.”
We have something in us that deeply desires the truth. There’s a great book called Lie Spotting. If you ever get a chance to read it, it was a TED Talk. It says a lie is an affront to you as a person. We are in a day and age right now where culture says “truth is whatever you think it is.” Jesus is saying that is not true, there is one truth and he is it. Again “I am the truth,” not “a truth,” There’s a boldness that he shows here. God put a desire in our hearts, minds, souls and our psyches of what is good and pure and honest and true. We simply desire truth and Jesus is telling you where to find it. An answer to the troubled heart is knowing what is right and what is true. Jesus is painting this beautiful picture to his disciples of their foundation and how they’ve been invited into this family.
The third thing is he says “I am the life.”
Think for just a second how often we want “the good life,” right? There’s probably a few movies and books with that title. If you walk into a bookstore or shop on Amazon, you’ll find a lot of stuff about how to “live well.” We are interested and/or preoccupied with life. Here Jesus says something again– it’s “the life,” not “a life.” A lot of people look at this passage and say, well, he’s referring there to eternal life, and he is, but I think it’s even more than that. He’s also dealing with us now and it’s the relationship that we are called into as believers. A relationship with him. He didn’t choose to deal with us as a far away, unimportant, ancillary accessory but what he does is call us into life. We are invited to his own family. There’s a great quote by Eugene Peterson that I think encapsulates this idea of life.
“The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped — it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory, in circumstances that become clear only in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversation with one another and with him.”
The answer to the troubled heart of a believer is a strong foundation and a clear direction. We see that when Jesus resurrects, it gives us a current hope and an eternal security because of what he’s done.
Here, I dig into what the disciples were going to need. They needed something to sustain them throughout the wanderings, the difficulty, the questioning, the hesitations and the doubt. A lot of times we think that Jesus being “The Life” is referring only to salvation but I think it gives us hope in the now. It gives us security and confidence in what he’s provided to us on earth.
Jesus is propelling the disciples forward with all of the things they need in their humanity to deal with the difficulties that will happen in their lives. Remember, this was a group of people that not too long ago were fishing and doing other things as jobs. All of a sudden, they’re about ready to have their lives upended in a way they could’ve never imagined.
The answers that Jesus gives are so beautiful. I want to finish with an unusual thing. If you really want to be that investigator/detective and dig into these verses, I want you to see that there is something that is hidden under the surface. There’s a wedding proposal that is unusual to us but it would have been very common at that time. You don’t see anything about a wedding.
But just before I get to talking about what the proposal means, I want to tell you my absolute favorite part of this job is doing weddings. I love it! In fact, I have volunteered to do more weddings than anybody else! If there’s a wedding to be done and they don’t have a pastor, I’m the first to volunteer! I love my wife. She’s so cool. Over 20 years ago, we got married right here at Granada. It was totally crazy because I didn’t even go to church back then. I got married in this room and marriage has been good to me. It’s challenging, of course. She has to live with me! But a lot of great stuff about it.
As I said, I love doing weddings and I did a wedding a few weeks ago for a couple and when I saw the two of them looking at each other… I mean, honestly, there are only a few times you see a smile like that. It was so amazingly special– the intimacy, the friendship and all of the things that all of us desire so much for weddings.
There are also huge challenges and hardships that can come when you’re that intimately close to someone else. Going back to the passage, we see it is actually a wedding proposal. In verse 2, it says, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I’m going there to prepare a place for you? 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.”
That is part of a wedding proposal.
If you go all the way back to the Old Testament and understand the ancient Jewish systems of how a marriage would take place, this is part of it. There’s a lot of information. For those of you that already know this, understand I have to shorten it up. A boy’s family was in charge of selecting a spouse. They would go out and meet with the family of a good prospective spouse. Then, the negotiation would happen.
Aren’t we glad we don’t do it this way anymore?
In the negotiation, a price would be paid (which is very relevant to the gospel) and there was essentially a covenant or a contract that would be written up. It would then be proposed to this family after a long negotiation and then it’ll be proposed to the possible bride. A glass of wine would be set there for her and if she agreed, she drank it. That was equivalent to saying “yes.”
That’s where this passage comes in. The future groom and bride were essentially engaged once she drank the cup of wine. The groom would then leave, go back to his father’s house, and start preparing a space for them. He would start building onto his father’s house a space for himself and his future wife. He’s really securing their future.
When Jesus tells the disciples “I will go prepare a place for you,” it means he’s so committed to loving them that he will go to the cross and give his life, the resurrection will happen, and later on the ascension. He’s going to prepare a place for us, His dearly beloved. He chooses a wedding and a marriage to signify his relationship with us. That’s how much he loves us. He doesn’t put it in another context or another illustration because it wouldn’t be enough.
The answer to a troubled heart is that Jesus loves you so much that he goes and he prepares a place for you. the Old King James version used to say “mansions” instead of “rooms,” but it’s really not a good understanding of this. It wasn’t well translated. “Mansions” makes you feel like you’re far away, right? That’s not at all what this is saying. It’s saying you’re going to be with me, you’re going to live with me. You have a place that you can call home and that’s a place of security and safety and you can get comfortable. Jesus is saying you’re going to come live in that intimate relationship with Him, we are going to be together. He’s not putting you in some other house, He’s putting you in His house. We will be together. This is the answer to the troubled heart: your savior Jesus Christ, the one who gives his life for you, says you’re going to live in His house, you’re going to be with Him, and that is what heaven is.
Heaven isn’t all of these self-serving things that many people say it is. Heaven is a relationship with our creator who has given us life through himself. He cares about your troubled heart and he tells you today “I am the way. the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father but through me.” And he goes and prepares a place for his dearly beloved. Today we wait as that is prepared, all in God’s timing.
You have a heavenly father who cares about you that much and I want to encourage you. Today, the road that you take in your life will be full of turns and there’ll be changes and it’ll be things you don’t expect. There’ll be things that you never wanted and there’ll be times where you’re frustrated and you have questions. Like we see from Thomas, you can ask those questions. You’re going to have hesitations, moments of doubt, feelings of being left behind; but I direct us back to the direction, truth, and life that’s given to us. He does it all in the context of a relationship that is intimate and close and really shows just how much he loves you.
I hope today you think a little bit deeper about following Jesus. It can sometimes be very difficult but he does give us hope and encouragement. We have a God that loves us so much that he even addresses the little troubled hearts and the deepest, most intimate nooks and crannies of who we are. This is even more proof of just how much he loves and cares for you.