Troubled Hearts

John 14:1-31 

Some of you came with troubled hearts this morning. You have been struggling with something in your life that has left you either on the verge of bursting into tears, or ready to put your fist through a wall. You carry it around with you and it permeates your life, distracting you at work, waking you at night, sucking the life out of you.

And it makes you feel helpless. You’re normally strong and capable of handling whatever comes your way. But this has kicked your butt, and you don’t know what to do to get out from underneath it. Your heart is troubled.

If you’re not there right now, there’s a good chance you have been, or that you will be at some time in the future. None of us are immune. Not even those who walked with Jesus day in and day out for three years.

In John chapter 13, Jesus announced that he was going to be arrested and put to death the next day, that one of them would be the one who betrayed him, and that one of them would deny him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning.

They had thought their journey with him would bring them to the royal palace where Jesus would take his rightful place on the throne ruling over Israel. They knew that he was the Messiah, they believed that he was the Son of God. And then like a 2x4 across the face, he shatters their illusion with the reality that before the day ended tomorrow that he would be dead and they would be scattered. You had better believe their hearts were troubled.

Even Jesus’ heart was troubled. Back in chapter 13, John writes: “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit.” Before the night was over, he would pray, “Father, if there is any way to let this cup pass…” as he sweat drops of blood.

As we read this very familiar conversation between Jesus and his disciples, we hear them process this chasm between what their minds know and what their hearts are feeling. So many times we are frustrated because we tell ourselves we ought to know better. And we do know better. But those feelings and emotions are powerful things to deal with.

Let’s listen to Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me…” (John 14:1)

As Jesus begins, he acknowledges their feelings. He doesn’t say, “Shame on you, don’t have those feelings.” He understands that the feelings are already there. Their hearts are troubled. They are upset and angry and frustrated. So here is how you handle them: “Trust in God; trust also in me.”

It’s not an indictment, but a reminder of where peace can be found. Where do people seek for relief from the troubled heart? Drugs or alcohol or sex. We’ll go buy something to take our minds off of it, we’ll escape in movies or entertainment, a vacation or an adventure. But when we come down or come back and the thrill wears off, our troubled heart is still there waiting for us.

Jesus says the only true safe harbor from our troubled hearts is in trusting God. That’s where Jesus himself fled when he was overwhelmed. When he prayed, “Father take this cup away from me,” what were his very next words? “Not my will, but yours be done.” That is the truest expression of trust: “God, I’m putting this in your hands and trust you to take care of me.”

But what is the substance of this trust? Jesus’ words are not a simplistic, “Don’t worry, things will get better.” He tells his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am 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. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:2-4)

Again, that was the refuge to which Jesus went when he faced the most difficult day of his life: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2) Jesus perfected trust by looking beyond the cross, knowing what God was preparing for him. He could experience joy in the most extreme situation we can imagine.

Your ultimate refuge from a troubled heart isn’t going to be in God removing the cross in your life, but in reminding you to look beyond it. Paul would write: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

We have a problem with that. We want peace now. We want the solution to be locked in tomorrow morning. We don’t want to wait on tomorrow or next week and certainly not for heaven for our troubles to be resolved. We want to pray for God’s peace and then get off our knees to find that he has taken care of everything.

But that’s not trust. That’s telling God how and when we want him to act. God doesn’t answer prayers like that. He answers prayers that end with “Not my will, but yours be done.” And that lets God be God, not me. I already know I don’t have the solution to my troubled heart, and so it would be pretty arrogant telling him how to fix it.

The disciples thought the answer was to avoid the cross. Peter was ready to fight to keep Jesus from being arrested. But that wasn’t God’s answer. God’s answer was on the other side of the cross in an empty tomb.

When Jesus tells us, “I am going to prepare a place for you and I will come back to take you with me to be where I am,” what greater promise could I hope for? Yes, I would love for my problems to evaporate overnight, but I would much rather know that God has an answer bigger than any problem I could face. So, I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. Any problems I face right now are outweighed by the eternal glory God is preparing for me.

As you can imagine, the disciples had questions. They are still reeling from Jesus’ announcement and this talk of going away and them going to be with him is pretty confusing. And so Thomas asks what is on everyone’s minds: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Thomas wants a map. He wants written directions to get him to the other side of his troubled heart. I’m kind of like Thomas. There are times I have prayed, “Lord, I’m not against your will, I’d just like you to let me in on it.” I don’t like uncertainty. I want to know what to expect and what’s expected of me.

Listen to what Jesus tells Thomas: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)

He is telling them, “You don’t need a map, you need to trust me. I am the map. I am the way. I am truth. I am life. The only way you will come to the Father is by following me. In fact, if you really knew me, you would already know where I am taking you. You would know the Father, because if you know me, you already know him.”

Philip still isn’t getting it. His picture of Jesus is still too small. And so he says, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” He wants confirmation. He wants it spelled out. He wants to see exactly where and to whom Jesus is taking them. And to this Jesus responds, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Jesus is not the go-between. He isn’t leading them to a destination, he is the destination. And so he takes them back to the classroom and goes back over what they need most to know when he is no longer with them.

“How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:9-14)

Lesson number one: Jesus is God. If you’re looking at Jesus as anything less, you have missed everything John has been writing and Jesus has been saying up to this point. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” 

“If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” 

“I who speak to you am he.” John has not been hiding this out of sight. He has been upfront in presenting Jesus as God. Jesus does not back down from his claim to be God. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

If his disciples do not get this lesson, then nothing else will really matter. Even the most dedicated service to a mere human will ultimately be wasted effort.

Lesson number two: He tells the disciples, “You are integrally involved in carrying on the work I began.” I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Once the disciples get over the shock of the crucifixion and the exhilaration of the resurrection, Jesus’ ministry will become their ministry. If they don’t get this, game over. But Jesus has confidence in them and reminds them that their work will not be alone – he and the Father, (and in a few minutes he will include the Holy Spirit) will all be involved in what they are doing. They will never be alone, they will never be on their own – Jesus will be with them.

Those two lessons that Jesus taught his disciples that night are ones we need to hear as well when our hearts are troubled.

1) Jesus is God. There is nothing too big or complicated for him to handle. Trust him to carry you through. He has something bigger and better in store for you than you could ever imagine.

2) Jesus will be with you. There is nothing that you are going through that he won’t go through with you.

In John’s first letter, he will tell us these two things:

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 Jn 3:19-20)

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 Jn 4:4)

As Paul will write, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)

Peter reminds us to cast our burdens on Jesus, because he cares for us. Do that this morning. Leave your troubled heart in his hands.