Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hope for the Troubled Heart

“Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.”  John 14:1

With these words Jesus begins his Upper Room Discourse.  Jesus commences speaking to his disciples in John 14:1 and continues to John 16:33.  In John 17:1 he begins his High Priestly Prayer.  The words of Jesus in the Upper Room Discourse encourage disciples who are troubled in heart.  We should turn to them to receive our Lord’s instruction (John 14-16) and to hear our Lord’s prayer in our behalf (John 17).  With these words Jesus prepares his apostles for his departure (the Ascension) and the promise of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost).  If we read them slowly and prayerfully, these words will lift our hearts today. 
Jesus begins his great discourse by saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”  Why were the disciples troubled?  Jesus had told his disciples three things that would have troubled their hearts.  First, he told them that he was going to die.  Second, he told them that one of them (Judas) was going to betray him.  Third, he told Peter that he would deny him three times before the cock crowed.  These were troubling words for the disciples to hear as they shook their confidence in themselves and in their Lord.  Would they really betray him?  Would they really deny him?  Would the life of the man they believed to be the Messiah end in death by crucifixion?  They were troubled indeed.
          But Jesus speaks words into their troubled hearts that are meant to bring peace.  Only the words of Jesus can bring true peace to troubled hearts.  When we behold the evil in ourselves and in the world that is opposed to Jesus, we too become troubled of heart.  Yet Jesus comes to us and says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”  How can we be anything but troubled when we observe the evil of our own hearts (the betrayal and denial) and the evil against Jesus? 
          Jesus says, “Believe in God; believe also in me.”  The first line, “Believe in God,” is ambiguous in the original Greek.  Grammatically, it may be translated as an indicative, “You believe in God,” or an imperative, “Believe in God.”  The ESV chooses the imperative for the text and footnotes the indicative as a possibility.  The difference in meaning is only slight in this context.  Jesus may be saying that his disciples need to do two things: believe in God and believe in him.  Or Jesus may be assuming that the disciples believe in God and calling upon them to believe in him as they already believe in God.  Either way, Jesus is telling them to place their trust in God and in him.  Jesus makes himself an object of faith along with God.  No ordinary human being could say, “Believe in God.  Believe also in me.”  Jesus is more than a mere human being.  He is the fully divine Son of God and object of our faith. 
          What is the connection between not letting our hearts be troubled and believing in God and Jesus?  The connection is that the way that we find peace when our hearts are troubled is by believing in God and in Jesus.  The disciples did not yet fully understand how all this evil (the crucifixion of their leader, their betrayal, desertion, and denial of Jesus) was for their good.  Jesus simply says, “Trust God.  Trust me.”  Now we have a different vantage point than the disciples.  We know how this story ends.  We know that all these evils things had to happen because they were part of God’s plan to fulfill the Scriptures and to save us from sin.  God had a plan for the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter.  So, in one sense, we have greater reason to trust these words than the original disciples. 
But they apply to the evil that we face today.  Sometimes we look around us at the world and see much evil.  We see people opposing God everywhere we turn.  In our day and age we are able to see evil daily on the evening news.  It can be overwhelming and can trouble the heart deeply. 
It gets worse.  As we look at all this evil outside us in the world, we come to realize that much of that evil also resonates with evil inside us.  We see that we are evil.  Peter might have been inclined to judge the one who was to betray Christ until Christ looked him in the eyes and told him that he would deny him three times.  Peter might have been troubled that one of the disciples would have betrayed Christ and other evil men would kill him.  But I imagine that nothing troubled Peter more than the thought that the evil was in him.  That he would deny his Lord.  That he was capable of that.  Do you get discouraged by your own evil?  Is your heart troubled by the way that you betray, deny, and crucify Christ?  Is there is any hope?  Is there any peace?
          Jesus says, “Believe in God; believe also in me.”  We are meant to look away from others and from ourselves.  We will only find disappointment and discouragement by looking there.  We must look to God and to his Son Jesus.  In Jesus we find peace and hope.  In Jesus our hearts can be delivered from trouble.  Peace does not come from within.  It comes from without.  It comes from Jesus.  “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15).

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