In our conversation through the Book of John, today we are crossing into another portion of the letter where John starts spiraling in concepts in order to walk towards his ultimate objective:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
The spiral that we are about to enter brings themes up over and over again in order to build into the process that leads to belief.
John is not giving some Jesus stats or some simple concrete concepts to repeat. He is not giving simple directives on what to do. John is walking us in process.
And so in the next chapters we see themes like these: Jesus sends the Spirit. Love leads to obedience. Loving Jesus is loving God. Knowing Jesus is knowing God. Life following Jesus is not without resistance, but it is with the unwavering presence of Jesus.
These chapters don’t necessarily fall into nice traditional sermon outlines, the way Paul tends to do. This again points towards John’s intentional process for inviting us into process. So we will walk into the shaker today, and over the next weeks we will feel the themes come out in their repetition.
Chapter 14 starts off with a recognition of strong emotion. Before we get there, think back to a recent moment in which you felt strong emotion. Maybe you haven’t felt emotion you’d consider strong in some time. That’s fine, just think back to a recent time where you had some experience of emotion--enjoyment, fear, sadness.
Then think about someone telling you in the middle of that to stop experiencing that emotion--stop being so angry or sad or frustrated or anxious.
What is the effect or result of someone demanding that you change your emotion?
“Stop being angry.” “Don’t be sad.” “Just be happy.” Those are fighting words. I’m about to explode in anger, and you tell me, “Don’t be angry”? It ain’t gonna go well.
Just because I’ve been someone who’s had a hard time giving myself permission to process emotions instead of just pushing them off, it’s good to note that it’s completely appropriate to feel emotion as a human. To process it, to figure out why it’s there, and even to express it. Enjoyment, sadness, anger, disgust. And so many more layers. If we don’t allow ourselves freedom to process, we’ll end up having it all spill out on people we care about.
Now there is another level of this conversation. My prediction was that we don’t respond that well to a demand for emotional change. But that doesn’t mean that strong emotion is unchangeable.
This is not saying that strong emotions are bad or good. But they don’t tend to stay strong forever. Sometimes they change quickly, sometimes not so quickly.
What causes strong emotion to shift?
As we walk into John 14 we have to keep context in mind. Jesus had been attacked in Jerusalem but He escaped. Lazarus, a friend of Jesus and the disciples, was dying and eventually died. Jesus and his disciples returned, even with the danger of being attacked again, and Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus’ fame grew immensely. The religious authorities saw that Jesus needed to be eliminated or the delicate relationship with the Romans would be disrupted and they would take the Temple and destroy them as a people. Jesus entered Jerusalem with a triumphal entry and the people were confused as to His purpose. Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover together in the upper room. John doesn’t mention the celebration of communion, but he does mention the moment Jesus washed the disciples feet. Jesus declared that one would betray Him and that He was leaving the disciples. He then gave a new command to love as He had loved them. Peter declared that he would never leave Jesus’ side, and Jesus said that Peter would disown Him three times before the rooster crowed.
Emotions were high and there had been many ups and downs the group had experienced. Things were looking like easy street was just around the corner--honor and respect were coming. And now, Jesus was talking about going somewhere and telling us (the disciples) that we may fail.
Turn the page to chapter 14. Jesus says:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)
This is not a command but an invitation to process.
Jesus doesn’t say “don’t worry” but then not give them anything to help them not worry. He goes on to explain why they ought not worry. In this moment I pause to think of who was telling the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled.
It was Jesus: the focus of this moment and of these next chapters in this section. The focus is built on relationship with Jesus. They would have had some moments to reflect on.
Memories are fascinating. Sometimes they fade. Sometimes they are cherished. Sometimes they are confining. Sometimes they are ignored. Sometimes they guide our next steps.
Remember, this is Jesus who is God.
This is the Jesus that cleared the Temple. (Matthew 21:12-15)
This is the Jesus that fed the 5,000. (Matthew 14:13-21)
This is the Jesus that healed the man that was lowered through the roof and placed in front of him. (Luke 5:17-26)
This is the Jesus that had time for the children. (Luke 18:15-17)
This is the Jesus that called us to follow Him. (Matthew 4:18-20)
The disciples had seen, heard, experienced, and felt so many things with Jesus. But in this moment in John 14, Jesus sees their pain.
I am going to ask you this question: Why are reminders and/or remembering important to relationships? (If you’re married, maybe you’ve taken moments with your spouse to go look back on wedding pictures or honeymoon pictures or old love letters written to each other. If you’re married and haven’t done this together at any point, I’d definitely recommend it.)
Reminders of experiences, of character, of love and empathy, of helpful moments, of happy or challenging times...
Why are reminders and remembrances important to relationships?
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 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? 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.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7)
Jesus is looking at His disciples--people that had left their families and their careers and hitched their hope for a better life on Jesus. As they spent time with Jesus, I can imagine relationships growing deeper, and in turn also that hope that what Jesus was saying was true.
They learned things about Jesus of course, but more importantly, they began to really know Jesus. They would have known how He would respond in certain situations, His likes and dislikes, what made Him happy, and what angered Him.
Knowing was essential to their following. Knowing was essential to their hope. Knowing was essential to their understanding of what they were really doing with their lives.
This knowing and continued following speaks volumes to the character of Jesus. From afar, someone can look very impressive, but as the distance closes the reality can often become apparent.
It’s with this knowing and hope and relationship that the disciples are thrown into chaos by what they just saw and heard… about Judas’ coming betrayal and about Jesus going somewhere they can not follow.
They would have been worried, scared and confused. And it’s at this moment that Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Just as you’ve entrusted your life to God, entrust your life to me.”
This is a very important starting place for the rest of what Jesus is about to say to His friends.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 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? 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.” Jesus the Way to the Father Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7)
These verses can be used as tools of division and judgement, but that does not seem to be the intent of Jesus’ words.
Rather, He speaks these words to worried friends that had given up everything to follow Him. These are words of comfort and not words of judgement. If you are a follower of Christ and you find struggle in your belief and understanding, then these words are spoken for you.
It is in the moments of our doubting and unbelief that Jesus reassures us that we do in fact know Him and in turn are able to know God. That comfort in struggle comes with recognition that we often focus entirely on knowing about God, when the real goal is to know God. Knowing is vastly different than knowing about.
I grew up in a Christian household. Growing up, I thought my parents were very vanilla and boring, like most teenagers do. They held good jobs, volunteered with little league and youth groups, loved one another well, and had good relationships with their families. When I compared them to the chaos of some of my friends' families, our family seemed perfect. I knew they were not, obviously, but I did know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they loved me and cared for me. I knew this about them. I knew their character. As I got older I started to learn things about them that blew my mind. My dad only went to church because he thought my mom was cute and didn't believe in God until later on. My parents decided to get married because my mom got pregnant with me. My dad had been married before and was a high school drop out. The list could go on and on about things I learned about my parents that shocked me, but the point I am trying to make is that there is a difference between knowing and knowing about. I know my parents, but I don't know and understand everything about them. I probably never will, and it’d be weird if that became my purpose in life.
This is what Jesus is saying to his disciples. He is saying, “Guys, you know Me, you’ve been with Me, you’ve experienced life with Me, and that’s what matters.”
Knowing Jesus has nothing to do with knowing all the facts and has everything to do with presence over time.
This isn't an informational belief; it's an entrusting belief. "You have entrusted yourself to God; entrust yourself to Me in the same way."
I know my parents because of the vast amount of time we have spent together. I know Jesus because of the vast amount of time we have spent together.
Last week we spent a significant amount of time talking about the learning process. Relationship, though, is so much more. Relationship is a dynamic, fluid, complex, beautiful, scary thing.
We talked earlier about reminders in relationship. Now think about them in your relationship with Jesus.
What reminders and remembrances are important in your relationship with Jesus?
Jesus looks at His disciples and says, Don’t let your hearts be troubled. I see that you believe in God; believe in me too. I am looking out for you. You know.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me (and I know you do), you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)
Next week we will incorporate another one of John’s themes of this section, the sent Holy Spirit--Comforter, Advocate.
Today is not about completion. But it is a complete thought. Jesus looks at you: Don’t let your heart be troubled. You know Me and knowing Me leads to connection to God.
As Jesus looks at you now and says,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, (and I know you do) you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)
Think about the disciples in the moment they heard Jesus tell them all of this. What must they have been feeling or experiencing? Even if you’re the most stoic or unfeeling person, I don’t think you could be in the position these disciples were in and not have some kind of reaction or some things to process.
Imagine having walked, day in and day out, with Jesus for three years, and then He tells you that He’s leaving. And that you’re going to face hardship and probably death. And He says “don’t worry, I won’t leave you as orphans but I’ll send the Comforter to be with you and to guide you in all truth.”
If it were me, I’d have a hard time.
Maybe you are facing some level of hardship in your life right now. Maybe you feel alone and don’t know where God is in your situation. Maybe you know “truths” about how He’s present, but you’re wondering how on earth it’s possible.
The disciples felt this. It’s perfectly acceptable and should even be expected that these experiences are part of following Jesus. We will have moments of feeling alone or wondering where help is at.
And as unknown as it feels to me sometimes, I think we’re invited to something that is so amazing. Before Jesus’ death, the disciples got to be with Him every day. And right after He died, they were terrified and scattered. But then after His resurrection, after being promised the Holy Spirit, the disciples did what Jesus asked and waited. And then on Pentecost they were given the exact Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead.
Jesus did what he said. He left them in person, but literally gave them His Spirit to live inside them.
We are invited to that. To believe in Him, yes, but not just to believe in Him. To have life in Him, to literally experience greater life through belief and connection. And it’s a lot to process. What do you feel the pull to process today?
- What do you need to hear?
- What do you need to process?
- What do you need to remember?
- (If you feel like you have processed the first three) What do you need to do?
Take It Deeper Questions:
- Read John 14:1-14.
- When have you been lost? What happened? How did you eventually become not lost?
- How do you know when you know someone?
- How do you know when you know Jesus?
- If knowing is never complete, how do you stay in the process for an extended period of time?
- What is the result of knowing Jesus? How have you seen that result lived out in your life?
- How are you challenged, focused, confused and/or encouraged by this text?
Bible Reading Plan:
- Leviticus 10
- Leviticus 11
- Leviticus 12
- John 14
- John 15
- John 16