"Don't Be Troubled" Bible Study on John 14:1-14
May 6, 2020, 12:00 PM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passage from John 14:1-14 (Common English Bible translation).

“Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.”

Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have really known me, you will also know the Father. From now on you know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us.”

Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you all this time? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I have spoken to you I don’t speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Trust me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on account of the works themselves. 12 I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father can be glorified in the Son. 14 When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.

"Don't be troubled" says Jesus to his disciples.  It's hard not to be troubled when thousands have died worldwide because of  the wretched Coronavirus.  It's hard not to be anxious when over 30 million people throughout the U.S. are unemployed.  It's difficult to remain calm when our children are forced to learn from the confines of their homes.  And it's hard not to be troubled when we do not know when the shelter in place restriction will be lifted and we will be able to return to some kind of new normal.

And yet in this Sunday's Gospel we will watch as Jesus reassures his disciples and tells them, "Don't be troubled."  Thus far, Jesus has washed their feet and shared a meal with his disciples.  After he had washed their feet and eaten with the twelve, Jesus foretold his betrayal by Judas (john 13:26-28) and his betrayal by loyal Peter (John 13:37-38).  Jesus has commanded his disciples to love each other (John 13:34), even as he predicts his own departure.  Then Jesus tells them that he is headed to a place that they cannot come (John 13:33).

"Don't be troubled.  Trust in God.  Trust also in me."  Last Sunday, we refelcted upon a shepherd who leads out of the gate and takes the sheep with him.  Now Jesus seems to be saying that the shepherd is going out on a way that they cannot follow.  Hearing this sort of talk from the shepherd does not seem reassuring.  When Jesus replies to his disciples' questions with, "Don't worry.  Trust God.  Trust me" (John 14:1), Jesus then feels the need to offer his disciples reasons for why he is indeed trustworthy.  

Thomas and Philip openly express that unease with Jesus' declarations.  Thomas candidly blurts out, "We don't know" (John 14:5).  Though the others may act like they know the path you are headed, I don't know, and I'll admit it.  Perhaps Thomas senses that the time is growing shorter.  "Please Jesus, cut to the chase.  Stop all this Johannine metaphorical talk and be upfront with us.  Say clearly where you are headed."  Thomas and Philip confess confusion and ignorance about where Jesus is going and what the Father looks like: Are you going to leave us by ourselves?  Where are you going?  Can we come too?

After some talk about exiting and then returning (John 14:3-4), Jesus again asks his disciples to trust that he and God are one.  When we see Jesus, we see the Father.  The sheep have heard the shepherd's voice, and they have seen the works that he does.  That ought to be sufficient for them.  If we know Jesus, we know God because Jesus shows us what God is like.

We often say that someone is best known to us by her/his works, rather than by her/his words. I used to say to my grandmother, "I love you, grandma," to which she would reply, "Don't tell me you love me.  Show me you love me."  Is that what Jesus says to the disciples (John 14:11)?  Perhaps Jesus is inviting Thomas and Philip and the others to recall to their memory the works that Jesus has done in their time with him.  There were the water to wine thing, Lazarus brought back to life, a miraculous feeding from just a little bread and a few fish, and many more signs.

How is the identity of Jesus revealed by his works?  "Who is he?" is a question best answered by "What does he do?"

Then comes the disciples' plea, "Show us the Father," which this ironic Gospel surely means to be ironic.  Here God's own Child stands right before them.  Jesus has been patiently, repeatedly attempting to show them the true identity and will of God.  Yet the disciples are still confused and pleading to see the Father.  There's always room for one more miraculous work, yet another sermon, an additional encounter with Christ if we are going to receive our heart's desire: let us truly see God.

Yet surely the most stunning (and perhaps perplexing) part of this passage is yet to come: "I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.  They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father can be glorified in the Son.  When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:12-14).

Those many wondrous works that Philip, Thomas, and the others have been encouraged to recall to mind are nothing compared with what the disciples themselves will be able to do. What?  Us?  Insofar as we ask in Jesus' name, as his sheep, as people abiding in Jesus as he abides in God, we "will do greater works than these" (John 14:12).

Is Jesus serious?  I know that many of us pray for good work to be accomplished in our lives, yet sometimes our prayers are unanswered.  And when our prayers go unanswered, it's sometimes tough to have complete trust in Jesus.  And yet, we try again, to keep praying without ceasing, to be patient, and to try a different approach.

Perhaps there is perspective offered in Jesus' repetition in John 14:14.  Philip's interchange with Jesus shows us that it's okay to be confused by Jesus and his path going forward and that it's okay to acknowledge that confusion.  Jesus does not condemn or disparage our questions and frustrations.  In fact, Jesus promises us that we, even in our confusion and uncertainty, will be able to do great works in his name.  Though we do not fully understand Jesus, though we have doubts and questions, Jesus graciously reassures us.  Jesus promises to use us, even us, anyway.

Peace & Abundant Blessings,

Pastor Greg Rupright


05-07-2020 at 7:30 PM
Pat May
Thanks for the HOPE!
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