"Do not let your hearts be troubled."
What a thing for Jesus to say to his disciples.
Especially since Jesus just revealed to them how one
of the twelve would betray him and then another
would deny him, all of which is necessary for his
apparent imminent death.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled." The audacity.
In his farewell address to his disciples, Jesus's
words hang heavy like a wet sweater on a
clothesline. They offer both words of comfort and
Comfort in that Jesus reminds the disciples and us
to hang our burdens and our worries on God and not
on the world. God is big enough to handle even our
Confusion in the teaching about Jesus going to a
'mansion in the sky' with many rooms. If he is going
to God, why must we wait? And a room by myself
sounds kind of lonely.
Comfort in that Jesus assures us he has not and will
not abandon us, though he may physically be gone.
Despite the separation that death will cause, the
bond of love and community between Jesus and those
who love him will not break.
Confusion in that "we know the place where [Jesus]
is going." Thanks be to God for Thomas and his
honest inquiry for directions. "We have no idea what
you are talking about, Jesus. How can we join you?
Will we need to check our baggage? How much will
that cost us?
Reimbursement?" Honestly, many of us have asked
similar questions in different seasons of our faith.
Like Thomas, sometimes we want need geographical
directions. "On the corners of Pekin and Ottawa,
I'll meet you and tell you everything you wish to
know about life." ~God [if only this would happen!]
Comfort in that Jesus promises to go ahead of us,
his beloved siblings, traversing the chasm between
the ‘temporal and eternal.' Jesus identifies himself
as the point of access to life with God and the
embodiment of Love. John's whole purpose is to
remind his community that God is with us, not
against or without us.
Confusion in that Jesus says, "I am the way, the
truth, and the life." Which, okay, makes for a cute
sign, but what does this mean? Sadly, these
metaphors have been coopted by many Christians as
ways to prevent the human community from existing.
Does anyone else find this to be ironic since they
are a part of a story explaining God's spacious
mansion, which has enough rooms for everyone?
Comfort in that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the
life. And this is my favorite part of this memorable
goodbye scene. When the anxiety in the room becomes
as thick as the humidity in the Midwest in August,
Jesus reminds this eclectic group of misfits that
the entire purpose of his life was to bring life to
the world, not to squelch it.
So perhaps what this text can do for us is provoke
us into a position of contemplation, asking the
question, "How does this passage grow us in the way
Jesus reminds us of God's drawing near to us, again.
Feeling like Jack Shepherd from Lost? Confused? Wish
there were fewer words to read or simpler words to
You're not alone in confusion.
Philip [following in the footsteps of Thomas] is as
confused and lost as well. "Just show us, man. Stop
speaking in code and metaphor. Can't you use
emoticons for what you're saying? Give us a
children's sermon, and we will be satisfied."
Perhaps recognizing the growing frustration and
desperation of the disciples, Jesus responds with
his thesis statement:
"Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father
is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because
of the works themselves."
Confusion and comfort, all in one sentence.
But here is the good news, this is what we must hold
on to: God's love is revealed in Christ. By the
Spirit, we have become little Christ's, image
bearers of God. To know God means to know one
another. To love one another is to love God. In
loving God and one another, we will do greater
things. What is greater than to live in peace with
So what does this have to do with us? Where is the
comfort in all this theological confusion?
It is here: In Christ, the Word made flesh, we are
made known and are known by God. We no longer need
to remain in the darkness of our troubles, but
instead, we can live in light of the self-giving,
self-emptying love of Jesus. And in this person, we
come to know how God has chosen not to be God
without us. God gathers us into God's self, and in
turn, we experience life eternal—that is,
participation in the very being of God.
And it's there, in that place, in our room at the
heart of God, where we discover how God's promise to
love us, to welcome us, to know us and be known by
us, never ends.
Thus, our hearts ought never be troubled knowing we
are never unknown to God because the secret of our
identity hides in the love of and mercy of God.
And let's be honest, to be unknown to God would be
altogether too much privacy!
[Adam Quinn, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church