Belief, the Cure for a Troubled Heart (John 14:1-6)

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Martin Luther called John chapter 14 “the best and most comforting sermon preached by Christ while on this earth . . . a jewel and a treasure not purchasable with the world’s goods.”[1]

John starts the chapter with a problem and then proceeds to offer the solution. The problem, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (Jn 14:1). We naturally possess stormy and troubled souls. Is your heart troubled today? I suppose in this present moment, that is a ridiculous question. We find ourselves in the middle of extraordinary times. The world has stopped. Most of the world find themselves quarantined in their homes. Economies crumble around us. Retirement plans seem lost. Unemployment continues to rise. Families struggle as they find themselves in close proximity with the uncertainty of an end date. Social media and news outlets feed on fear and drama. Fear and anxiety grip a large portion of the world’s population, whereas cynicism and anger grip another portion [explain further]. Emotions abound. The world is a tumultuous and stormy.

Lest we forget, people continue to struggle with the same troubling, anxiety ridden, circumstances that existed prior to Covid-19 and will continue long past Covid-19. Marriages continue to dissolve. Children continue to walk away from the Lord. Physical weakness and disease continue to confront members of our church family and our friends.

In this moment, God providentially leads us to John 14, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”  

The Setting. Jesus and his disciples dine and fellowship in the upper room. The time of Jesus’ death, on a cross, approaches. Jesus reveals a betrayer in their midst and dismisses Judas from the group. Peter has learned of his future denial. Soon the disciples will be in the garden with Jesus and will flee out of fear. They have begun to understand Jesus’ message concerning his impending death. They are hurt and in emotional pain. Simply put, they have troubled hearts. Pause for one moment and attempt to connect to the level of fear these disciples must have faced in this moment. And Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”

Purpose statement. Jesus offers us a present solution that rests in future hope. Our present troubles should be dramatically and positively affected by our belief in the future.


Let not your heart be troubled

Our hearts. For sake of time, let me simplify. The term heart refers to “the innermost self, the source and seat of functions of soul and spirit in the emotional life.”[2] The heart consists of our emotions (affections) and our belief system (cognition) and our decision-making process (cognition). In this context we could appropriately limit that list to our emotions and our thinking. Have your emotions ever felt like a troubled and stormy sea, feelings you can’t grab a hold of and control? Has your mind ever raced as you lay in your bed, struggling with the worries and fears of what tomorrow could bring? In each and all these moments, your heart was troubled.

Troubled. What does it mean to be troubled? In a literal sense, the pool of Bethesda was troubled when it was shaken and stirred. Figuratively, troubled describes something or someone being unsettled, frightened, terrified, or intimidated.[3]

General examples. Herod’s heart was troubled when he feared there was another king of the Jews (Matt 2:3). In the early church, some Jewish believers were imposing additional expectations on the newly grafted Gentile believers, and these expectations were troubling them and unsettling their souls (Acts 15:24). When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, their hearts were troubled, and they were terrified (Matt 14:26). Peter writes of believers being persecuted for the cause of Christ and he exhorts them to not let their heart be troubled and “not fear their intimidation” (1 Pe 3:14).

Examples of Christ being troubled. Jesus as well struggled with his affections and thinking being in turmoil. John informs us on a number of occasions that Jesus was troubled. When Jesus approached the grave of Lazarus, he was troubled (Jn 11:33). Jesus was troubled as he considered his impending death and that moment of darkness and separation from His Father (Jn 12:27). Jesus was as well troubled when Judas betrayed him (Jn 13:21).

Therefore, multiple and varied circumstances may trouble our hearts. Events in our life may trouble our hearts. Things that are said to us or about us may trouble our hearts. Persecution and suffering may trouble our hearts. The affairs of the world or our surrounding community may trouble our hearts.

Believe in God

So then, what is the solution? Jesus continues in John 14:1, “believe in God; believe also in me.” “Their faith in God, and in particular their faith in Jesus, would enable them to calm their hearts as they faced what lay ahead.”[4] Christ’s disciples must place their confidence in Christ and in what Christ said about himself.

Comfort would come to the disciples as they believed three specific truths, (1) Christ was going to prepare them a home, (2) Christ would return to take them to be with him, and (3) Christ was the path to the presence of God.

Christ is preparing our eternal home (13:2). Christ offers the first future reality that brings present hope. He goes to prepare a place for them.

The different translations of this verse have likely resulted in some imprecise imaginings for our future, heavenly home. The KJV translates this verse, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Influenced by such a translation, the reader likely tends to imagine a physical place populated by his modern perception of wealthy mansions, of which one will be designated to him. Maybe we imagine, like I did as a child, Jesus needed these past two thousand years to go back to heaven and build a horde of luxurious homes that he will someday gift to all his disciples. This inaccurate understanding likely flows more from some form of the prosperity gospel than it does this actual text.

The word translated rooms (in the ESV) is found in only one other place in Scripture, that as well being in John’s gospel. Later in this chapter, John quotes Jesus as saying, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23). 

Kruse. The text speaks of the Father and the Son making their ‘home’ with believers, i.e. making themselves present with them. When we unpack the metaphor of 14:2, then, we should think not so much of ‘rooms’ in God’s house (much less ‘mansions’ as the av has) but of the privilege of abiding in God’s presence.[5]

Even as a child, I struggled understanding why Jesus would need so long to build all these mansions if God was able to speak all of creation into existence in a moment with his spoken word. Instead, Christ’s going likely refers to his “betrayal, crucifixion, and exaltation that made it possible for us to dwell in the presence of God. The imminent departure of Jesus, which so troubled the hearts of his disciples, was in fact for their benefit.”[6]

Christ will come back and receive us (13:3). Christ offers the second future reality that brings present hope. He will return to his disciples in order to take them with him. Jesus continues to speak to his disciples and in verse 3 says, “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” If Jesus takes on the necessary and difficult task of preparing a place for his disciples, does it not follow that he would as well come back for his disciples so that they could join him in that place?

The first hope filled truth, in which we are to believe, occurred when Jesus was betrayed, died, and was exalted to the Father’s right hand. In so doing, he accomplished the needed and difficult work of securing our future home with God. The second hope filled truth, in which we are to believe, occurs when Christ returns in the future (the second advent) and takes his followers to be with him forever.  

In the next verse, Thomas offers us an example of how most of us would react. “Jesus, you’re saying you’re going away and that we’ll be with you. How are we going to get there? I don’t know the way?” We are excited about Jesus’ preparations but a little concerned about the trip in getting there.

Wonderfully, unlike a gas station attendant who tells you complicated directions, including a few vague landmarks, only to leave you on your own; Jesus will return and take us with him.

Christ will take us to the Father (13:4-7). Christ offers the third future reality that brings present hope. He will return and take his disciples to be with the Father. Christ tells the disciples, “you know the way.” Thomas doubts that reality, “We don’t know. What are we going to do? We won’t be able to find you.” Christ tells Thomas not to worry. Thomas knew Christ and Christ was the way.

No one can come to the Father but through Christ. But, why? Because He is the way, the truth, and the life. And with that, we come to the sixth of seven I Am statements in John’s Gospel. As well, we come to the most exclusive statement ever made; a statement that has, since its’ origin, stirred offense and anger.

Christ is the Way. He is the means of entering. The author of Hebrews writes, “by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Heb 10:20). Through his death, Christ secured a path for sinful humanity to access the Father’s presence. Therefore, when people come and embrace Jesus, they come to the only point of access to the Father.

Christ is the Truth. They as well, in coming to Jesus, come to the only source for truth concerning the Father. All of Christ’s claims concerning himself and the Father are valid, and they will not lead the believer astray. Christ’s claim reflect reality not a myth or some form of pretense. They are factual. Christ says that a sinful person can be restored to the Father through himself. This is a fact on which we can depend and find hope.

Christ is the Life. John writes in his first epistle, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn 5:20). As well, in his gospel, John writes, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (Jn 5:26).

God manifest life in several ways. (1) God exist or possesses life. “for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11:6). (2) God’s life contrasts with other gods. “But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King” (Jer 10:10–11). Paul writes concerning how the Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess 1:9). (3) God’s existence is not derived from any other source in contrast to our lives being dependent on Him. John tells us that the “Father has life in himself” (Jn 5:26). Luke writes in Acts concerning how God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). (4) God gives life. Paul tells us in Romans that God “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom 4:17). And again in 1 Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things (1 Tim 6:13).


The immediate context offers hope to Christ’s disciples during distress. When our troubled hearts, our affections and thinking, storm in our souls like the troubled sea, we find present hope in the realities that Christ has already secured our path to the Father and that he will personally come and take us to the Father.

More importantly, for you to find hope in these realities, you must first come to Christ. Christ came so that you may have life, and he calls for you to come to him. You can come right now. He doesn’t require anything from you. Afterall, what could you do? Would you seek to find a way? He is the way. Would you seek some truth on which you could depend? He is the truth. Would you seek some internal strength or self-effort? He is our strength and our life.[7]

For further discussion: How do you use the reality of our future heavenly state with God the Father to calm your troubled soul now?

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works: Sermons on Gospel of St John Chapters 14-16, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, trans. Martin H. Bertram, vol. 24 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub House, 1961), 7.

[2] Friberg, Friberg, and Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 215.

[3] Friberg, Friberg, and Miller, 375.

[4] Kruse, John, 291.

[5] Kruse, 292.

[6] Kruse, 292. Carson (489) as well writes, “I am going there to prepare a place for you: the words presuppose that the ‘place’ exists before Jesus gets there. It is not that he arrives on the scene and then begins to prepare the place; rather, in the context of Johannine theology, it is the going itself, via the cross and resurrection, that prepares the place for Jesus’ disciples.”

[7] Boice, The Gospel of John: Those Who Received Him (John 9-12), 3:1080.