“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”—John 14:1
The disciples’ hearts were troubled. When Jesus purposed to return to Judea, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Now, at this Supper, Jesus has just told them that one of them will betray Him. At this they look at one another, uncertain of whom He spoke. Matthew tell us that “they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?’” (Matthew 26:22). To cap it off, Jesus goes on to tell them that He will be with them only a little while longer and that where he is going, they cannot come (v. 33).
Peter protests, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you. Jesus rebukes Him. Peter will not lay down His life. He will deny Jesus. Three times. Their hearts are troubled. Jesus had called these men to Himself saying “Follow me.” He now tells them they cannot follow Him. Jesus tells them that the feet He has just washed not only will not follow, they will flee (cf. John 16:32; Matthew 26:31).
If you’re paying attention to John’s gospel, then this command should cause a reverent “hmmm?” Or, if you are not in a more reverent and righteous mood, you might even object, “Wait a minute?” As we approach the cross, we have just been told three times that Jesus was troubled. In returning to Judea, they come first to the village of Bethany and to the grave of His beloved friend Lazarus. After encountering Lazarus’ sister Mary, we are read, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33). Then in John 12:27 we hear our Lord cry out, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” Finally, Jesus’ statement that one of the disciples would betray Him, was preceded by this narration in John 13:21, “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’”
Jesus is troubled and He tells His disciples not to be. Why is this not hypocrisy? You know it is not, but why is it not. There are two reasons I can see. First, they are troubled ignorantly; Jesus is troubled knowledgeably. Second, they are troubled for unbelief; Jesus is troubled for belief.
But even so, Jesus here is not admonishing them to be troubled rightly. He is admonishing them not to be troubled at all. How is it that a troubled Jesus can tell them not to be troubled? Here is the glorious gospel answer: It is a troubled Christ who can give comfort. It is because Jesus is troubled that they are not to be troubled. It is because He goes to the cross that they need not face the wrath of God. His trouble is our comfort. His cross is our salvation. We don’t look to the cross as a tragedy. It was conquest. Jesus is holding out to them the comfort of the gospel, for the terror of the cross. It is a troubled Christ who gives comfort. Only a Christ troubled in our place can extend comfort to us.