A Troubled Christ Gives Comfort (John 14:1–14)

“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.

The Bishop: The Jachin and Boaz of the Temple of Our Soul

“May this be our divinity, your divinity, my divinity; your theo-logy, my theology! May repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ be Jachin and Boaz, the two great pillars before the temple of our religion, the corner stones in our system of Christianity! (2 Chron. 3:17). May the two never be disjoined! May we, while we repent, believe; and while we believe, repent! And may repentance and faith, faith and repentance, be ever uppermost, foremost, the chief and principal articles, in the creed of our souls!” —J.C. Ryle, The Upper Room

Believing for Betrayal (John 13:21–38)

“I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.”

“After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.'”

—John 13:19, 21

John tells us once more that Jesus was troubled. Why was Jesus troubled? Throughout His earthly ministry, as John presents it, Jesus has seemed so calm, so in control, despite volatile and tangible hostility and misguided zeal. But beginning with Lazarus, we read of Jesus being troubled. “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).

I think there were other days of trouble in Jesus’ earthly life, but John is wanting to tell us something profound. As the cross nears, the soul of our Lord is increasingly said to be troubled. “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” (John 12:27). There, the anguish of soul Jesus speaks of relates to the cross in general and receiving the cup of wrath from the Father’s hands. But here, in John 13, the trouble of soul is much more focused. Jesus is troubled in soul “after saying these things.” He has just spoken of Judas’ betrayal. Also, He is troubled in His spirit and testifies. He testifies of Judas’ betrayal. What Jesus has said and what He will say speaks as to why He is troubled. He has washed the disciples’ feet, but not all of them are clean. Not all are blessed. Not all are chosen. One will lift his heal against Jesus. One will betray Him. And this troubles our Lord, (v. 21).

See and marvel at our Lord’s tender humanity. As God, He, with the Father, eternally willed this betrayal. And yet, as a man, this betrayal stings. It is no strain to see David’s pain as anticipating that of our Lord. “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). We don’t need to take liberal poetic license to see how that song is fulfilled here. Jesus’ sorrows included those of betrayal by a close friend.

In His divine nature, our Lord, is impassible. His joy is indestructible. He isn’t moody. He isn’t moved by outside forces. He moves all. He does all that He pleases. All that He pleases, He does. The incarnate Son reveals something of this to us when He tells the disciples that He was glad that Lazarus was dead and not merely sleeping, (John 11:14–15). Our God doesn’t wring His hands. He has never pulled His hair. He has never sought treatment for anxiety. Because He needs no comfort, He is the comforter, the God of all comfort.

But our Lord Jesus, remaining what He was (God), became what He was not (man)—one person with two natures. In His divine nature, Jesus remains impassible. In His human nature, He was “troubled in his spirit.” He was troubled in spirit, and without sin. He is troubled because one of these disciples, one of these men who He has spent years with, teaching, laughing, praying, rebuking, eating, sharing, and communing—one of these will betray him. One of the twelve. One of those whose feet He has washed. Judas is His close friend. And his betrayal troubles Him.

There are tares among the wheat. There will be apostasy. There will be betrayal. It will be unexpected. It will come from those we trust. It is not for us to figure out ahead of time. It will sting. It will trouble our souls. It will confuse and befuddle. Take comfort. Our Lord knew such pain. He knew the betrayal would come and still it stung. He divinely ordained it, and yet, in His humanity, it troubled Him. But don’t forget that your God works all things together for good. The betrayal of His close friend was for the redemption of His true friends for whom He laid down His life.

The Bishop: What Is “Coming to Christ?”

“Coming to Christ is coming to him with the heart by simple faith. Believing on Christ is coming to him, and coming to Christ is believing on him. It is that act of the soul which takes place when a man, feeling his own sins, and despairing of all other hope, commits himself to Christ for salvation, ventures on him, trusts him, and casts himself wholly on him. When a man turns to Christ empty that he may be filled, sick that he may be healed, hungry that he may be satisfied, thirsty that he may be refreshed, needy that he may be enriched, dying that he may have life, lost that he may be saved, guilty that he may be pardoned, sin-defiled that he may be cleansed, confessing that Christ alone can supply his need, —then he comes to Christ. When he uses Christ as the Jews used the city of refuge, as the starving Egyptians used Joseph, as the dying Israelites used the brazen serpent, -then he comes to Christ. It is the empty soul’s venture on a full Saviour. It is the drowning man’s grasp on the hand hand held out to help him. It is the sick man’s reception of a healing medicine. This, and nothing more than this, is coming to Christ.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

Clamping Down on the Resurrection (John 11:17–44)

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

—John 11:23–27

Signs signify. John wrote this gospel, highlighting particular signs so that what was signified thereby would be believed. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31). What is signified by this specific sign is that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. By belief, the life that you have is the life that is in Jesus. Believing that Jesus is the Christ means believing that He is the Resurrection and the Life and receiving that life. This sign is for faith in Jesus as the Christ who is the Resurrection and the Life.

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus tells Martha. D.A. Carson says this is a “masterpiece of planned ambiguity.” This is not a conventional comforting condolence, though it is easily mistaken as such. In a time of grief 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 gives us not only some of the most comforting words for the bereaved, but commanded words to share with those who have lost one in Christ.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage [NASB “comfort”] one another with these words.”

Martha takes Jesus’ words just as such words of comfort. They are not. Jesus is telling her that the future hope is about to be demonstrated in the here and now. Martha again replies with an answer of faith (v. 24). She believes in the resurrection on the last day. Jesus says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus hasn’t come to simply give her the comfort of truth. He has come to be the truth that comforts. This sign is pointing to the bigger reality of the resurrection on the last day. But, as a sign, that future reality is present. The resurrection that is to be on the last day, is a resurrection in Jesus. The Resurrection is present with Martha.

Here is how present resurrection is with not only Martha, but with anyone who believes in Jesus: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (vv. 25b–26a). If you believe in Jesus, you live even though you die. If you believe in Jesus, you live such that you never die. Jesus again and again has said that whoever believes in Him has eternal life (3:26; 5:24; 6:47). This is because Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in Christ are in union with Christ. They have died in Christ and they have risen a new creation. When the spiritually dead believe, they have risen with resurrection life.

Saints, you already have this resurrection life. Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life is present with you. Though you die, you shall life. Those who live in Christ, shall never die. You already possess a life that death cannot touch, for death has already touched it and lost. You possess a life from the other side of death. A life that undid death.

Jesus here directs Martha’s faith away from focusing on an abstract doctrine to focusing on Himself as the embodiment of that doctrine. Doctrine is precious and true, but don’t treat doctrines as truths that float out there, independent of the being and work of Christ. It is as though the wire connections of Martha’s faith are weak. There are gaps. The sparks of faith are jumping, but Jesus is working to clamp Martha’s faith directly onto Him. Believe doctrine, but believe your doctrine in Christ. It is not faith in the doctrine of Christ that saves, but faith in the Christ of that true doctrine that saves.

The Walking Is Not a Speed Bump (John 6:1–21)

John 6:5–7 (ESV)

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”

—John 6:5–7

As the fourth sign of feeding the five thousand coasts along from the sign itself (6:1–15) towards its significance (6:22ff), we may feel that the fifth sign of Jesus walking on the water is an unnecessary speed bump. Why it is here? Yes, it is chronologically sequential and explains how we get from one side of the sea to the other with the same crowd. This is true, but we’ve only relocated the question. This tells us something of why John wrote the story this way, but why does the Father write it this way? Why does the Father ordain that the walking happen now? Why does he pave the road from here to there with what seems to be a speed bump in between? Why didn’t Jesus in this instance just get into the boat and go to the other side with the disciples and retire to a solitary place thereafter?

If there is one word that more than any other links the feeding to the walking and the talking, it is the word “test” (v. 6). Jesus said this to test him. Only in John is the question directly directed to Philip, who hailing from the nearby town of Bethsaida, would best know where bread could be procured for such a crowd. In the Synoptics, this problem is put to all the disciples. You can see that here too as Andrew feels free to pipe in and as all the disciples are given commands to deal with the need. Jesus tests Philip. Philip stands in for all the disciples. Jesus is testing them. What is Jesus testing? Mark spells it out for us as he links the walking with the feeding. 

“And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”

—Mark 6:51–52

They did not understand the feeding, but after the walking the lesson begins to set in. Their tested faith being found lacking, is now tested by water, and comes out cleaner on the other side. Matthew tells us, “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:32–33).

Does John really intend to demonstrate that the faith that faltered in the feeding is strengthened by the storm? On the other side of the sea, when many depart from Jesus as He unpacks the significance of the feeding, Jesus turns to the twelve and asks, “Do you want to go away as well?” This time it is Peter who speaks for the twelve. He replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

John tells us that this gospel is written to put these signs before us that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing, we might have life in His name. These signs are for faith. They are not only for sowing faith in the barren hearts of unbelievers. They are for strengthening the established faith of those who believe. These signs are both for the budding and the blooming of faith.

The walking is no speed bump in-between the feeding and the talking. It is wind in the sails of the disciples’ faith bringing them to the other side.

How Believing Can Be Like Questioning (John 2:13–25)

22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. 

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.

—John 2:22–23 (emphasis mine)

The two scenes of the temple cleansing end with the disciples “remembering” (vv. 17, 22). Their remembering sets up a contrast, not only with what has preceded, but with what is next introduced.

In the first instance, the disciples remembering is set against the sellers and money changers on one side, and the authorities’ questioning on the other. While the sellers are violating Scripture, the disciples come to remember it.

Second, their remembering is set again in contrast again with the authorities questioning and then with the crowds “believing.” The disciples’ remembering was a believing. The crowd’s believing was the kind that would forget. Not all believing is believing. The authorities demand a sign for belief. The crowds believe for a sign. Saving faith is the result of the work of God within a man. It matters not what wonders are done without. Remember Pharaoh?

Some of you question. You don’t believe in Jesus. You are outright opposed to Him. You might be religious. You might believe in God. You believe some good things about Christ. But as to the Scriptures’ central claims, you demand a sign. In some ways, yours is a healthier state, for you know how you stand in relation to the Christ of the Bible. But as creation testifies that there is a God and that you stand under His wrath, so too Scriptures testify that Jesus is the Christ and that there is grace for sinners if you would receive Him.

Do not demand a sign as though you were the authority. Bow before the one with all authority. He has spoken. He has spoken with all authority. He has spoken with a self-authenticating authority by His holy word. Your problem isn’t in your head. It is in your heart. The problem isn’t the absence of information in your mind, but the presence of arrogance in you heart.

Others though, your religion has all the right external markers. You come to the right place—the temple of the living God, the church of God with Christ as her head. You don’t question. You look to Bible and its signs and its wonders. You believe, but alas, you don’t believe. You believe only in the Jesus you want to believe in. Do you not see the same arrogance then lies in your heart? Instead of denying Christ outright, you shape Him how you will. 

For both, I pray you look to the Scriptures now, that you bow under them, that you sit under the Spirit’s teaching, and that you not only learn who Christ is, but that you believe in Christ, that you entrust your soul to Him. 

Who is this Jesus?

He is the zealous Son of the Father. Yes, there is grace in Christ, but know there is also anger, wrath, and judgment. Jesus will not compromise His love of His Father for His love of sinners. You cannot assume His love and redemption. Salvation was purchased by judgment. If you don’t trust in the one who bore judgment, you will bear it yourself. Jesus not only is the bearer of the judgment of God, He is the bringer of the judgment of God.

He is the temple that was destroyed by man, but raised for our salvation. Man in sin slew Him. God in grace raised Him. By His resurrection, the Father declared Jesus to be His Son. The verdict of man didn’t stick. The verdict of God lives eternal. Christ alone is the meeting place of God and man. He is the High Priest. He is the Lamb of God. He is the Temple. Only in Christ may sinners draw near to the Holy God of heaven, and in Christ, they draw near as sons.

He is the Passover Lamb slain for the people of God that judgment might pass over them. He is spotless, precious, perfect sacrifice. He is the substitute. Having no sin of His own, He bore the sin of others.

He is the Life. They destroyed the temple, but He raised it up. The darkness cannot conquer the light. The grave cannot keep Life in its belly. He is the resurrection.

He is the knower of men. He knows you as he knows these men. He knows you as he knew Nathanael. He knows not only who you are, but He knows who you will be, as He knew of Peter. He knows the sin and depravity and wickedness that are in your heart.

If you now know something of the truth of who Christ is, and thus something of the truth of who you are—flee to Him! Follow Him. Do not question. Do not believe in Him as you wish Him to be. Believe in Him as He is, and you will have eternal life.

Don’t Miss the Signs (John 2:1–12)

“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

John 2:11

This is the first of Jesus’ signs. Six more will follow in the “book of signs” (the label scholars affix to chapters 1–12) for a total of seven. Some of those scholars put the tally at only six. They say Jesus’ walking on the waters disqualified since it wasn’t done “publicly.” But as the servants and disciples are the only ones in the know with this first sign, I think this disqualifies their disqualification.

What then is a sign? Signs signify, and the significance of that can be seen in the language that is absent from John. “Signs” as a designation is often coupled with “wonders.” The only use of “wonders” in John is found on the lips of Jesus in 4:48 where He says, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” “Wonders” or “marvels” are that which leave one in awe. Perhaps the most common denominator in the gospels for what we commonly speak of as “miracles” is “mighty works.” While Jesus will refer to His “works” in John, a different word is in play. The single word translated “mighty works” throughout the synoptic gospels conveys power. The “works” Jesus does in John’s gospel, are simply His labor. So in John then, rather than the power or the marvel of His acts being in the forefront, it is their significance. Bruce Milne highlights the distinction well:

“The distinction can be put in this way: for the synoptic writers Jesus’ miracles are actual occasions of the incursion of the kingdom of God. …For John, the miracles, though no less real as historical acts of supernatural power, are more symbolic; they point beyond themselves to Jesus and his significance. Put more succinctly, the synoptic miracles are essentially eschatological, John’s essentially christological.”

But what then is the significance of this sign? Signs like the feeding of the five thousand are easy. Thereafter, Jesus shortly goes on to say, “I am the Bread of Life.” Here we are left hanging to pick up the clues ourselves. One grave danger in searching for significance is that of finding it everywhere, including where it is not. For example, some have made much of “the third day” relating it to the resurrection. I think that’s more than a bit thin. Even so, there are a number of subtle hints at significance as one goes along, and it is as they all pile on that they begin to take on added weight.

This was the first of Jesus’ signs, and I don’t believe it is without significance that it was done at a wedding, that it involved water jars used for Jewish rites of purification, that it involved water being turned to wine, and that it was done quietly so that only a few were in the know. And yet, I don’t think any of those things are especially the focal point. What is the significance of this first sign? It manifests Jesus’ glory (v. 11). Not as that “hour” mentioned in v. 4 will do. Not publicly. But it does manifest soemthing of His glory for the disciples. They see that glory and they believe. What “glory” is it that was manifested? John has already told you of the glory they saw.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:14, 16–18).

This first sign gets at the same point as every sign we will encounter in this gospel. They all signify this one thing. They all have one singular aim. Including that sign of signs, the hour of Jesus’ glorification when He is lifted up on the cross and raised from the grave. And it is after this eighth and climactic sign that John tells us, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name,” (John 20:30–31).

The Bishop: Root and Flower

“All God’s children have faith; not all have assurance. I think this ought never to be forgotten.

…’A letter’, says an old writer, ‘may be written, which is not sealed; so grace may be written in the heart, yet the Spirit may not set the seal of assurance to it.’ A child may be born heir to a great fortune, and yet never be aware of his riches; may live childish, die childish, and never know the greatness of his possessions. And so also a man may be a babe in Christ’s family, think as a babe, speak as a babe, and though saved, never enjoy a lively hope, or know the real privileges of his inheritance.

…Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ a man must have, beyond all question, if he is to be saved. I know no other way of access to the Father. I see no intimation of mercy, excepting through Christ. A man must feel his sins and lost estate–must come to Jesus for pardon and salvation—must rest his hope on him, and on him But if he only has faith to do this, however weak and feeble he may be, I will engage, from Scripture warrants, he shall not miss heaven.

…Faith, let us remember, is the root, and assurance is the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root and not the flower.” —J.C. Ryle

The Doctor: Be Strong in the Lord—An Illustration

“Go back to the Old Testament. We find Moses leading those grumbling, recalcitrant children of Israel. They come to him one day and say: ‘There is no water here; have you brought us out of Egypt in order that we may die of thirst here in the wilderness? There is no water; everything is as dry as a bone; what can we do?’ And God told Moses to strike a rock, informing him that when he did so water would come pouring out of it. Now there lies the predicament. Moses was a man, and though he was a very good man he knows that if he strikes rocks nothing will happen. He may have struck many a rock but no water had come gushing out. But here he is told that if he strikes a certain rock with his rod water will come gushing out of it. That constitutes the whole predicament of faith. That is exactly the position of all of us as we stand face to face with the command: ‘Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might’. ‘But who am I?’ you say. ‘I am just a weakling. What is the use of telling me to be strong?’ The answer is this. Moses in faith took his rod and he smote, he struck, the rock; and out of it came the water gushing forth. It was not Moses’ power, but it was his arm and it was his rod. Moses did not just stand by and see the water gushing out. Moses had to lift up his arm and he had to strike, to smite, that rock. But as he did so the power was given to him, and the water came gushing out of the rock. There you see the two elements in this matter. You see the activity of the man, but you see that the power is given to him by God. It was not Moses—Moses lacked the power to do such things. But Moses was given the power to do them. The two things come together. But the point I am emphasizing now is that Moses, if he had hesitated there, and had done nothing, would not have seen this marvellous miracle; but by acting he discovered that the power was given. He ‘tasted’ and he ‘saw’! That is the way in which it happens.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Soldier