Only hours before his crucifixion Jesus was still reassuring his followers about the future. Twice over dinner he repeated his call, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1&27). This even as he knew Judas Iscariot was arranging for his immanent arrest.
So, was Jesus having a Pollyanna moment? Or was he the ultimate promoter of positive thinking? Or maybe just emotionally disconnected?
No. He was, instead, the ultimate realist. And he was calling his followers to come to grips with the certainty that, come what may, the Triune God was still in charge of events. Jesus always had a bigger picture in view.
Notice what he told his men: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
The latter phrase is striking. Jesus loved to follow his Father’s lead no matter where it took him. Jesus announced the Father’s plan earlier in John’s account, in chapter 3: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
One verse earlier, in a set-up to this acclaimed text, Jesus told his listeners that he must first be “lifted up”—a euphemism for crucifixion—in order to provide this eternal life. So by the time we reach chapter 14 and the double reassurances, “don’t be troubled,” it’s clear that God’s plan to overcome death would come by way of his Son’s death. The cross offers life to all who believe.
There’s another critical feature here. While God loves the world, the world loves the darkness of sin rather than the light God offers (3:19). And that sets up the story of the gospel, both then and now: God’s Word—his Son and his teachings—tell us of the Father. He loves the world; but the world hates him; yet the Son’s words offer an open invitation to believe.
The reassurances of John 14 are for those who now believe in Jesus—who have embraced his narrative that he is God’s Son, ready to die for our sin. Jesus isn’t blind to the Devil’s power. But Jesus can also say, “He has no claim on me,” (14:30a) which is to say that Jesus isn’t facing death because of his own defection from the Father. Rebellion is Satan’s turf. He used the promise of a freedom to be like God to enslave Adam and all his offspring. Jesus never fell into his web of deceit.
So—picking up the implications of his message—Jesus came to the cross in full alignment with his Father’s purpose: “but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (14:30b).
The pathway here is clear: God loves the world. Jesus reveals that love in tangible terms by his life and teachings. The world hates what Jesus offers and eventually crucifies him. But some in the world listen to the Son’s words, see the light he offers, and come to love both the Father and the Son through the Spirit’s wooing ministry. This is to “believe” in him.
And with that faith comes the upside-down certainty that death to this world—to what the Devil offers as the “ruler of the world”—makes perfect sense. It means a realignment of the hearts and minds of all who believe in what God wants for us: the joy of knowing and loving his Son. This world is no longer our home!
Now the awkward but wonderful truth: we no longer need to be troubled because we no longer care for what this world offers! Personal security, social standing, career success—all the motivations that operate in this lifetime—can be set aside. We can, instead, understand Paul’s Spirit-led invitation to “be crucified with Christ” and, with that, to have freedom from the Devil’s false version of freedom.
Real freedom only comes to “whoever has my commandments and keeps them” as the fruit of a transforming love for the Father and the Son, by the Spirit. His commands are simple: not the myriad rules posted under the Mosaic regime—meant for a hard-hearted nation—but the ultimate call to love God and neighbor. To turn from a self-concerned life to a God-centered life.
Let’s wrap up this look at John 14 with another promise by Jesus in that dire dinner hour: “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.”
And, just after that, Jesus went on: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” It’s in this context that he offered the second invitation, “Let not your hearts be troubled…”
An amazing truth: God will make his home with us! We only need to respond to his love.
So never mind the disruptions crucifixion may bring in this lifetime. This world is no longer our home!