Sermon on John 14:23-29
The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled
(You have) 1. God’s pardon, 2. God’s presence, 3. God’s peace
Text: John 14:23-29
It was another beautiful, sunny May day in Florida. With hardly a cloud in the sky, it was the perfect day for spending time with the kids and hanging out around the house. There was even time to spread some mulch in the yard to spruce up before the real heat of summer hits. One could hardly ask for a better or more pleasurable day.
Then the phone rang. It wasn’t a “Hey, how are you doing?” or a “What’s up?” kind of a call. It was a “You better sit down for this” call. As great as things had been recently, as wonderful as that day had been, her world was abruptly flipped upside down and shattered with one sickening sentence, “Lisa, your brother is dead.”
A worst nightmare had become an unfathomable reality. Last week Saturday our sister in Christ and fellow church member Lisa lost her 32-year-old brother, and only sibling, in a horrible car accident.
And this morning we hear Jesus say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Ha. Yeah right. We’re supposed to believe that when our family is lying below the ground and not above it? We’re supposed to believe that when we see more red in our checkbooks than black? We’re supposed to believe that when our pillows are more drenched with tears than with drool? Do not let your hearts be troubled? Don’t be afraid? It sounds nice because Jesus said it, but how can it be true?
Consider first the context in which Jesus spoke these words. At the moment, the disciples were not really suffering. Sure the Pharisees and Sadducees had been giving Jesus a hard time, but things weren’t really that bad. Here in John 14 they were with Jesus in an Upper Room, celebrating the Passover together. All of a sudden Jesus starts talking about suffering and death. He talks like he is going to be going away.
It was Maundy Thursday. In a matter of hours the disciples were about to have their world flipped upside down as an unfathomable reality smacked them in the face. They were soon going to see one of their own, Judas, betray Jesus and hand him over to be arrested. Their dear teacher was about to be tried and tortured. Their beloved friend was about to be executed. He was indeed going to be gone. Jesus was preparing them for these trying days of sadness.
Of course, being God gave Jesus greater foresight than that. He also knew what would come later in the future. He knew that his disciples would suffer for his name. They would be imprisoned. They would be tortured. James would be beheaded for following him. Peter was going to be crucified as well. Histories tell us that all of them except for John were martyred for their faith. Jesus was preparing them. “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” he says in verse 27.
Why not be troubled? Why not be afraid? Look at the first two verses: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
I’ll pause quickly for audience participation. If you love Jesus, raise your hand. I sort of expected all of us to raise our hands today. We all love Jesus. But do we really? Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” That means that if you really love Jesus, you will never put anything in your life before him. If you really love Jesus, you will never take his name in vain, never curse, never swear. If you really love Jesus, you will always be in church and always read the Bible because remembering the Sabbath day is a command not a suggestion. If you really love Jesus, you will never hate, never hold a grudge, never look for payback. If you really love Jesus, you will never cast a wondering or lustful eye on someone else. If you really love Jesus, you will never gossip, never slander, never talk badly about others. If you really love Jesus, you will be content with everything that he has given you in life. You won’t be jealous of others with more. If you really love Jesus, you will truly love your neighbor (all your neighbors!) as yourself. If you really love Jesus, you will love him with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. As Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.”
Now wait a second. I thought we were talking about not being troubled and not being afraid? Those words only make us more troubled and more afraid! And rightly so. These are terrifying words, because we know that we have not truly loved Jesus and have not truly obeyed him. We’ve sinned—too many times to even count. Jesus tells us here that if we love him and if we obey his teaching, “My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.” But that perfect dwelling with Jesus and the Father is shattered with our sin. Isaiah says, “Your iniquities (sins) have separated you from God.” Jesus tells us he will say this to sinners on Judgment Day: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and for his angels.” God will love us and be with us if we love him and obey him. But we haven’t. We’ve sinned. And the punishment that awaits sinners is separation from God.
Now wait a second. I thought we were talking about not being troubled and not being afraid? Those words only make us more troubled and more afraid! Well remember the context in which Jesus spoke these words. It was Maundy Thursday. Yes, in just a few hours the disciples would endure trying and saddening times. But also in a few hours, Jesus was going to go through hell. Literally. In just a few hours Jesus would be hanging from a cross, carrying the sins of the world and suffering the punishment of hell for us all. In just a few hours, he would be paying for our lack of love and for our failure to obey his teaching.
That’s the amazing thing about Jesus’ life and death. There was a great exchange that took place. His perfect life and his perfect love were transferred to us. Our sin and our failure to love were transferred to him. Now we have forgiveness. Now we have his pardon.
That’s why Jesus could rightly say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” We don’t need to be troubled or afraid of what is to come. We should be going to hell, but we will be going to heaven. Jesus’ righteousness and perfection covers over us so that God only sees what he has done. He looks at us and no longer sees our sin. He sees that we have loved him (because Jesus loved him). He sees that we have obeyed his teaching (because Jesus obeyed his teaching). Therefore he will come and dwell with us. Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled because you have God’s pardon of love and forgiveness!
We have God’s pardon and forgiveness. We have God’s love. We have heaven. Our life is completely different! But how come it doesn’t feel that way? Jesus’ forgiveness doesn’t pay my mortgage. It doesn’t put food on my table. Jesus’ forgiveness doesn’t heal broken relationships. It doesn’t bring Lisa’s brother back to life. We’re forgiven, but how does that help us now?
Perhaps the disciples could have said the same thing. Great. They had Jesus’ forgiveness. But his forgiveness didn’t keep them out of prison. It didn’t stop the scourges from thrashing their backs. It didn’t keep their heads from rolling on the ground. After all, only 40 days after his resurrection Jesus was going to leave them and ascend into heaven. The disciples could have felt much the same as we might feel at times—all alone, helpless, and hopeless.
But again Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Why? Because we are not alone and neither were the disciples. Look at verse 25: “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Jesus promised to send someone very special to be with his disciples and to be with us. The Holy Spirit was going to come. He would give strength and courage and comfort to the disciples. Indeed, you may recall that 10 days after Jesus ascended the Holy Spirit did come in a powerful way on Pentecost. The disciples spoke in languages they never knew. More than 3,000 people came to faith in one day. It was visible evidence that God the Holy Spirit had come.
Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to us as well. He is with us and blesses us in everything that we do and experience. Listen to Galatians 5: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” No, having forgiveness does not pay our bills. No, it does not make our earthly problems go away. No, it doesn’t bring back our loved ones who have passed. But another blessing of having God’s love and forgiveness is that God also promises his presence. As we deal with all the troubles and problems of life, the Holy Spirit helps us along the way. He gives us love, joy, peace, and patience to endure hardship. He gives us kindness and goodness as we deal with others. He gives us gentleness and self-control to handle whatever comes our way.
It’s not just the Holy Spirit either. The Father says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Jesus said just before he ascended, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” How can we handle all the problems in life? How can we cope with all of our troubles and sorrows? Our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is always with us. Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled. You have God’s presence.
Think of all the different ways that people of this world find happiness. Some seek it in fame and glory. Some seek it in power and prestige. Some seek it in money and possessions. Some seek it in friends and family. When people can’t find it any of those places, then they look to drugs or alcohol or any number of other things. People try all kinds of different methods and ways. They search high and low. They all look for the same thing—happiness. How can I truly be happy?
We don’t need to search. We don’t need to try different methods or seven-step programs. We don’t need to turn to substances. We don’t need money. We don’t need to go out and find happiness. We don’t need to go out and earn happiness. Jesus simply gives it. Look at verse 27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” It’s sad irony for many in this world. The one thing that people try so hard to find or to earn, they can’t seem to find or to earn. But yet at the same time that same thing they are looking for Jesus simply gives away freely.
See God’s wisdom in the happiness he gives! In our wisdom, we know what we would want from him. We want financial security. We want life to be just a little bit easier. Maybe not all the problems need to go away, but God could at least make things a little easier. We want our families to get along. We want our loved ones who have passed to come back. That’s what we want. But God knows better. God knows not just what we want, but God knows what we need. He doesn’t give to us as the world would give. He gives us something much different—peace.
What is Jesus’ peace? It’s knowing that the most important issue of this life—our relationship with God—is taken care of. It’s knowing that our sins have been forgiven. It’s knowing that we have heaven to look forward to.
Again, how does that help us now? That still doesn’t pay the bills or make life easier or restore relationships! You’re right, it doesn’t. Jesus’ peace doesn’t fix any of our physical problems in this world. But it gives us comfort as we deal with them. It gives us an eased conscience and an unburdened heart. It reminds us that these worldly things really don’t matter. It reminds us that we have a better place to look forward to. That is true peace. That is what Jesus gives us to help us deal with all the problems of this world. Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled. You have God’s peace.
It just doesn’t seem fair sometimes. We try so hard. We do everything we can to follow Jesus and obey the Lord. We love Jesus. Yet this is what we get? We love Jesus yet we have to worry about our next paycheck? We love Jesus but we suffer and shed tears? The disciples loved Jesus but they were tortured and killed? Lisa loves Jesus but he takes her brother away? That doesn’t seem fair!
Brothers and sisters, Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled and do not be afraid. By worldly standards and worldly thinking and worldly reasoning it isn’t fair. But we are not of this world. This isn’t our real home. At the beginning of this same chapter 14 of John Jesus said this: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
By worldly reasoning that’s not fair either. We are sinners yet we get heaven? Yet in God’s mercy, it is true. This is how we cope. This is how we deal. This is how we endure. This is where we find strength. This is where we find courage. This is why we have peace. This is why we won’t let our hearts be troubled. I’m but a stranger here. Heaven is my home.
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