We are now in what many are calling the Corona Crisis. It has paraded disappointment, uncertainty, and instability. Sports events are cancelled. Schools are shut down. Offices are closed. In some metropolitan areas, the streets are empty as the local governments establish mandatory shut-ins.
In an attempt to lay hold of some sense of conventional living, many are scrambling to occupy themselves with familiar things, but finding no lasting results. In fact, it has caused some to feel even more isolated and out of sorts. Even worse, there are reports of severe sickness and sudden death. It is nothing less than a crisis. And, no one knows when or how it will end. Disappointment, uncertainty, and instability troubles people everywhere.
Fortunately, God has something to say to us. He doesn’t dodge our troubles, but tackles them head on. For instance, the Bible speaks of Job, a man of trouble. In an onslaught of terrible tidings, he discovered that militants and natural disasters completely destroyed his livestock, servants, property, and children. He was so troubled by this that he cursed the day he was born. “Let the day perish on which I was born,” he said, “because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hide trouble from my eyes” (Job 3:3, 10). He continued, “man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job. 14:1).
Job recognized, as many others in the pages of Scripture, that troubles are inevitable. His friend said, “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Jeremiah, a prophet who was going about the Lord’s business, experienced a tide of depression after Israel repeatedly rejected God’s call to repentance. “Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” (Jer. 20:18). This is the point: in a sin-cursed world, troubles are inevitable, and Scripture tackles them head on. “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” said Jesus (Matt. 6:34). If days were cups, they are running over with troubles and everyone is drinking from them.
God doesn’t dodge our troubles. He comforts us during them as the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about God’s comfort. Here are a few to consider:
God’s comfort is true. “In this world you will have tribulation,” the Lord said, “but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). The implication is that the world brings troubles with it and God has overcome the world. His comfort is real and actual comfort, not just words.
God’s comfort is supreme. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). This is an Old Testament callback to God who is described as the Sovereign Comforter (Is. 40:1; 51:3, 12; 66:13). His comfort is the highest comfort.
God’s comfort is peaceful. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (Is. 66:13). God comforts with the sincere and peaceful comfort of a mother to her child. He quiets the heart during times of trouble.
God’s comfort is timely. When we need divine comfort, God comforts us. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4). This is a reference to present troubles being met by God’s present comfort.
God’s comfort is demonstrable. “Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me” (Ps. 86:17). David is saying, “Comfort me while they trouble me, so that they may see your comforting power.
God’s comfort is impartial. Special comfort is reserved for those who belong to God, but in terms of our socioeconomic status, God is impartial. He “comforts the downcast,” which is a sweeping term that encompasses people in every low estate (2 Cor. 7:6). God comforts Kings and servants alike.
God’s comfort is comprehensive. God comforts to the full extent, both in breadth and depth. His comfort extends to all of our being. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ,” says Paul, “comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Thess. 2:16–17).
God’s comfort is transformative. “For the Lord comforts Zion,” not just one man here or there, but “he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving, and the voice of song” (Is. 51:3). God comforts the land by transforming Israel’s desolation into a paradise causing joy and songs of thanksgiving to resound from its people.
God’s comfort is abundant. The Old Testament refers to God’s abounding “mercies and graces” as well as His “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6) to communicate His abundance of comfort (Ps. 78:38; 103:8; 111:4; 116:5; Dan. 9:9; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2). He remains near and “will not leave you” (Deut. 4:31) because “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” (Lam. 3:22). His comfort is limitless.
God’s comfort is empowering. He doesn’t just comfort you, God comforts others through you by empowering you with His comfort. He “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:4).
God’s comfort is personal. In Isaiah, God speaks of His comfort personally. Notice the personal pronouns, “I am he who comforts you” (Is. 51:11). His comfort is for you and me, “Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant” (Ps. 119:76). “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Ps. 119:50). “When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord” (Ps. 119:52).
God’s comfort is deep. His comfort touches the innermost parts of the soul. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). He saves the soul from the grief of sin. “Blessed are those who mourn” over their sins, “for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me” (Is. 12:1-2; cf: 40:1-2). This is an inward comfort of the soul that comes when God forgives.
God’s comfort is lasting. God promises eternal comfort. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper [Comforter], to be with you forever” (Jn. 14:16). “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace” (2 Thess. 2:16–17). This eternal comfort extends even into the life to come. In heaven, God will “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Comfort will thrive because God will remove our troubles permanently.
God is the God of all comfort. He comforts at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason, to the fullest extent, with great abundance, forever, without discrimination, as the Sovereign and Supreme Comforter. Those who suffer disappointment, uncertainty, and instability can be truly and deeply comforted by God. And, with that in mind, let’s look now to our text.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And 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 And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”John 14:1-14
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
This is the evening before the darkest day. Just hours from now, Jesus will give Himself over to the Roman government, under the direction of the Jewish leaders, to be crucified. These are His final hours with His disciples, and moments away from His arrest in the garden. It is an intense night, as you can imagine.
On Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of hundreds, if not thousands, hailing and praising him as God’s Messiah. By tomorrow, these same people will be shouting for His blood. It has been a whirlwind of a week, not to mention the ups and downs of the past three years. And, all of this is culminating into what begins this very evening in an upper-room where Jesus gathers His faithful disciples to tell them the most devastating news they have heard to date. He is leaving them.
Now, to round out the introduction of this passage, let’s briefly consider three things about its context: the unbearable troubles of the heart, the undying love of the Lord, and the undeniable weakness of the disciples.
The Unbearable Troubles of the Heart
Following Jesus is a costly commitment. In Luke 9:57-62, we read about the exchange between three would-be followers and Jesus Himself. The first says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus says, “I have nowhere to sleep.” The second says, “Let me first receive my financial inheritance.” Jesus says, “Let the dead bury themselves.” The third says, “I will follow you, but let me first say farewell to my family.” Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit the for the kingdom of God.” In other words, following Jesus means putting Him first, not your living situations, not your financial situations, and not your social situations.
The call to follow Christ is the call to immediately abandon everything for the sake of Christ and His mission. When Jesus called the disciples, they dropped everything and followed Him. “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matt. 4:20; Mk. 1:18). “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matt. 4:22; Mk. 1:20). They counted everything as loss in comparison to Christ. “They left everything and followed him” (Jn. 5:11).
The disciples put their hands to the plow and didn’t look back. They forsook it all to have Jesus. And now, everything was about to crumble around them. Jesus, after washing their feet, says with great gentleness and understanding:
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’”John 13:33
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”John 13:36–37
Do you sense the desperation in Peter’s words? Do you feel the disappointment of the disciples? Months before, when a multitude of would-be disciples abandoned Christ, Peter reaffirmed His commitment saying, “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” (Jn. 6:68-69). They abandoned everything to follow Christ. Now, is Christ abandoning them?
Compounding their troubles, Jesus tells them that one of them will betray Him (Jn. 13:22), that their group leader would deny Him (Jn 13:38), and that the Romans would kill Him (Jn. 13:31-32). To the disciples, this was devastating. Their dreams were falling apart (Lk. 24:21). Their confidence was fading away (Jn. 6:68-69). Their constants were vanishing (Matt. 6:25). Vision is gone. Normal is gone. Consistency is gone. The disciples were troubled by disappointment, uncertainty, and instability.
The Undying Love of the Lord
Jesus, unlike the disciples, was not troubled. He was, however, suffering. Contemplating the pain of gathering the sins of His people upon Himself in order to die for their sake was agonizing. Later this very night, Jesus would pray in the garden and in severe anguish, His sweat would become “like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Lk. 22:44). He was truly suffering.
Here in the upper-room, however, Jesus was more concerned about the suffering of His disciples, then He was about the suffering of His own. This is what prompts the upper-room discourse and prayer in Gethsemane—the undying love of the Lord for His disciples.
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”John 13:1
Jesus knew what was coming for Himself, but His love for the disciples was great. “He loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1). Most interpret the phrase “to the end” as meaning perfectly and fully with a righteous love. However, John might be referring to this moment. Christ perfectly loved them up to now. This was His final act of love before the greatest work of love on the cross. The point is this: even when He was suffering, Jesus never stopped loving them.
This is evident in what happens next. According to John, Jesus rises from the table and begins to wash their feet. In ancient times, there were no clean roads nor protective footwear. People walked the dirt and mud in sandals or bear footed. So, homes would have a basin of water and a washcloth to clean your feet, which was the chore of the low-level servant.
Jesus assumes the position of the servant, cleans their feet and dries them with a towel wrapped around his waist (Jn. 13:3-5). He was completely aware of all that He would suffer in just a few hours. He was already feeling the weight of sin. He was beginning to taste the bitter cup of divine judgement. Yet, Jesus was completely absorbed in the fears of His disciples. He loved them with an undying love.
The Undeniable Weakness of the Disciples
Opposite the Lord’s undying love was the undeniable weakness of the disciples. In a parallel passage of the night, Luke tells us that the disciples were preoccupied with personal rank. “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Lk. 22:24).
This was an ongoing dispute that dates months prior to this night. Soon after the transfiguration, the disciples approached Jesus to ask, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt. 18:1). In response, Jesus taught them about childlike humility, but it didn’t land. Almost immediately, “an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest” (Lk. 9:46). It didn’t stop there. Hours before this night in the upper-room, James and John sent their mother to ask Jesus to put them on His right and left hand in the kingdom (Matt. 20:21). The disciples were preoccupied with their own status and wellbeing.
This explains a lot. When Jesus got up from the table to wash their feet, no one rushed to wash His. When Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him, they were more concerned about their personal guilt than affirming their love for Him. In fact, Peter says, “I will lay down my life for you” (Jn. 13:37). When Jesus announces His coming death, they wanted to know why they would be left behind. They showed no interest in His suffering, offered no words of solace, expressed no words of love, but seemed utterly indifferent to what Jesus was going through. They were completely absorbed in themselves.
This is why they were so troubled. Their self-absorption caused confusion and fright. They put self first and realized that, in times of trouble, self makes a lousy god. So, disappointment, uncertainty, and instability troubled them because they were trusting in themselves.
Comfort Comes from Trusting Christ
The Lord, who was consumed with undying affection for the disciples, set aside His own suffering to comfort them in their troubles. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (Jn. 14:1). During this Corona Crisis, it is easy for us to be like the disciples and be distracted by the troubles of disappointment, uncertainty, and instability.
“My plans are crushed. My schedule is blown. My resources are drying up. My job is questionable. My family is restless. My friends are hidden. Troubles abound and I don’t know when or how it will all end.” Neither did the disciples.
Fear consumes the heart that is consumed with self. Courage consumes the heart that is consumed with Christ. Ask yourself, “With whom are you consumed?” Comfort comes from trusting Christ.