“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:1, 27)
Over the next eight days, we will consider the words of Jesus to his disciples at various times during his last days on earth. In this passage, and specifically in these two verses, Jesus says we should not “let our hearts be troubled.” Perhaps the use of the word “let” has some significance here. Imagine a mother not letting her children run across a busy street or a pastor not allowing his congregation leave church without hearing the gospel in his sermon. We are transformed sinners but still have a natural bent to do that which isn’t good for us. However, wise Christians don’t let themselves make foolish choices—we restrain and retrain ourselves to do that which is glorifying to God and repent when we do foolish things.
The method prescribed is one of self-control, and the object is peace that comes through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). This peace is not a void or black hole with nothing contained in it, not the cessation of worry and anxiety. God’s peace is not the opposite of “something” (which is the definition of “nothing”). It is the opposite of “troubled.” When our hearts are troubled, they are fearful, anxious, restless, and distracted (v. 27). Peacefulness is blessedness from God, especially experienced in the severest outer turmoil. “The story has occasionally been told of a contest in which artists were to submit paintings and sculptures portraying their understanding of peace. Some showed beautiful sunsets, others pastoral scenery. But the prize went to an artist who had painted a bird in its nest, attached to a branch protruding from the edge of a thundering waterfall. This is the idea involved in Christ’s legacy. In times of outward peace anyone can be at peace, or at least many can. But it takes an exceptional peace, a supernatural peace, to prevail in the midst of great outward trouble and inner distress. Christ’s peace is just that, exceptional and supernatural. As he explains in these verses, it is a peace that is to be present in his own in spite of the vacillating nature of the world around them, his own absence, and the vigorous activity of the devil and evil persons.” *
James Boice goes on to write that this is Christ’s legacy to his followers as he prepares to leave them. You and I can’t really know what it was like to have Jesus physically present for three years, teaching, healing, and praying with his closest disciples. How they must have depended on him—how they must have become agitated by his talk of leaving! We have the advantage of celebrating Good Friday knowing the blessed outcome of Christ’s sacrificial atoning death. At the same time, though, we are disadvantaged, not having the emotional and physical intimacy of his disciples who shared meals and journeys with him. Wisdom would have us looking forward to being in his presence in glory and staying as close as possible to him in this troubling world. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
*Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Baker Books, 1998, Commentary on John 14:27.