Summary: What Jesus left to his disciples when he told them he was leaving, he also left to us:a place to enjoy, a path to ensue, and a power to employ.
Can you remember how shocked and upset you where when you discovered that someone you respected and looked up to was leaving? A teacher you had become used to was leaving. A pastor you had respected was leaving. A boss you had enjoyed working under was leaving. A co-worker you had worked with for years was leaving. A friend you had known for years tells you that she is moving to another town. How did you feel when you found out they were leaving?
I can remember years ago when I was in the army during the Second World War we had a battalion commander named Colonel Pierce. Every man in the battalion respected and liked Colonel Pierce. But doing the invasion of Normandy beach, Colonel Pierce was injured by a land mine and could no longer lead the group. The battalion had been scattered for the invasion, but when all the companies found out than Colonel Pierce had been injured and would no longer be our colonel, a pallor of gloom seem to descend upon the entire outfit. Colonel Pierce had left us. I am sure most of us can remember such an experience.
If you can remember how you felt perhaps you have some idea of how the disciples felt in this 14th Chapter of John. What happened in the 14th Chapter of John takes place in the upper room where Jesus had his last supper with the disciples, washed their feet, and told them he was leaving and that where he was going they could not follow. What a disturbing revelation that must have been for the disciples! This Jesus whom they had come to love and respect. This Jesus who had taught them so many things. This Jesus who had walked with them and had become their best friend. This Jesus was leaving them.
We look at this from hindsight. We have the advantage of knowing what is going to happen. Have you ever noticed when you look at a movie or a picture on TV for the first time you may be nervous because you don’t know what is going to happen to the main characters of the story? Will they escape the danger that confronts them? Will they get through the situation unharmed? But when you look at the movie the second time and know how things turned out you can relax. You know how the situation was resolved.
We know the whole story of the passion of Jesus. We know how everything turned out. But the disciples were living through it then. They didn’t know how things were going to turn out. They didn’t know anything about a resurrection and all of that. They were going through the experience unaided by hindsight. They were experiencing events as they were unfolding at that time. Jesus had given them a new commandment to love one another. But I’m not really sure they could have comprehended the magnitude of that message. All they knew was that Jesus was leaving. That’s all they heard. Jesus is leaving. That statement resounded through their minds over and over again. Jesus is leaving. The Lord is leaving. The master is leaving us. That’s all their minds could handle at that time. Jesus is leaving. Did he say he was leaving?
They didn’t know all the implications of it. All they knew was that Jesus was leaving. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. How would you have felt in a situation like that. We need to get to know the characters of the Bible and try to experience what they experienced. They lived over 2000 years ago, but human nature has not changed that much. They feel the same thing we feel. They experienced the same things we experienced. We need to get them off the pages of the Bible and into the real life of our hearts and feelings. These are real people going through real experiences, not too different from what we experience today.
But Jesus sensed their apprehension and anguish. So it is not surprising that he opens this 14th Chapter of John with one of the most beautiful and well-known expressions in the New Testament when he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Let not your hearts be troubled. How many times has this passage been read, quoted, or preached about at a funeral or other sorrowful situation. Let not your heart be troubled. You still belong to God. Let not your heart be troubled. God is still in charge. Let not your heart be troubled. Believe that God will make a way. Let not your heart be troubled. God is still on the throne.
Jesus tells his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled. In the midst of the confusion and commotion of that hour there is still some good news. Jesus is leaving them, but he is not going way without leaving them with something. Jesus is going, but he is going to leave them something to remember him by.