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“Troubled Hearts and Promised Dwelling Places”

May 7, 2023 Preacher: Minister Thomas Houston

Scripture: John 14:1–14

May 7, 2023 Fifth Sunday of Easter The text is John 14:1-14.


[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do 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; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”


May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“Do not let you hearts be troubled”; clearly, Jesus feels the need to tell his disciples that they shouldn’t feel anxious for everything is going to be okay.  Well, I’m not sure that this short statement will serve the purpose of comforting the disciples in their worried state.  Evidently, Jesus recognizes this, for he feels the need to expand upon this attempt to reassure his followers.

This morning’s gospel passage is a continuation of what is called Jesus’ “Final Discourse”, which encompasses chapters 13 through 17 in John.  And in our reading this morning, Jesus seeks to convey some of his most important teaching to the disciples.  But what has prompted this need for Jesus to tell them not to be troubled?  Well, the one positive thing that’s happened recently is that Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead; but what else has transpired that would require Jesus’ reassurance to them?  Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem Jesus predicted his death; this has certainly thrown the disciples for a loop, since they had just experienced the crowd shouting their “Hosanna’s” and spreading their palms on the ground before Jesus.  At the Last Supper he has washed their feet and argued with Peter about why it was necessary to do this.  But what comes next, well, this is when their expectations are shattered.  Jesus announces that Judas will betray him, and that Peter will deny him three times.

It’s at this point that the disciples must have felt their world falling apart.  Their Master has told them, now for the third time, that he is to be killed, one of their own has conspired to turn him over to the authorities to be executed, and Peter, whom Jesus has proclaimed as the rock upon which the church will be built was told that he will disavow even knowing Christ.  This is clearly not the good news the disciples were expecting.  For three years they have been following Jesus; hearing him preach, and teach, and perform wondrous signs.  And now, all this happens; death, betrayal, and denial.  It’s just about at this time that the real disbelief happens; the acknowledgement that they must accept the inevitable, and abject panic takes hold of them.

“Do not let you hearts be troubled” ?  Why wouldn’t they be troubled, why shouldn’t they feel that the earth was crumbling beneath their feet?  The entire experience had to have been surreal for these men who had hoped that Jesus would be the One to lead them to freedom from their oppressors, to restore Israel to its former glory as the holy place devoted to their worship of the Hebrew God.  They expected glory, liberation, and holiness; Jesus announced they would instead have to deal with denial, betrayal, and death.  “Do not let you hearts be troubled” ?

“Sorry, Jesus, but this short sentence of reassurance just isn’t going to do it; we’re going to need a bit more hope, encouragement, and assurance, here”.  Which sets the stage for the rest of Jesus’ Discourse this morning, and beyond.  Jesus now takes the opportunity to comfort the disciples by reaffirming for them the truth of the Gospel; reiterating that Jesus’ mission doesn’t end with his departure, it simply shifts to them.  They must carry on with the work that Jesus began, following his teaching in this world, and preparing to reunite with him in the one to come. 

He tells them that he must leave them and that where he is going, they will eventually join him.  Using very allegorical language he assures them that there will be a place for them in God’s kingdom and that they already know what they must do to secure their place there.  But as is so often the case with Jesus’ first followers, they once again don’t grasp what he is telling them.  In response to Jesus’ announcement that they know the way to where he will be waiting for them, Thomas, the one who will doubt the resurrection replies that they don’t know the path they must follow.  Jesus proclaims he is the Way and tells them that he and God the Father are one and the same.  Then the equally skeptical Phillip asks Jesus to show the Father to them.  Apparently, their hearts are still quite troubled, and Jesus offers them additional words of comfort, tinged with a bit of a scolding.

He states clearly to Thomas that he is “the Way” to the Father, and to Phillip that Phillip and the others have seen the Father, in the person of Christ.  “Thomas”, he says “I am the Way, truth, and life, and I am as One with God the Father”.  “What else do you need to know?”  “The Way to life eternal as well as life abundant now stands right in front of you; how can you not see this?”  “Philip”, Jesus says “what do you think I’ve been all about for these last three years”.  “I have come to proclaim the true nature of God and to direct you and all people into a right relationship with the Father”.  “And as I said to Thomas, the words I speak are God’s; you see the Father, he is right in front of you”.

How could these, the closest of Jesus’ followers not see the truth of what was right before their eyes?  How could they be blind to the reality of what Jesus has been showing them?  How could anyone miss what was so obvious?


I will suggest that, on some level, Thomas and Phillip, and the other disciples were aware of what was right in front of them, that they did accept that Jesus and God were One; and that they were acutely aware that Jesus is the Way they must follow.  But perhaps they were much too distraught at what Jesus had just told them; the prediction of his impending death, the betray, and the denials.  They likely weren’t going to be pulled out from their fear, anxiety, and disbelief of what he had told them; so deep was their grief that they weren’t able to discern what was the truth of what Jesus was saying.  Again, they were probably still struggling with their troubled hearts.  All the talk about Way, truth, life, the many rooms in God’s house, and the reservation that Jesus has made for each of them in the hereafter; this was all overshadowed by their distress over what they were told was about to happen in the here and now.  So overpowering was their sense of impending loss that the truth before them was invisible to their devastated hearts and their unseeing eyes.

Jesus’ words of assurance, trust, and, promise struggled to break through the wall of denial the disciples had erected for themselves.  But let’s not judge them too harshly; how often have we done the same?

The struggles in so many parts of the world seem unending; war, disease, natural disasters, and the inhumanity that is practiced in so many places; it is difficult for us to not let our hearts be troubled at the thought of what plagues our entire planet.

The growing discord in our country has never been so intense.  The political, social, and cultural divide prevalent in America seems never-ending; the propensity to violence in all its forms is heartbreaking.  Political party, race, gender; Americans seem willing to come to blows over any differences we can discover about another.  No wonder our hearts are troubled.

Nearly one of every five of our neighbors will go hungry this week; the number of homeless people in Worcester grew by nearly 50% last year.  Crime is spiking, and there is a one in 33 chance that someone in Worcester will be a victim of violent or property crime.  Troubled hearts all around.

Closer to home; 45% of all marriages end in divorce. One-quarter of the children in this country live in single-parent households.  Economic situations are threatening the well-being of more families at a rate that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression.  Family stresses can be overwhelming, no wonder so many hearts are troubled.

And what about ourselves, each of us as individual children of God?  Are we also blinded by the worries, fears, anxieties, and struggles of this life that we’re not able to see the what is right before us?  Are our hearts so troubled that we’ve strayed from the path that leads us to righteousness with God?  Does the Way of Christ Jesus remain obvious to us, in spite of all that the grief that afflicts the world, the nation, our community, family, and ourselves?  Do we hear Jesus when he says, directly to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  Are we comforted with the knowledge that Jesus is, “the way, and the truth, and the life.”? 

These words are so much more significant when they are directed at us, than they were for the disciples.  For they had only the words to comfort them; we are witnesses to the resurrection of Christ Jesus.  We believe and trust that Jesus has gone before us and that our places in the Father’s house have been prepared for our arrival.  We are comforted by the knowledge that Jesus will come and takes us to where he is.  In this season of Easter let us rejoice that our Savior has been raised and that we are saved from all that might seek to test us.              The truth is right in front of us.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled”.      

God is Good, all the time.  All the time, God is GoodAmen.