Bayou City Women’s 2018 Summer Bible Study Project studied the gospel of King Jesus in his own words. We walked through his statements in the Book of John where he declared himself to be the great I AM. He did so indirectly many times, but also just flat out said he was God. The answer we were seeking was if he is who he says he is, what does that mean for us? What we learned is that Jesus changes everything. I got to be part of a study group, and I thought I’d share some of my notes over the next few weeks from the teaching time for each chapter. This isn’t a synopsis of the study, but rather pieces of my personal research and my testimony and a few fun nuggets I found along the way. You can read previous posts here:(1) The Bread of Life, (2) The Light of the World, (3) The Door & The Good Shepherd
Week 4: The Way, The Truth, & The Life
Let’s talk about trust. The most powerful way the Lord teaches me trust is through my husband. If you know him personally, you can probably already guess how that’s true. He is strong-willed – always has been as my mother-in-law can attest – and he loves adrenaline. That’s a great combination. (Ha.) And he’s a motorcycle cop. So…there’s that.
Over the last ten years of his career I’ve gone through seasons of fear and feeling out of control as our family sends him out every day. I’ve worked through denial and feeling defensive as I’ve watched injustice after injustice roll down our streets and shout through our headlines. I’ve wondered if this is right for us, when it’s been so hard emotionally, physically, financially.
A year and a half ago, he had probably the most boring motorcycle wreck ever. He was driving about 10 miles per hour in the middle of downtown, and his front tire got caught in the metrorail track and he just dumped off. He hit his knee on the pavement. He had been driving in a pack, and when they stopped to help him, he was mostly concerned about his bike. (Typical.) But when he tried to stand up, he realized….”oh, I’m actually hurt.” If you’re a Houston Texans fan, you know about JJ Watt’s injury? It’s called a tibia plateau fracture. Yeah, that’s what my husband had. He was completely off work for eight months and had surgery and ended up with a permanent disability rating. It was life changing.
Now my family is known for our timing…not in a good way. The day before the wreck, we had accepted an offer on our house. Of course! So we were under contract and had to get out of that house and find a new one. This is the kind of person my husband is: we left the ER after his wreck, and went straight to meet our realtor to go house shopping. He was on crutches. It was an experience to say the least. During the first month after his injury, we experienced a ton of life, all at once. (Timing remember?) Our baby was five months old at the time which is intense enough by itself. We sold and bought a house, he had surgery, and we suddenly lost his beloved grandfather. The week between Christmas and New Years was one of the most intense weeks of my life. We moved, had a painful funeral, and oh yeah, the kids and I were in a wedding.
I would have lost my mind if it wasn’t for Jesus. When we walk through darkness, and pain, and fear, our circumstances can feel like they’re soaking way down deep inside. It’s troubling.
Jesus can relate. We talked last week about how he is so humble. And even though he is worthy of all glory and honor and power, when he walked among us, he had the full human experience. He knows what brokenness feels like. He knows what it’s like to lose a loved one. He faced the pain of an unfair trial and execution. One of his best friends betrayed him. And each of these moments in his life, he was troubled.
But in John 14:1, Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” So why is that? How can we live through these things? How can we bear it? How do we trust?
We can trust Jesus with our troubles because he knows what it’s like.
In John 11, Jesus got word that a friend he loved, Lazarus, was sick. And by the time he got to him, Lazarus had died. Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, came out to meet him before he even made it to their door. They didn’t understand. Their grief was deep. So he wept. Why? He knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. But in that moment, he was troubled and he cried.
Maybe he was disturbed because the people mourning Lazarus were believers in God and in heaven. Was this a lesson to grieve with faith? Maybe he was painfully aware of the power of death. He is the Overcomer. He came to break the power of the grave. Was this moment almost like a skirmish in preparation for the battle he was about to face with death itself? Maybe he was sympathetic with his friends. He was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” He was inwardly and deeply moved by their pain.
I remember the day my high school friend’s brother died. I could physically feel it, physically, the pain and confusion and regret. The sorrow over a stolen future. The compassion for my friend and her family and friends. Each of you know what it’s like to lose someone or even something that you hold dear. You never forget that. Jesus felt it too.
Jesus experienced loss.
After Jesus left Bethany, he journeyed to Jerusalem for the passover celebration. In John 12:23, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He knew what was before him. He knew he was going to die, very soon. Earlier that day he had entered Jerusalem as a king, exalted with palm branches and the people cried out “Hosanna!” but he knew his hour had come. He knew the path before him led to the cross. And now, we see that Jesus was troubled. This time, I believe he was troubled because he was experiencing fear. Look what happens in John 12:27-28:
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Don’t miss this fascinating phrase: “what shall I say?” It’s almost like Jesus was at a loss for words. This is a powerful example of the humility of Jesus the Man. He had come down from heaven and taken up this work of redemption, and redemption requires sacrifice. Blood. Suffering. Jesus took up this work of suffering and at the same time took on this body which is afraid of suffering. He was tempted in his flesh to be afraid. But as always, he masterfully resisted and turned our attention back to the Father.
Jesus experienced fear.
In John 13:18-28, Judas slips away from the passover meal to betray his Lord. Up until the moment, Jesus and Judas were like family. Jesus favored him as one of his chosen twelve. So this moment wasn’t the first time Judas had shared bread with Jesus. All the disciples ate of the same bread and generally fared the same as Jesus did during their journey together. Judas even ate the bread and fish that Jesus multiplied miraculously. Even so, Jesus knew that one of his dearest friends was going to betray him, without warning. Without cause. And that betrayal hurt. We know that he went on to endure more emotional, physical, and spiritual woundings before his death.
Later that night, after Jesus was arrested, Peter, one of his most passionate followers and friends, denied even knowing him. The rest of his friends fled. He was tortured. And as he hung on the cross, as his life slipped away, he experienced the pain of spiritual death: separation from God. You remember last week, when we saw that God the Son and God the Father are one? They abide in perfect love and unity. Eternally. But in Matthew 27:46 something terrible happens:
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Are you walking through loss, or fear, or pain? Jesus knows exactly how you feel. He knows what it’s like to live in a world that feels dark and cold. To be separated from God.
Jesus experienced emotional, physical, and spiritual pain.
In John 14 Jesus said, “not let your hearts be troubled.” Even while his heart was troubled. So what is the difference between our trouble and Jesus’ trouble? The word used to describe Jesus’s trouble was tarássō which means that he actually troubled himself. So even though he was fully human and experienced all our emotions and temptations, he was also fully God, and in perfect control of it all. He actually had the power to take up grief and the power to lay it down again.
We don’t have that power, unless we trust in God completely. In each of these instances, we see Jesus trusting the Father, even when it seemed impossible. We can master our emotions, our loss, our fear, our pain, our troubles by trusting in God.
The amplified version of John 14:1 says “Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me.
So. How do we do that? How do we trust Jesus? Like practically?
We trust Jesus in his leaving.
Huh. That’s a funny thing to trust in. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand why Jesus had to leave us. It would be really nice to have him here. That’s a ridiculous understatement, but you know what I mean. He was purposeful in his leaving. There was a reason he left. While he’s gone, he’s preparing a home for us. The verbiage here shows he’s acting almost like our attorney, advocating to secure the deed of our place. And if you think about it, if he is preparing a place for us, it means that somehow it isn’t ready for us yet. Heaven wouldn’t be ready for us if Jesus wasn’t there, preparing his father’s house, and the table.
We trust Jesus in his return.
So ok, Jesus is making a home for us. Great. How do we get there? Jesus promised to return and take us there. If you ever feel forgotten by God, remember that Jesus is coming back for you.
Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. [He is coming!] Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He will come, and he is daily coming.
He came back from the dead.
He came back with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
We meet him face to face when we die.
And he’s coming again, in all glory.
So we can trust him.
We trust Jesus in who he is.
John 14:6 might just be the most succinct expression of the entirety of the gospel of Jesus: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is the Way: the only way to the Father. He is the only one who can lead us to our home that he prepares.
He is the only Way because he is the Truth: he reveals the Father like no other because he has seen the Father, he knows him, and they are one. This tiny phrase places Jesus in the role of mediator. Jesus the Truth is our only Way to God. Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce put it this way: “All truth is God’s truth, as all life is God’s life; but God’s truth and God’s life are incarnate in Jesus.”
This proclamation opened up a whole new set of questions. He said way more about himself than his disciples expected. He didn’t just say where he – and us, his followers – are going, he said he was the only way to get there! But only God can lead us to himself, right? So here it is, Jesus just comes right out and says it. He and the Father are one. Does this sound familiar? It’s an echo. Remember John 1 verse 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.]
We trust Jesus in who we are in him.
Look at John 14:6-14. The disciples were afraid. I’m afraid sometimes. You’re afraid sometimes. But Jesus promised that we would have everything we need to bear him going away. We receive power and authority in the name of the Father. And we receive the Holy Spirit, our Helper. Our Friend.
Verses 15-21: Remember how Jesus defined eternal life? We learned about it in Week 1: The Bread of Life. Eternal life is to know God. We have eternal life because God is with us, and in us. Our fates are tied. And here’s some more good news: Jesus lives. And so we are finally free.
You know what that looks like?
You are chosen.
You are dearly loved.
You are a child of God.
You are a friend of God.
You are redeemed and forgiven by the grace of God.
You are holy.
You are a saint.
You are free from condemnation.
You are an heir with Jesus.
You have the mind of Jesus.
You are a new creation.
You are the righteousness of God.
You are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.
You are brought near to God by the blood of Jesus.
You are a sheep in the fold of the Good Shepherd.
You can be bold and confident in your access to the Father.
You are complete in Jesus.
You are a citizen of heaven.
You can do all things through Jesus.
Jesus was tempted in all ways, just like us, and he knew how hard it is to be human. And that should encourage you today that when you don’t know what to say, you don’t know what to do, if you’re troubled – follow his example and fix your eyes on the Lord. He left us but he didn’t leave us alone. He didn’t leave us for nothing. He’s thinking of you, always, and has given you access to everything you truly need. No matter what it is you’re going through, you can trust him. You can trust in who he is, and you can trust in who you are. Because he is unshakable.
The Way. The Truth. The Life.