For the past two Sundays, we read gospel’s scriptures concerning Jesus appearing to His disciples. However, today there is a change, is not the risen Christ speaking to His disciples. Today is the ready-to-die Jesus speaking to his disciples; today, we go back to what I call the “I told you so” time. This is the time, when the disciples started remembering what Jesus told them; what Jesus taught them; they started putting together all those things they did not understand and now at the light of His resurrection, all these events; all these teachings had a new meaning. Now they know what Jesus meant when he said, it is necessary for me to suffer, or I put my life and I have power to take it back.
Our reading from John takes place just a couple hours before Jesus’ arrest; took place during the last few hours Jesus spent with His disciples the same night He was arrested. Knowing that His death was near, Jesus told His disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” Jesus was anticipating the sorrow of the already broken disciples’ hearts, and He gave them comfort upon comfort. Dr. William Barclay writes about this passage: “In a very short time, life for the disciples was going to fall in. Their world was going to collapse in chaos around them. At such a time there was only one thing to do—stubbornly hold on to trust in God…If, in the darkest hour, -Dr. Barclay writes- we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light.”.
These verses from John 14 are so comforting that they are read at the beginning of the “I told you so” time because they became, I believe, the foundation for the disciples’ endurance. Jesus knew his disciples were going to need comfort, because what was going to happen right after his death.
After the risen Christ appeared his disciples and the Holy Spirit came, they filled Jerusalem with the news of Jesus’ resurrection, and this beautiful news were the beginning of their troubles.
First, the Jews authority asked them not to preach in the name of Jesus; not to preach of His resurrection and because they did not obey, they were persecuted, arrested, and put to death. Later the whole Roman Empire persecuted them because they worship only one Lord, Jesus and not Caesar. The Roman persecution lasted until the year 313, when Constantine and Licinius signed the edict of Milan and agreed to change their policies towards Christians and Christianity became the official religion in the Empire. To endure three centuries of trials and tribulation in which thousands of men and women suffered not only persecution but also death in a very cruel ways, Christians needed a lot of trust in Jesus. They needed to believe and trust in Jesus for their heart not to be in trouble.
The Book of Acts describes how our brothers and sisters suffered. Chapters 6 and 7, tell us about Stephen, the first Christian martyr on record. Then right after that chapter 8 verse 1, says, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” And verse 5 says, “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Can you imagine all these brothers and sisters of the Early Church running away and while doing so, they were preaching the word of God? To go through what they went through, they needed to believe. And in those moments to remember the words of Jesus was important.
Again, I can imagine them repeating to each other what they heard from Jesus or the disciples, “Do not let your heart be trouble my brother or my sister, believe in God, believe in Jesus. He is alive; He is preparing a place for us in His Father’s house”. Or maybe they were encouraging their troubled hearts repeating to each other the words from the sermon on the mountain: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
So, what made the disciples of Jesus to believe and trust in him? What made them endure everything they went through? I believe it was the evidence Jesus placed before them, mainly the evidence of the cross and His resurrection. On the cross, He took our place as evidence of His love for them and us; His resurrection was an evidence of His power; he demonstrated who he was: God’s anointed one. This evidence, my brothers and sisters remain the same; they have not changed at all. Every day if we pay attention, Jesus shows us His love for us; every day amid our tribulation, God is holding our hand, leading our way and looking for green pastures and still waters for us his sheep.
When Jesus shared with his disciples the words we read in the Gospel of John, He had many reasons for having a troubled heart. Matter of fact later that night in Gethsemane He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Even thou his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, He kept trusting in God His Father. Proof of the was Friday evening when He was crucified, He was able to say, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”
So, if what made the disciples of Jesus to believe and trust in him was the evidence Jesus placed before them and if this evidence helped them to not let their hearts be trouble, then we must follow their example. When you go through trials and tribulations. I invite you to remember and trust the evidence Jesus has given you. I invite to remember those moments when you saw his love and power acting on your favor. I invite to remember those moments when without using one word, Jesus told you, “I love you.” I invite you to take Jesus’ words and make them yours. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me.” Comfort yourself with the promises Jesus gave us.
Taking Jesus at his word empowers us to trust and act as His disciples did; empowers us to be like Stephen the first martyr. Empower us to wait patiently in Him. Trust in Him and at His time you will see the victory.