Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

JOHN 14:1

At the root of the Christian life lies belief in the invisible. The object of the Christian’s faith is unseen reality.

In the world of sense around us, the visible becomes the enemy of the invisible; the temporal, of the eternal. That is the curse inherited by every member of Adam’s race.

Our uncorrected thinking, influenced by the blindness of our natural hearts and the intrusive ubiquity of visible things, tends to draw a contrast between the spiritual and the real; but actually no such contrast exists. The antithesis lies elsewhere: between the real and the imaginary, between the spiritual and the material, between the temporal and the eternal; but between the spiritual and the real, never! The spiritual is real.

If we would rise into that region of light and power plainly beckoning us through the Scriptures of truth we must break the evil habit of ignoring the spiritual. We must shift our interest from the seen to the unseen.

For the great unseen Reality is God! “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” This is basic in the life of faith. From there we can rise to unlimited heights.

“Ye believe in God,” said our Lord Jesus Christ, “believe also in me.” Without the first, there can be no second.

God and the spiritual world are real. We can reckon upon them with as much assurance as we reckon upon the familiar world around us![1]

Comfort Comes from
Trusting Christ’s Presence

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. (14:1)

The last few days had been an emotional roller coaster for the disciples. Their fervent messianic hopes had reached an apex during the dizzying excitement of the triumphal entry—only to be dashed when Jesus publicly announced His impending death: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24), and then repeated that prediction privately to them: “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’ ” (13:33).

Like their fellow Jews, the disciples saw the Messiah as a conquering king. He would, they passionately believed, free Israel from bondage to Rome, restore her sovereignty and glory, and extend it over the world. The concept of a dying Messiah had no place in their theology (cf. Luke 24:21). On a more personal note, the disciples had forsaken everything to follow Jesus (Matt. 19:27); now He apparently was forsaking them.

Other events of that evening in the upper room had added to the emotional turmoil that the disciples felt. They had been shamed by their prideful refusal to wash each other’s feet, which prompted Jesus to humbly do what they refused to do (13:3–5). They were dumbfounded to hear Jesus predict that one of them would betray Him (13:21–22) and appalled at the news that their stalwart leader Peter, seemingly the strongest and boldest of them all, would cravenly deny Christ (13:38). They were also no doubt unsettled because they sensed that the Lord Himself was troubled (13:21).

Thus when Jesus told them, Do not let your heart be troubled (cf. Gen. 15:1; 26:24; 46:3; Ex. 14:13; Num. 21:34; Deut. 1:21, 29; 20:1; 31:6; Josh. 1:9; 11:6; 1 Chron. 22:13; 28:20; Prov. 3:25; Isa. 37:6; 41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8; 51:7; Jer. 1:8; 42:11; 46:27–28; Lam. 3:57; Joel 2:21; Hag. 2:5; Zech. 8:13, 15; Matt. 10:31; Acts 18:9; 27:24; 1 Peter 3:14; Rev. 2:10), He was not telling them not to start being troubled. They were already troubled, and He was telling them to stop. Troubled translates a form of the verb tarassō (“to shake,” or “to stir up”). It is used to describe the literal stirring up of the pool of Bethesda (5:7) and, figuratively, of severe mental or spiritual agitation (Matt. 2:3; 14:26; Luke 1:12; 24:38; John 11:33; 13:21; Acts 15:24). As always, Jesus knew the disciples’ hearts; He understood their confusion and concerns. Ever the compassionate Savior, He sympathized with their sorrow and grief (Isa. 53:3–4; Heb. 4:15). Even though the disciples were oblivious to His pain, He felt theirs and sought to comfort them.

The Lord then added a second command. Just as the disciples believe in God, they are to believe also in Him. Christ affirmed His deity, placing Himself on a par with the Father as an appropriate object of faith. In calling them to hope in God, Jesus was calling His disciples to put their hope in Him.

Despite occasional lapses into idolatry, Israel had a heritage of faith and trust in God. Abraham “believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). Moses’ charge to the nation, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut. 6:4), captures the essence of Old Testament faith. David cried, “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust” (Ps. 25:1–2; cf. 42:5, 11). In another psalm he wrote, “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God’ ” (Ps. 31:14). In a passage especially appropriate for the disciples’ situation, David declared confidently, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You” (Ps. 56:3; cf. vv. 4, 11). King Hezekiah was commended because “he trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him” (2 Kings 18:5). In short, all “those who know [God’s] name will put their trust in [Him]” (Ps. 9:10; cf. 21:7; 22:4, 5, 9; 26:1; 28:7; 31:6, 14; 32:10; 33:21; 37:3, 5; 40:4; 52:8; 55:23; 62:8; 84:12; 86:2; 91:2; 112:7; 115:9–11; 125:1; 143:8; Prov. 3:5; 16:20; 22:19; 28:25; 29:25; Isa. 12:2; 26:3–4; 50:10; Jer. 17:7; Dan. 6:23).

Many in Israel believed in God despite never having seen Him. Even Moses “endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Heb. 11:27), since, as God Himself declared to him, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Ex. 33:20; cf. Deut. 4:12; John 1:18; 6:46; 1 Tim. 6:16). The disciples needed to have that same kind of faith in Jesus when He was no longer visibly present with them. The Lord was not calling the disciples to believe savingly in Him; they had already done so (13:10–11). The present tense form of the verb pisteuō (believe) refers instead to an ongoing trust in Him. Though they genuinely believed in Jesus, the disciples’ faith was already beginning to waver. Soon, when He was taken from them and they faced the traumatic events of His betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion, it would reach its lowest ebb.

But Christ did not need to be visibly present for the disciples to receive comfort and strength from Him. In fact, Jesus commended the faith of those who had not seen Him (John 20:29; cf. 1 Peter 1:8). Though He would no longer be visibly present with the disciples, Christ’s promise, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5; cf. Gen. 28:15; Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5; 1 Sam. 12:22; 1 Chron. 28:20; Ps. 37:25, 28; Isa. 41:10), would still hold true.

It is the post-Pentecost ministry of the Holy Spirit to make believers aware of Christ’s comforting presence. Later in this chapter Jesus promised,

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (vv. 16–18)

In 15:26 He told the disciples, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me” (cf. 16:7, 13–14).

The presence of Christ is enough to calm the believing heart in whatever perplexing, troubling situation it finds itself. As the godly Puritan John Owen noted, “A sense of God’s presence in love is sufficient to rebuke all anxiety and fears; and not only so, but to give, in the midst of them, solid consolation and joy” (The Forgiveness of Sin [repr.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977], 17).[2]

14:1. Let not your hearts any longer be troubled. We prefer this translation because it reproduces both the meaning and the cadence of the original. First, the meaning, for the thought is not, “Do not begin to be troubled,” but “Stop being troubled,” or “Do not be troubled any longer.” And secondly, the cadence. In the original the line has a rhythmical flow, a soothing and consoling tenderness, which can be reproduced in English by stressing the words and syllables that have been printed in italics:

Let not your hearts any longer be troubled.”

Note that Jesus is not merely telling the disciples that they must not be sad any longer; he exhorts them not any longer to be troubled, tempest-tossed, agitated, thrown into a state of confusion and perplexity. The verb used is ταρασσέσθω, third person singular present imperative passive of ταράσσω. See also on 5:7; 11:33; 12:27; 13:21, The original has your heart where English idiom prefers your hearts (but see A.V. and A.S.V.). The heart is here the fulcrum of feeling and faith as well as the main-spring of words and actions, as is evident from such passages as 16:6, 22; cf. Matt 12:34; 15:19; 22:37; and Rom. 10:10. John seldom uses the term (only in 13:2; 14:1, 27; 16:6; and in 12:40, which, however, is a quotation from Is. 6:10).

The hearts of the disciples were filled with a medley of emotions. They were sad because of the gloomy prospect of Christ’s departure; ashamed because of their own demonstrated selfishness and pride; perplexed because of the prediction that one of their own number would betray the Master, that another would deny him, and that all would be ensnared because of him; and finally, they were wavering in their faith, probably thinking: “How can one who is about to be betrayed be the Messiah?” Yet, at the same time, they love this Master. They hope against hope. All this is implied in the words, “Let not your hearts any longer be troubled.”

The exhortation is based on love of the most tender and self-forgetful character, for when Jesus uttered it he was himself troubled in the spirit (13:21; and compare also Matt. 26:38; Luke 22:28, 44). The agonizing shepherd, facing the cross, comforts others. He consoles the very men who have just demonstrated their selfishness and who are going to be “offended in him,” “Was there ever kinder shepherd, half so gentle, half so sweet?”

Moreover, what Jesus is expressing is not merely a pious wish, like our cheering (but often empty) phrase: “Just do not worry. Everything will be all right.” When Jesus says, “Let not your hearts any longer be troubled,” he fortifies this with solid grounds. See the Synthesis at the end of the chapter.

In this connection there is an interesting superficial resemblance between Christianity and Epicureanism. The latter also stressed the necessity of remaining calm and untroubled in all circumstances of life. In fact this school even used a term which is derived from the same root as is the verb which Jesus employs here in 14:1, 27. They spoke of ataraxia (ἀταραξία), the state of being unperturbed. And yet, upon a closer view, the difference between Christianity and Epicureanism, as brought out strikingly in John 14, is great. The reasoning of Epicureanism and of its present-day equivalents is this: “Do not be disturbed, for the gods, if they exist at all, do not take notice of you.”—On the contrary, the teaching of Jesus is this: “Do not be disturbed, for the God whom you trust does take notice of you. He hears your prayers. He loves you. And so does the Son of God.” Hence, Christianity—or, if you prefer, Christ—furnishes the only adequate grounds for the exhortation of 14:1, 27.

Continue to trust in God, also in me continue to trust.

There is much to be said in favor of the position that both of these verbs (πιστεύετε … πιστεύετε) are imperatives, precepts. The imperative form is in harmony with the entire discourse (14:11; 15:4, etc.). It is also in harmony with the first line, for “Let not your hearts any longer be troubled,” is also imperative. The old argument, which one can find in many books, to the effect that the first clause cannot be a command because Jesus knew that the disciples already trusted in God, hence, could not order them to do so, has little value. Though they had faith, that faith was beginning to waver. Hence (using the continuative present imperative) Jesus says, “Continue to trust!”

Though the disciples still loved the Master, their faith in him as Messiah-Savior was beginning to waver. Jesus knows that when within a matter of hours he dies on the cross and is buried, that faith will be undermined even more (16:20; cf. Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:27; 16:13; Luke 24:21). He knows also that the only remedy for the troubled heart is the assurance that Jesus is and remains the Savior even though—rather, by virtue of the very fact that—he suffers and dies. That is why he tells them, according to the original, “Keep on trusting in God, also in me keep trusting.” The verb may also be rendered keep on believing. It makes little difference. We chose keep on trusting because it is especially the trust-element in faith which is on the foreground in a context which concerns the troubled heart.

Jesus does not, in this connection, fully explain why he must die on the cross, though there had been some teaching along this line previously (10:11, 14, 28; Mark 10:45); neither was a full explanation possible as yet (16:12). He demands abiding trust or faith in God and in himself even then when mysteries multiply. Jesus asks that the disciples shall continue to rest in God and in himself with their entire being, so that their heart, soul, mind, and strength will continually go out to the source of their salvation, the goal of their existence. For the verb see also on 1:8; 3:16; 8:30, 31a.

The clear implication is that Jesus is himself God. This is brought out beautifully by means of the inverted word-order in the second exhortation, so that the phrases in God and also in me are placed right next to each other.[3]

1 Having left their homes and occupations to follow the Master, the disciples are now faced with what appears to be complete failure. The noble cause to which they had given themselves for the past three years seems about to crumble. How reassuring, then, would be the words of Jesus, “Set your troubled hearts at rest” (NEB; the present imperative may suggest “stop being troubled”). The verb (tarassō, GK 5429) means “stir up,” “unsettle,” “throw into confusion.” In 11:33 it depicted Jesus’ reaction when he encountered the sorrowing Mary, in 12:27 when he anticipated death, and in 13:21 when he predicted his betrayal.

As members of the Jewish community, the disciples would know from their own religious tradition that God would never abandon them. Throughout history he had responded to the needs of his people and protected them in times of distress. Jesus is saying to his disciples, “You do trust in God; therefore trust also in me [pisteuete, “trust,” GK 4409, can be taken as indicative or imperative in either clause]. Have I not yet convinced you that I and my Father are one [10:30; cf. 17:21–23]? If the Father is worthy of your trust, so also is the Son.” In light of this, then, Jesus urges, “You must not let yourselves be distressed” (Phillips).[4]

14:1 Some link verse 1 to the last verse of chapter 13 and think it was spoken to Peter. Although he would deny the Lord, yet there was a word of comfort for him. But the plural forms in Greek (“ye” in old English) show it was spoken to all the disciples, hence we should pause after chapter 13. The thought seems to be: “I am going away, and you will not be able to see Me. But let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, and yet you do not see Him. Now believe in Me in the same way.” Here is another important claim to equality with God.[5]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2008). John 12–21 (pp. 97–100). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 2, pp. 262–264). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 559–560). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1545). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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