In those gloomy hours preceding Calvary, Jesus reflected upon the dreaded appointment which, in the eternal scheme of things, he had with the cross—that instrument by which he would bear the penalty for human sin.
However, as was often the case, in spite of his own ordeal his thoughts were riveted upon the welfare of others—particularly the disciples—who did not appreciate the difficulties that lay before them. In one of the most precious passages of Holy Writ—“Let not your heart be troubled . . .” (John 14:1)—the Lord sought to assuage the turbulent souls of his weary followers.
That the disciples were disturbed in the upper room on that evening prior to the crucifixion is beyond doubt. When Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled,” he employed a construction in the Greek text that literally says, “Do not keep on being troubled,” thus revealing their agitated disposition.
What were their concerns? Several factors robbed the disciples of tranquility.
First, the Lord had informed them on several occasions that he would be delivered up to the chief priests and elders of the Jewish community, and be put to death ultimately. They could not bring themselves to accept that. Surely the long-awaited Messiah would not die at the hands of his enemies. Peter had even rebuked the Lord for daring to suggest such a thing (cf. Matthew 16:21-23). And so the thought of the Master’s death was troubling.
Too, during the Passover supper that very evening, Christ had indicated that one of the apostolic band would betray him (John 13:21). How disheartening that must have been.
Finally, to compound the matter, Jesus declared that Peter, a leading apostle, would deny him in the following, early morning hours (John 13:36-38). These circumstances were enough to shake the disciples to their very core. But the Lord understood that. He looked at them and loved them. He knew there was a remedy for their heartache.
Jesus thus declared, “Believe in God, believe also in me” (ASV). The King James Version gives the first clause a declarative rendition; the second, an imperative [command]. But, as Robertson observes, “probably both are imperatives” (1932, 248).
Moreover, in both instances the verb “believe” is in a present tense form in the original text—“keep on believing in God; keep on believing in me also.” The Lord thus affirmed that it was faith that would carry them through.
But what was the character of the faith he envisioned? Genuine faith—the kind that saves—consists of several components.
First, it involves being exposed to the will of God and learning essential, sacred truths (Romans 10:17; John 6:44-47).
Second, faith entails a soul disposition that trusts the Savior and commits to his care. Some in the first century were intellectually persuaded regarding the divine nature of Christ, but for various reasons they would not trust themselves to him (cf. John 8:30ff; 12:42-43).
Third, true belief submits to the will of the Lord. He who believes on the Son has eternal life, but he who obeys not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (see John 3:34, ASV). Jesus is the author of eternal salvation only to such as obey him (Hebrews 5:9).
The noted Greek lexicographer, J. H. Thayer, observed that the faith which embraces Christ is characterized by a conviction regarding the facts about Jesus, a willingness to trust him, and an obedience to the Messiah’s will (1958, 510).
Admittedly, there are numerous occasions when our hearts are troubled. How are we to deal with such crises?
Unquestionably, there are things we cannot change. We can, however, learn to survive by immersing ourselves in a deep and sustained biblical faith. May the Lord grant us the strength to pursue this remedy.