“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.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:1-6 NIV
Emotions can make us cautious. Fear prevents us from strolling down a dark alley in the night. Confusion can make us stop and reassess before moving forward into an uncertain endeavor. Embarrassment can make us investigate the certainty that our future wife will say “yes” when we pop the question.
Following Jesus can make us cautious, because he takes us into the spiritual equivalent of the “dark alley,” expecting us to follow without hesitation based on trust, and when we arrive he expects us to ignore potential “embarrassment” and take the leap of faith to become or do whatever it is he has laid out for us.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” was a message Jesus delivered to his disciples often and in a variety of ways, because following him was a “troubling” emotional experience. Following Jesus meant you were on the move and had no place to lay your head, because you were on a mission that had to be completed in 3 years (Luke 9:57-62). As a consequence, Jesus worked hard to comfort the disciples so they would choose courage over caution.
Even after his speech about not letting their “hearts be troubled,” and encouragement to have faith, or in his words, “You believe in God; believe also in me,” caution still tempted one disciple.
Thomas was an apostle whose primary purpose seems to have been questioning Jesus. Questioning is what we do when we experience what I call “hesitation emotions,” which are those that make us contemplate caution (a word defined as “not acting quickly to avoid risks”).
Thomas did what we all do – he found a way to express his fear without putting it on display. At the close of the Lord’s homily on faith and trust Jesus says, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” This left an opening for Thomas to say, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way.” Jesus emphasized “the way” while Thomas emphasized “where,” as if to say “following you we never know where we are going, and this gets tiring even frustrating, especially when you say we know the way.”
Jesus responds to Thomas and his discomfort with uncertainty by pointing out a truth he had missed. The “way” and the “where” were not a path or a place, but a relationship, as he says in his own words, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
We aren’t much different from Thomas. We are constantly anxious and obsessed about the “way” and the “where” as a path or place, when what God wants is a relationship. In a sense, Jesus told them then and tells us now, your physical “way” and “where” should never trouble your heart, as long as you are in relationship with me. This is the true path we should travel to experience the comfort of the Lord, and turn our caution into courage.
Read John 14.
Read II Corinthians 1:3-7 and make a list 3 things you learn about being comforted.
Read Psalm 23:1-6 to identify the unusual form of comfort found in this passage. Explain each.
Read I Thessalonians 2:11 and explain how comfort can be motivating.
Read Genesis 19:1-29 and explain how unspiritual fear turns caution into godless hesitation
When reading the Gospels, we can learn a great deal about our relationship with God. This happens when we see Jesus as God and ourselves as his disciples. For instance, when reading John 14:1-6, think of yourself as Thomas, and watch the patience Jesus exhibits in the relationship. Observe the Lord’s willingness to be asked what to him might have seemed easy questions, and answer them with calm and respect. Jesus did not demean Thomas, but validated his concerns by taking the teaching deeper.
The next time you feel like you are foolish and don’t understand something, remember Jesus, like God, is patient and will work you through things until they are clear. He will comfort you along the way, easing your anxiety and bringing clarity to the complexity. Additionally, for those of us who lead, we need to remember when someone needs the extra patience, we are simply passing on to them what God has already given to us.
*Definitions in “The 12 Days of Jesus” studies are based on the Cambridge Dictionary
- Feature: The 12 Days of Jesus
- Day 1: Conqueror of Darkness
- Day 2: Courage in the Temple
- Day 3: Compassion for the Disabled
- Day 4: Confidence Turns the Tide
- Day 5: Captivating the Crowds
- Day 6: Cagey and Colorful in Conflict
- Day 7: Controversial to the Conventional
- Day 8: Convincing the Confused
- Day 9: Comforting the Cautious
- Day 10: Clarity for the Complicated
- Day 11: Calm for the Chronically Contentious
- Day 12: Concerned about the Cynical
Written by Russ Ewell
who serves as Director of BACC Next,
where he is tasked with thinking about the future.