This week I sent out a survey to the church to see where people were at with restarting physical Sunday gatherings. There weren’t many surprises, and it triggered a few chats to understand the thinking behind answers. The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has had a toll on mental health. Some of the answers showed people’s feeling of isolation and wanting to get back to community; and also hearts that were troubled by the situation and fear for the future. Of course, our little survey is just a snapshot of a hundred people. The BBC news has reported a doubling of depression during the lockdown. What’s the answer? Jesus tells us “Let not your hearts be troubled” at the beginning and end of today’s reading.
I remember being overwhelmed with anxiety over a couple of issues, before we moved to King’s Lynn to plant The Gateway Church. That summer, while I was at the Brighton leaders conference, one lunchtime I was sitting on a wall chatting with Maurice Nightingale who asked me would I be worrying about the things I was worried about in 500 years? “No, of course not”, I answered. To which Maurice replied “Well, why are you worried about that now then?”. That in essence is Jesus’ first principle in today’s readings.
At that point, Jesus was drip feeding that He will die, rise again and ascend to heaven – “to prepare a room for them”. He was telling them that we are destined for eternal life, so the problems, anxieties and worried of today are as Paul put it light and momentary compared to an eternity of peace and rest. We won’t have those worries in 500 years, so why let them occupy your mind now?
How do we enter that peace and rest of eternal life? Thomas asks that question in v5. The answer Jesus gave is that “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one one comes to the Father except through me.”
The thing that marks Christianity out is that we get a person, not just a ticket to heaven. Jesus himself is the way, not pointing the way with things we have to do. Jesus is the truth, not just speaking the truth. And He is the life not just showing us the life. Therefore it stands to reason that he is the only way to the Father. No-one comes to the Father except through Him.
Believing in Jesus leads to action. As James puts it faith without works is dead. I love that we get to do “greater works” than Jesus. So we get to see people saved, people healed, people delivered and even raised from the dead. I have prayed for a couple of people recently and had to kick myself that I’m surprised that God has indeed healed them of their headaches, instantly! “Greater” is not a qualitative word, but a quantitative one. We represent Jesus and are filled with the same power of the Spirit that He was, so if we get on and do the things He did, we will see a greater number of people impacted.
The next aspect of being a follower of Jesus is that we must keep His commandments. Jesus last words in Matt 28:19 are that we make disciples, baptise them and “teach them to obey all that I have commanded.” Jesus reassures us that it is possible because when He goes He will send the “Helper” – often translated as counsellor, or comforter. The Spirit is the One who will help us to follow Jesus, empower us in our obedience so that we can resist temptation and do those greater works. Later in the passage we are reminded that the Spirit, also helps us by bringing to remembrance what we have been told – for us who are not the first hearers of Jesus’ word, that means the Spirit will help us remember the Bible’s teaching for every situation. Read the Word, so the Spirit has something to remind you!
Another way that our hearts can be not troubled is in v18 – Jesus will not leave us orphans. Orphans have no mother or father that they can rely on or lean on. Sin has so ravaged the world, that we all start out with an orphan heart, not knowing that we have a heavenly Father, we can rely on. God is a a perfect Father to us, Jesus is gentle and lowly and always helps us and speaks for us.
Our hearts need not be troubled or afraid (v27) because Christ is our peace and gives us peace. Paul writes to the church in Rome to remind them of the peace we have and access we enjoy because of our faith in Jesus (Romans 5:1-2). Let us be untroubled and fearless because of Christ!