Learning the immediate context provides even deeper meaning to the words of God we memorize, treasure, and find our hope.

Photo: Canyon Ferry Lake, Helena, Montana, May 2020

1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? – John 14:1-2

I read these words out loud from my pocket Bible when they had my grandfather’s casket over the barren hole to be lowered into the ground. Jackson was 1 years old. Just the two of us were at the graveside outside Chicago. I had driven our deep red Jeep Cherokee Chief with Jackson in the back in his car seat from our home in Grand Haven, Michigan. This was really our first of many solo outings just the two us – diaper bag, cheerios, bear and blanket, visa, full tank of gas, hours on the road before us, ready to take in what was ahead albiet good, bad, hard or ugly.

What a loss and crushing heartbreak to bury my friend, mentor, and grandfather in the most full sense of the word before my family could know him the way I did. Death at any age is not the way it is supposed to be. What sharp contrast these words of Jesus rang out on that day from John 14. There was hope in these concurrent tears which were not the last word.

Today I finished Dick Lucas’ book on the framework of John’s gospel. What a great quote from this book that brought me back to that day with “Boppa” and Jackson, explaining more of these deeply satisfying words of Christ in the value of context:

“…putting the text in their proper context never detracts from their meaning, but only fills the truth fuller than is was before. Take, for example, the famous words ‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me’ (John 14:1) which are so often read at funerals, and are in themselves words of great comfort to the believer.

We hear the kindly and wonderful voice of our Savior, and are rightly comforted.

But, if we go to the context, we find that there is much more here than this. We find that the immediate context is that of the disciples’ misunderstanding and weakness, and particularly Peter’s [fortold] betrayal (13:36-28).

So it is even in the face of this human sin and extreme failure that Jesus does not rebuke, but gives this assurance of peace.

And further, we find that this assurance rests on the work that Jesus is about to accomplish through his death and resurrection. He is going to prepare a place for his followers not after his death, but actually THROUGH his atoning death; if that can be accomplished, then they can have absolute peace that this promise of his coming again to bring them to heaven is assured.

Hence the priority message of the risen Jesus for the disciples that he is returning to heaven having accomplished all this (John 20:17); in other words their hope IS secure because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead!

Now, having seen this, how much MORE full are these words ‘Let now your hearts be troubled’ for us today as post-resurrection believers, who have that sure knowledge of Christ’s completed work!”

He did this for me that I may have hope: real life now and life to come.

Source: Teaching John: Unlocking the Gospel of John for the Bible Teacher, Dick Lucas & William Philip

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