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Devotional Hours with the Bible, Volume 7: Chapter 23 - How Christ Comforts

By J.R. Miller

      John 14:1, 2

      The words of the fourteenth chapter of John were spoken by the Master to His friends in a time of deep grief which seemed inconsolable. Yet He said, "Let not your heart be troubled." This seemed a strange thing to say to those men that night. How could they keep their hearts from being troubled in such circumstances? To think of all that Jesus had grown to be to them! For three years they had been members of His personal family, enjoying the most intimate relations with Him.

      How much a friend can be to us, depends on the friend. If he has a rich character, a noble personality, power to love deeply, capacity for friendship, the spirit of pure unselfishness; if he is able to inspire us to heroism and to worthy living--what he can be to us is immeasurable. Think what Jesus Christ, with His marvelous manhood, must have been as a friend to His disciples, and you can understand something of what His going from them meant to them.

      Then He was more than a friend to them. They had believed in Him as the Messiah, who was to redeem them and lead them to honor and glory. Great hope rested in Him. His death was, as it seemed to them--the defeat and failure of all their hopes. The announcement that He was to leave them, swept away, as they thought, all that made life worthwhile. There are human friends whose death seems to leave only desolation in the hearts and lives of those who have loved them and leaned on them. But the death of Christ was to His personal friends and followers--the blotting out of every star of hope and promise. Their sorrow was overwhelming.

      Yet Jesus looked into their faces and said, "Let not your heart be troubled." It is worth our while to think of the grounds on which Jesus could reasonably say this to His disciples, when they were entering into such great and real sorrow. The first thing He bade them do, was to believe. "Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me." Thus far they had believed in God. Jesus had taught them a new name for God. They were to call Him Father. He had not been known by this name before--but Jesus used no other name for Him. The word Father is a great treasure-house of love-thoughts. It told the disciples of personal thought, love and care, extending to all the events of their lives. The very hairs of their heads were all numbered. It told them of goodness which never failed. It was a great lesson they had been learning, as they came to think of God as their Father. In the shock of the last terrible days; however, the danger was that they would lose their faith in God. But Jesus said to them: "Believe in God. Let nothing take this faith out of your heart. Let nothing take from you what you have been learning from Me about God."

      "Believe also in Me." They had accepted Jesus as the Messiah. You remember the splendid confession made by Peter, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." In this confession, all the disciples had joined. They believed that He had come to be the world's Savior. Now, in the announcement that Jesus was to die at the hands of wicked men, there was danger that they should lose their faith in Him. But to save them from their loss of faith He exhorted them to continue to believe. Not one of their hopes had perished. "You believe in God, believe also in Me."

      We are always in danger of losing faith in time of sorrow or any sore trouble. Many times people are heard asking such questions as, "How can God be a God of love, and allow me to be so bereft, so stripped of good things? Where are now the promises of blessing which are made in the Scriptures over and over again? Has God forgotten to be gracious?" To those questions of doubt and fear the answer is, "Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me." Let nothing disturb your faith. Though it seems that God's love has failed, that God has not forgotten you, that Christ is no longer your friend--still continue to believe; believe in God, believe also in Christ.

      Sorrow is full of mystery. We go everywhere asking, "Why?" "This is not love," we say. "This is not goodness. This is not salvation." We cannot answer the WHY. Should we expect to know why God does this or that? How could we, with our narrow vision and our small knowledge, understand the plans and purpose of God? God does not plan to give us an easy time in this world--He wants to make something of us, and often the way to do this--is to give us pain, loss, and suffering.

      A German writer speaks of the "hardness of God's love." Love must be hard sometimes. A writer tells of keeping the cocoon of an emperor moth for nearly a year, to watch the process of development. A narrow opening is left in the neck of the flask, through which the insect forces its way. The opening is so small that it seems impossible for the moth to pass through it. This writer watched the efforts of the imprisoned moth to escape. It did not appear to make any progress. At last he grew impatient. He pitied the little creature and, in a weak kindness to it, decided to help it. Taking his scissors, he snipped the confining threads to make the struggle easier. In a moment the moth was free, dragging out a great swollen body and little shriveled wings. He watched to see the beauty unfold--but he watched in vain. "It never was anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully about, instead of flying through the air on rainbow wings." Nature's way--that is, God's way--with moths is the only true way, although it is a way of pain, struggle, and suffering. Human pity may make an easier way--but the end will be destructive.

      God's love never makes this mistake, either in nature or in dealing with human lives. God lets us suffer--if by suffering we will best grow into perfect beauty. When the mystery of pain or hardness comes into our life--let us not doubt. Let us suffer and wait. The disciples thought all their hopes were gone--but in the end they learned that no hope had perished or failed. Blessing and good came out of what seemed irretrievable disaster. "You believe in God, believe also in me," is always the word of faith and comfort. Trust God. Nothing is going wrong. You cannot understand--but He understands.

      The disciples were in great distress because their Master was going away from them. They were dismayed as they thought of their loss. They thought they could not live without Him. But He explained that He was going away--for their sake. They thought they would not have His help anymore, and He explained that He would still be active in their behalf. "In my Father's house are many mansions... I am going to prepare a place for you."

      He told them where He was going--to His Father's house. These are precious words. They tell us that heaven is home. On this earth there is no place so sweet, so sacred, so heart-satisfying as the true home. It is a place of love, purest, gentlest, most unselfish love. It is a place of confidence. We are always sure of home's loved ones. We do not have to be on our guard when we enter our home doors. We do not have to wear masks there, hiding or disguising our real selves. Home is a refuge into which we flee from the danger, the enmity, the suspicion, the unkindness, the injustice of the world. Home is the place where hungry hearts feed on love's bread.

      Mrs. Craik in one of her books had this fine picture:

      Oh, conceive the happiness to know that some one person dearer to you than your own self, some one heart into which you can pour every thought, every grief, every joy; one person who, if all the rest of the world were to calumniate or forsake you--would never wrong you by a harsh thought or an unjust word; who would cling to you the closer in sickness, in poverty, in care; who would sacrifice all things to you, and for whom you would sacrifice all; from whom, except by death, night or day, you never can be divided; whose smile is ever at your hearth. Such is marriage, if they who marry have hearts and souls to feel that there is no bond on earth so tender and so sublime.

      This is a glimpse of what a true home is. The picture is sometimes realized on the earth. There are homes which are well-near perfect. But the home sought, will be realized full in heaven. The Bible paints heaven in colors of dazzling splendor, its gates and streets and gardens and streams and fruits, all of the utmost brilliance; but no other description means so much to our hearts as that which the Master gives in these three words, "My Father's house"--home!

      "My Father's house." That is the place to which we are going! That is the place where those we have lost awhile from our earthly homes, falling asleep in Jesus, are gathering. That is the place to which the angels have carried the godly dead. What a vision will burst upon our eyes when, some quiet day or night, we shall fall asleep--to awake no more on earth--but to awake in heaven, in our Father's house! You have read of men coming over the sea as immigrants, and landing in a strange city as utter strangers--throngs all about them--but not one familiar face, no welcome in any eye, no greeting. But it will not be this way with you when you leave this world and enter heaven. Loved ones will meet you and receive you with joy.

      Jesus said also to His disciples, "I go to prepare a place for you." They thought His dying was an interruption of His work. The Messiah they had conceived of was to live and be a glorious King, conquering the world. Suddenly they were told that soon they should not see Him--He would be gone. They were bitterly disappointed. All their homes were now to perish. Jesus comforts them by telling them that the reason He was going away--was to prepare a place for them. Nothing was going wrong with His Messiahship. They had misunderstood it--that was all. He could easily have escaped from the plots of the rulers, the betrayal of Judas, the arrest by the temple officers. But hat would have been to fail in part of His work.

      The reason He was going away--was that He might continue and complete His work in heaven. "I go to prepare a place for you." The thought is very beautiful. How does Christ prepare places for us? We need not understand--but it is a sweet thought to know that He thinks of us--as you think of a dear guest who is coming to visit you--lovingly, and prepares for your coming. You good women, when you are expecting a friend you love very much, make the guest room just as tidy and beautiful as you can. You think of the friend's tastes, and prepare the room with this in mind. You put up a picture you think will please him. You lay on the table the books you know he will like. You gather his favorite flowers and place them on the dressing bureau. You do everything you can to make the room beautiful, so that he will feel at home in it the moment he enters it. Christ is preparing a room for you!

      There is something else here. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also." This is more of the work Jesus went away to do for His friends. First, He would make ready for them, build a home for the, prepare a place. Then, when all things were ready, He would come for them and take them home. That is what He does when we leave this world. Men call it dying--but dying is a gloomy, forbidding word. Jesus said, "Whoever lives and believes on Me--shall never die." What we call dying--is really only Jesus coming to receive us unto Himself. Why, then, should anyone dread to leave this world? It is the Master coming to tell you that your place in the Father's house is ready for you--and that He has come to take you to it!

      When Stephen was being stoned to death--he had a beautiful vision. He saw the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. As the mob stoned him, Stephen was calling upon Jesus Christ and praying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" (see Acts 7:58-60). It was the Savior coming for His servant. The place was ready for him. His work here had been short--but it was all that had been allotted to him. His departure was tragic--he died at the hands of a religious mob; but it mattered not how he was taken away--really it was Jesus who took him away--receiving His spirit into strong, gentle and secure hands.

      The comfort to us in our sorrows and bereavements, is that nothing has gone wrong, that God's purpose is going on in all the wrecks of human hopes. Your friend passed away the other night. You thought he would have been with you for many years. You had plans covering a long future of happiness. You were appalled when the doctor said that your friend could not live. Life to you would be dreary, lonely and empty without this one who had become so dear to you. You say: "My friend stayed so brief a time! I could almost wish that I had not let my heart fasten its tendrils about this dear life, since so soon it was torn away from me!" Say it not! It is worthwhile to love--and to let your heart pour out all its sweetness in loving, though it be for but a day--and then to have the bliss give way to grief.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - Christ the Life and Light of Men
   Chapter 2 - The Witness of John to Jesus
   Chapter 3 - The First Miracle in Cana
   Chapter 4 - Jesus Cleansing the Temple
   Chapter 5 - Jesus and Nicodemus
   Chapter 6 - Jesus at Jacob's Well
   Chapter 7 - The Second Miracle at Cana
   Chapter 8 - Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda
   Chapter 9 - Christ's Divine Authority
   Chapter 10 - The Miracle of the Loaves and Fish
   Chapter 11 - Jesus, the Bread of Life
   Chapter 12 - Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles
   Chapter 13 - The Slavery of Sin
   Chapter 14 - Healing the Man Born Blind
   Chapter 15 - Jesus the Good Shepherd
   Chapter 16 - The Abundant Life
   Chapter 17 - The Raising of Lazarus
   Chapter 18 - The Supper at Bethany
   Chapter 19 - Jesus Entering into Jerusalem
   Chapter 20 - Serving, Following, Sharing
   Chapter 21 - Washing the Disciples' Feet
   Chapter 22 - The New Commandment
   Chapter 23 - How Christ Comforts
   Chapter 24 - Why Does No One See God?
   Chapter 25 - The Way, the Truth, and the Life
   Chapter 26 - The Comforter Promised
   Chapter 27 - The Vine and the Branches
   Chapter 28 - The Spirit's Work
   Chapter 29 - Alone--yet Not Alone
   Chapter 30 - Jesus Prays for His Friends
   Chapter 31 - Christ Betrayed
   Chapter 32 - Jesus Before Pilate
   Chapter 33 - Pilate Sentencing Jesus
   Chapter 34 - The Crucifixion of Christ
   Chapter 35 - "It is finished!"
   Chapter 36 - The Resurrection
   Chapter 37 - "Peace Be unto You!"
   Chapter 38 - The Beloved Disciple


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