Parents who travel out of town for work know how painful it can be to hear a young child say, “But, Daddy (or Mommy), why do you have to go?” The words can be especially difficult if you know that you can’t fully explain why you have to leave. Perhaps the child is just too young to understand, and answers just lead to more questions: “But why do you have to work?” “Why can’t you just work here?”
That situation is something like where we left off looking at Jesus’ words to His disciples at the end of John 13. At the very end of the chapter, the Lord had just told them that He had to leave. It appears that they were understandably disturbed. John 14 gives us the Lord’s attempts to bring them comfort as they think about His upcoming departure. He tells them twice not to let their hearts be troubled or disturbed (John 14:1, 27) and gives them two major reasons why they don’t need to be troubled.
The first major reason is that this situation will only be temporary. He’s not leaving for good. He’s going to get a place ready for them. An older translation uses the word “mansions,” which has caused many believers to think about the size of their house in heaven. This is a word that simply refers to a “room” or “place to stay,” (which is also a meaning of the word “mansion” in older English). This word is the same one that’s translated “home” or “abode” in John 14:23. What Christians look forward to most is not a huge house; it’s the chance to be with Him.
How can they be sure that they are on the road to this place? Jesus Himself is the way (John 14:6). Believing in Him (John 14:1) and following His example of love (13:34-35) are what it means for Him to be the way. As they wait, they have work to do. Their obligation is to remember and keep Jesus’ commandments (John 14:15). Obedience is not an opportunity to earn merit (like a bigger house or “stars in your crown”); it’s an opportunity to express one’s love for Christ and to experience a deeper relationship with Him and His Father.
Obedience leads us to the second major reason for the disciples not to be troubled. Jesus will not let the disciples remain alone. He will send the Holy Spirit, whom He calls the Paraclete. This word can be translated, “Helper,” “Comforter,” “Advocate,” or “Counselor.” The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of truth” and will guide disciples in the words of Jesus (John 14:26) and help them as they seek to keep His word.
These words apply to modern-day followers of Christ just as much as they did to the disciples who first heard them. For us, as well as for them, there’s a pain that goes along with growing in Christ. It’s the pain of absence. We love Jesus, but we don’t yet see Him (1 Peter 1:8). As we wait, we remember that our ultimate hope is not some giant house in the sky. Our hope is to be with Him. He promises us that one day we will, but He hasn’t left us alone. He has given us His Spirit, and Jesus beckons us through these words to trust (John 14:1) and obey (14:15).