Thursday, November 13, 2014


Jesus commands us, "Do not let your heart be troubled" (John 14:1). The word "troubled" means to be stirred up like waters muddied by the tramping of many feet as it is used in the Greek translation of Ezekiel 32:2, 13 (Septuagint). To be troubled is to be agitated, unsettled or thrown into mental confusion. The present imperative with a negative commands us to stop an action already in process (Μη ταρσσεσθω). Jesus is specifically addressing Peter's question, "Lord, why can I not follow you" (John 13:37). The disciples were already troubled and needed to stop being agitated (Rienecker, Linguistic Key, p. 251).

Why does Jesus command them (and by extension us) to stop letting themselves be troubled when even Jesus was troubled? The same word is used to describe Jesus only minutes earlier on that very night (John 13:21) and at the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:33). How can Jesus command us to stop being troubled when He was troubled?

First, Jesus was troubled that night by the presence of Judas, the betrayer, in the Upper Room (13:21) because it hindered the intimacy of His final night.  Jesus resolved that troubling after Judas left the room and Jesus could proceed to teach His disciples without the betrayer present (13:31). The departure of Judas relieved Jesus' spirit so he stopped being troubled just as he commands us to stop being troubled. It is not sin to be troubled but we must not allow the troubling to continue.  Second, this is a passive verb meaning that outside circumstances trouble us. When Jesus was troubled at the death of Lazarus (11:33) an active verb is used indicating that He troubled Himself (εταραξεν εαυτον). There are times when we should trouble ourselves just as Jesus did.  All "troubling" is not bad troubling! Some events like death or sin should disturb us. They disturbed Jesus!

Finally, the command here is a present tense command indicating a continuous, ongoing disturbance as opposed to the use of the Aorist to indicate something simply happened (11:33; 13:21). The prohibition against allowing ourselves to be agitated by our circumstances is the forbidding of a habit or an ongoing practice. Stop letting yourselves be troubled by your circumstances as an ongoing practice in your life!

We all, just like Jesus, become agitated. It is part of the human experience.  Sometimes we should become disturbed by what we experience in life. However, we should not allow ourselves to be agitated by our circumstances on a continual, habitual basis. Such continuous agitation is destructive. The antidote is faith as Jesus makes clear in the next phrase. We should not allow ourselves to be thrown into confusion by our circumstances. The antidote to confusion is truth as Jesus makes clear in the following verses. We must trust God and know His truth to avoid the troubling that we must not allow in our lives.

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