Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.…
1. What Divine simplicity and depth are in these words! The emblem is homely, the thing meant is transcendent.
2. Not less wonderful is the blending of majesty and lowliness. The office which He takes upon Himself is that of an inferior and a servant. And yet the discharge of it, in the present case, implies His authority over every corner of the universe.
3. Nor can we fail to notice the blending of another pair of opposites, His certainty of His impending death, and His certainty, notwithstanding and thereby, of His continual work and His final return.
I. THE DEPARTURE. Our Lord's going away from that little group was a journey in two stages. Calvary was the first; Olivet was the second. He means by the phrase the whole continuous process.
1. He prepares a place for us by His death. The High Priest of old once a year was privileged to pass into the holiest, because he bore in his hand the blood of the sacrifice. But in our New Testament system the path into the holiest is made possible for every foot, because Jesus has died. And as the communion upon earth, so the perfecting of the communion in the heavens. Old legends tell us of magic gates that resisted all attempts to force them, but upon which, if one drop of a certain blood fell, they flew open. And so, by His death, Christ has opened the gates and made the heaven of perfect purity a dwelling place for sinful men.
2. He prepares a place for us by His entrance into and His dwelling in the heavenly places.
(1) If Christ had not ascended, would there have been "a place" at all? He has gone with a human body, which must be somewhere. And we may even say that His ascending up on high has made a place where His servants are.
(2) But apart from that we may see that Christ's presence in the heavens is needful to make heaven a heaven for poor human souls. It is from Him and through Him that there come to men, whether on earth or in the heavens, all that they know, all that they hope, all that they enjoy of the wisdom, love, beauty, peace, power, which flow from God. The very glories of all that lies beyond the veil would have an aspect appalling and bewildering to us, unless our Brother were there. Like some poor savages brought into a great city, or rustics into the presence of a king and his court, what should we do unless we saw standing there our Kinsman, to whom we can turn, and who makes it possible for us to feel that that is home?
3. Not only did He go to prepare a place, but He is continuously preparing it for us all through the ages. We have to think of a double form of the work of Christ.
(1) Past in His earthly life, and present in His exaltation.
(2) Present with and in us here, and for us there.
(3) In the heavens — His priestly intercession and His preparing a place for us.
II. THE RETURN. The purpose of our Lord's departure, as set forth by Himself here, guarantees for us His coming back again. He who went away as the Forerunner has not done His work until He comes back, and, as Guide, leads those for whom He had prepared the place to the place which He had prepared for them. That return, like the departure, may be considered as in two stages —
1. The main meaning is that final and personal coming which stands at the end of history. And He will come as He went, a visible Manhood, only throned amongst the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. This return ought to be the prominent subject of Christian aspiration and desire. We have a double witness to bear. One half stretches backwards to the Cross and proclaims "Christ has come"; the other reaches onwards to the Throne and proclaims "Christ will come."
2. But Scripture knows of many comings of the Lord preliminary to, and in principle one with, His second coming. For nations, all great crises of their history are "comings of the Lord," the Judge. And in reference to individuals, we see in each single death a true coming of the Lord. Beyond all secondary causes, deeper than disease or accident, lies the loving will of Him who is the Lord of life and of death. Death stands amidst the ranks of the "ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation." Whensoever a Christian man lies down to die, Christ says, "Come!" and he comes. How that thought should hallow the death chamber as with the print of the Master's feet! How it should quiet our hearts and dry our tears! With Him for our companion the lonely road will not be dreary. The dying martyr beneath the city wall lifted up his face to the heavens and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" It was the echo of the Master's promise: "I will come again and receive you to Myself."
III. THE PERFECTED UNION. The departure and the return are stages in the process, which is perfected by complete union — "that where I am there ye may be also." Christ is Heaven. To be with Him is to behold His glory. And to behold His glory, as John tells us in his epistle, is to be like Him. So Christ's presence means the communication to us of all the lustre of His radiance, of all the whiteness of His purity, of all the depth of His blessedness, and of a share in His wondrous dominion.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.