You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when things aren’t going right? When your gut starts to churn and roll and well…
It seems as though Jesus and John knew something about that feeling. Six times John uses this word tarasso, but he introduces it not in terms of the heart, but with the visual of the Pool of Siloam (5.7) which must be “troubled” or stirred up in order for someone to be healed. Having introduced it with such an image, John then uses it five more times, each dealing with what it feels like when inner peace is all but lost.
- John 11.33 – Jesus’ is troubled at the death of Lazarus
- John 12.27 – Jesus’ soul is troubled in the waning hours of his life
- John 13.21 – Jesus’ is troubled in spirit as he foretells his betrayal
- John 14.1 – Jesus encourages his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled
- John 14.27 – Jesus promises the Holy Spirit that will give the disciples’ troubled hearts peace.
I find the trajectory of this word to be interesting. It starts, as I mentioned, with the vivid image of water being stirred up. The next three instances of this word are within Jesus himself. As the intensity of the lead up to his death grows, his heart gets all shook up again and again and again. He knows the feeling of anxiety and stress. He feels within himself the typical human response of fight or flight. He is hurt by the deceitful action of his trusted companion, Judas, but in a few short moments, something changed.
After Judas flees into the darkness, Jesus turns to the 11 who remained and said to them, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” As if on cue, Peter takes up the troubled waters, asking Jesus where he is going, and proclaiming his willingness to die for his friend. The room has shifted, and in an instant, Jesus knows that he must find the peace of God that surpasses all understanding in order to help his disciples through what will be a very difficult few days, and so, he encourages them to find peace.
Isn’t this often the way with loved ones who are ill. In the midst of their troubled hearts, they find a way to be encouraging to their friends and family to find peace. Often, we wonder where their strength comes from: in the midst of their own personal battle, they find a way to support those around them. I think Jesus, in all his humanity, is an example for us in this, when we find the love of God, we find peace, and both are to be shared far and wide. Don’t let your hearts be troubled, dear friends, seek the peace and love of God.