How Jesus Comforts His Friends

by J. R. Miller, 1912


The little Twenty-third Psalm is the most familiar, and most often read portion of the Bible. It has comforted more sorrow than any other composition the world possesses. Next to it, the Fourteenth Chapter of John is the best known of all the Scriptures. It is a chapter of comfort. How many tears it has dried! To how many sorrowing hearts has it brought peace! Its words were first spoken to a company of broken-hearted friends, who thought they never could be comforted. It is well to study how Jesus, the truest comforter the world ever has known, consoled his friends. Look at the way Jesus comforts his disciples.

First of all, in that saddest of all hours he bade them not to be troubled. Yet they were about to lose their best friend. How could they but be troubled? He comes to his friends today in their bereavement with the same word: "Let not your heart be troubled." This is not mere professional consolation. As Jesus saw it that night, there was no reason why the disciples should be troubled. As Jesus sees it, there is no reason why you should be troubled, even though you are watching your dearest friend pass away, in what you call death. It is only the earthly side of the event which you see—and it seems terrible to you. The friends of Jesus thought they were losing him and forever. He had been a wonderful friend. He had a rich nature, a noble personality, power to love deeply, capacity for unselfish friendship, and was able to inspire us to all worthy life. The disciples thought they were about to lose all that. You think you are losing all friendship's best, in the departure of your friend. Yet Jesus, looking upon his disciples and looking upon you—bids you not to be troubled.

Death is not an experience which harms the believing one who passes through it. The Christian mother who died this afternoon, is not troubled and in sorrow where she is tonight. Dying has not disturbed her happiness—she never was happier than she is now! Leaving her children behind has not broken her heart, nor filled her with distress and anxiety concerning them. As she looks upon them from her new point of view, on death's other side, there is no cause for grief or fear. They are in the divine care which is so loving, so wise, so gentle, and so far-reaching, that she has not a shadow of uncertainty regarding them. The children are in distress because they have lost their mother, who has been so much to them. They cannot endure the thought of going on without their mother's love and tenderness, her guidance and shelter.

Yet the Master says to them: "Do not be troubled." He means that if they understood all that has taken place as he understands it—if they knew what dying has meant to their mother—and what the divine love will mean to them in the days to come—they would not be troubled. What seems to them calamity, would appear perfectly good—if they could see it from the heavenly side. Jesus told his disciples what they should do. "Believe in God, believe also in me." They could not understand that hour why all was well, why nothing was going wrong, why good would be the outcome of all the things, that then seemed so terrible. They could not see how their loss would become gain, when it was all wrought out to the end; how what appeared the destruction of their hopes would prove to be the glorious fulfilling of those hopes. Yet they were to believe. That is, they were to commit all the broken things of their hearts that night, into God's hands, trust him, and have no fear, no anxiety, no doubt.

They themselves could not bring good out of all this evil—but God could, and faith was committing the whole matter to him. "Believe in God." Jesus had taught them a new name for God. He was their Father. A whole world of love-thoughts was in that name. The very hairs of their heads were numbered. Not a sparrow could fall to the ground without their Father—which meant that the divine care took in all the events of their lives, all the smallest incidents of their affairs.

We are to believe absolutely in the love of God, and trust him—though we cannot see him. We do not need to understand, we do not have to know. We must believe that the eternal God is caring for us—and nothing can ever go wrong in his hands! "Believe in God."

"Believe also in me." They had been believing in Jesus Christ, thinking that he was their Messiah. "You are the Christ!" Peter had confessed. But they were now in danger of losing faith in him, when they saw him sent to the cross. He called them to keep their faith through the terrible hours just before them. We are always in danger of losing faith in Christ—in time of great sorrow or of trouble which sweeps away our hopes. Again and again Christian people in grief and loss are heard asking, "Why does Christ let me suffer thus? If he loves me, how is it that he allows me to be thus troubled?" The trouble is, that our vision is short-sighted. We are impatient and cannot wait.

The going away of their Master left the disciples in despair. They thought they were losing him. They did not know that his going away was part of his love for them, its highest expression, that none of the things about him they had believed had failed. We need to continue to believe in Christ—though everything seems to have gone from us. His way is always right! Our comfort comes through abiding trust in him.

Jesus went further with his disciples. He told them more. He told them where he was going, and what his going away would mean to them. "In my Father's house are many mansions. I am going to prepare a place for you!" On this earth there is no place so sweet, so sacred, so heart-satisfying as home. It is a place of love. It is a place of confidence. We are sure of home's loved ones. We do not have to be on our guard after we enter our home doors. Home is a refuge in which we are safe from all danger, from injustice, from unkindness. Home is the place where hungry hearts are fed on love's bread.

Mrs. Craik, in one of her books, has the fine picture: "Oh, conceive the happiness to know someone dearer to you than your own self, some tender heart into which you can pour every thought, every grief, every joy; one person who, if all the rest of the world were to culminate 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—and you love the same. Such is marriage," says Mrs. Craik, "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 ideal home love is. We may find the picture partially realized in some earthly homes—but in the Father's house the realization will be perfect!

The New Testament paints heaven in colors of dazzling splendor, its gates and walls and streets and gardens all of the utmost brilliance—but no other description means so much to our hearts as that which the Master gives us in these three words. "My Father's house!"—Home! One writes: "Life changes all our thoughts of heaven. At first, we think of streets of gold, of gates of pearl and dazzling light, of shining wings and robes of white, and things all strange to mortal sight. But in the afterward of years—it is a more familiar place. A home unhurt by sighs and tears—where waits many a well-known face. With passing months it comes more near; it grows more real day by day—not strange or cold—but very dear—the glad home-hand, not far away, where none are sick, or poor, or lone—the place where we shall find our own. And as we think of all we knew who there have met to part no more—our longing hearts desire home, too, with all the strife and trouble over."

"My Father's house." 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 our believing family and friends, who have passed out of our sight. That is the place where the broken Christian life of earth will find its perfectness!

"My Father's house!" Home! Is there any comfort sweeter than this in the sorrow of our parting from the dear ones, who leave us in the experience which we call dying?

The Master said further in his comforting, that he would come and receive his friends to himself. Dying is no accident, therefore. It is merely Christ coming to receive us to himself. Do not think something has gone wrong in the ways of God—when you hear that a Christian friend is dead. Your friend passed away the other night. You were expecting that he would be with you for many years. Has Christ any comfort? Yes, in all this experience, one of God's plans of love is being fulfilled. The end is home, blessedness. One said, "Yes—but my friend was with me such a little while. I could almost wish I had not let my heart fasten its tendrils about the dear life, since so soon it was torn from me." Say it not! It is worth while to love and to let the heart pour out all its sweetness in loving—though it be for a day!