The context of our verse today is perplexing. You see, in John 13, the things that are detailed as happening just before Jesus said to the disciples to cut out their worrying shows that it was Jesus who got them all upset in the first place. Why did He upset them only to tell them to calm down? What did He do or say to disturb them so much? Is He still troubling His people today?
Well, in John 13, the chapter that describes the night in which Jesus was betrayed, the first thing that happened to create confusion and distress for the disciples was the incident of washing their feet. In the ancient near east there were a number of things a host would do in bringing a guest into their home.
There was some blessing in greeting the guest such as “Peace be on you”. Then they kissed the cheeks of the person rather than shaking hands as we do in western society. Next the host saw to the washing of the visitor’s feet. Following this the person’s head was anointed with oil. A drink of water was then given last. So getting a guest into the home to be seated took some time!
Jesus first washed the disciples’ feet. Although the text does not explicitly say that the disciples had not performed this courtesy when they arrived for the meal, many think they were too proud to be humble enough to wash each other’s feet. We do know before the feet washing the disciples had argued about which of them was greater Luke 22:24. Jesus may have done the feet washing to shame them after their heated debate. So having the Master wash their feet was very troubling.
Then Jesus told the disciples that one of them was a traitor. No one suspected Judas but they all went on saying, “surely not me” Matthew 26:22, Mark 14:19. To have your loyalty challenged in this manner, confused and deeply disturbed them all.
But the real bombshell was when Jesus told them He was going away and they could not come with Him. If the disciples of Jesus knew anything they knew they needed Him with them. This was catastrophic news. It was totally unbelievable as they thought Jesus was about to set up the kingdom and get rid of the Roman occupational forces somehow. Leaving now simply did not fit into their plans for Him.
Then the third thing Jesus said that devastated them was that brave, bold Peter was about to deny his Master 3 times. None of them could imagine Peter doing such a thing. However, the Master said it was going to happen and they must somehow wrap their heads around the prophecy. Jesus had also said that He was telling them these things so that when they occurred the disciples would remember what Jesus had said and believe “that I Am” John 13:19. Jesus here says what Yahweh says in Isaiah 48:5. Jesus claims to be God because He can tell the future which no mere person can.
However, the disciples missed the point Jesus was making about prophesying. Later, after the resurrection, they would recall these things and believe He was God in human form.
So Jesus tells the disciples to calm down after He had upset them. All of the teaching in John 14-17 is calculated to help them get over their horror at what had happened and what they heard from Jesus.
In John 14:2 Jesus tells the disciples that His departure was for a wonderful purpose. He was going on ahead in order to get a place ready for them. He was not abandoning them. He was not throwing in the towel and quitting His mission. He had their best interests at heart by leaving them at this time.
If you are one of Jesus’ sheep always remember He is getting everything ready for you. His strange providence is not designed to harm you, rather to complete you and make you ready for His eternal presence. You may not understand His direction in your life any more than a small child understands all that a loving parent does with them. He promises that later on we will know exactly why we were led along the path we had to walk. Remember Jesus’ word to Peter in John 13:7 where Jesus tells Peter that Peter does not know now what He is doing but later on he will.
Do you trust Jesus that much that you are willing to accept the problem now knowing that He will work it all out later? He calls on all of His people to trust Him and later He will explain the reason why.