Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.…
We get a more true and appropriate meaning if we keep both clauses in the imperative, "Believe in God, believe also in me."
I. CHRIST HERE POINTS TO HIMSELF AS THE OBJECT OF PRECISELY THE SAME RELIGIOUS TRUST WHICH IS TO BE GIVEN TO GOD.
1. It is only our familiarity with these words that blinds us to their wonderfulness. Try to hear them for the first time, and to remember the circumstances. Here is a man amongst a handful of friends, within four-and-twenty hours of a shameful death, that to all appearance was the annihilation of all His claims and hopes. And He says, "Trust in God, and trust in Me!"
2. What is it that Christ offers us? A very low and inadequate interpretation is, "Believe that God is, that I am." But it is scarcely less so to suppose that the mere assent of the understanding to His teaching is all that Christ is asking for. Faith grasps not a doctrine, but a heart. The trust which Christ requires is entire committal to Him in all my relations and for all my needs.
3. Further, note that this believing in Him is precisely the same thing which He bids us render to God. The two clauses in the original bring out that idea even more vividly — "Believe in God, in Me also believe." And so He here proposes Himself as the worthy and adequate recipient of all that makes up religion in its deepest sense. That tone is the uniform characteristic of our Lord's teaching. What did He think of Himself Who stood up before the world, and with arms outstretched, like that great white Christ in Thorwaldsen's lovely statue, said to all the troop of languid and burdened ones crowding at His feet: — "Come unto Me all ye that are weary," etc. That surely is a Divine prerogative. What did He think of Himself Who said, "All men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father"? You cannot eliminate the fact that Christ claimed as His own the emotions of the heart, to which only God has a right and which only God can satisfy.
4. We have to take that into account if we would estimate the character of Jesus Christ as a teacher and as a man. What separates Him from all other teachers is not the clearness or the tenderness with which He reiterated the truths about the Father's love, and morality and goodness; but the peculiarity of His call to the world is, Believe in Me. And if He said that, why, then, one of two things. Either He was wrong, and then He was a crazy enthusiast, only acquitted of blasphemy because convicted of insanity; or else He was "God, manifest in the flesh."
II. FAITH IN CHRIST AND FAITH IN GOD ARE NOT TWO, BUT ONE. These two clauses on the surface present juxtaposition. Looked at more closely they present interpretation and identity.
1. What is the underlying truth that is here? How comes it that these two objects blend into one, like two figures in a stereoscope?
(1) This, that Jesus Christ Himself Divine, is the Divine Revealer of God. There is no real knowledge of the real God outside of Jesus. He showing us a Father, has brought a God to our hearts that we can love, and of whom we can be sure. Very significant is it that Christianity alone puts the very heart of religion in the act of trust. Other religions put it in dread worship, service, and the like.
(2) On the other hand, the truth that underlies this is that Jesus is Divine. The light shines through a window, but the light and the glass that make it visible have nothing in common with one another. The Godhead shines through Christ, but He is not a mere transparent medium. It is Himself that He is showing us when He is showing us God. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." And because He is Himself Divine and the Divine Revealer, therefore the faith that grasps Him is inseparably one with the faith that grasps God. Men could look upon a Moses, an Isaiah, or a Paul, and in them recognize the irradiation of the Divinity that imparted itself through them, but the medium was forgotten in proportion as that which it revealed was behind. You cannot forget Christ in order to see God more clearly, but to behold Him is to behold God.
2. And if that be true, these two things follow.
(1) One is that all imperfect revelation of God is prophetic of and leads up towards the perfect revelation in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3). And in like manner all the imperfect faith that, laying hold of other fragmentary means of knowing God, has tremulously tried to trust Him, finds its climax and consummate flower in the full-blossomed faith that lays hold upon Jesus Christ.
(2) That without faith in Christ such faith in God as is possible is feeble, incomplete, and will not long last. Historically a pure theism is all but impotent. There is only one example of it on a large scale in the world, and that is a kind of bastard Christianity — Mohammedanism; and we all know what good that is as a religion. The God that men know outside of Jesus Christ is a poor, nebulous thing; an idea, not a reality. It has little power to restrain. It has less power to inspire and impel. It has still less to comfort; it has least of all to satisfy the heart.
III. THIS TRUST IN CHRIST IS THE SECRET OF A QUIET HEART.
1. It is no use saying to men, "Let not your hearts be troubled," unless you finish the verse. The state of man is like that of some of those sunny islands in southern seas, around which there often rave the wildest cyclones, and which carry in their bosoms, beneath all their riotous luxuriance of verdant beauty, hidden fires, which ever and anon shake the solid earth and spread destruction. And where is the "rest" to come from? All other defences are weak and poor. We have heard about "pills against earthquakes." That is what the comforts which the world supplies may fairly be likened to. Unless we trust we are, and shall be, "troubled."
2. If we trust we may be quiet. To cast a burden off myself on other's shoulders is always a rest. But trust in Jesus Christ brings infinitude on my side. Submission is repose. When we cease to kick against the pricks they cease to stick and wound us. Trust opens the heart, like the windows of the Ark, tossing upon the black and fatal flood, for the entrance of the peaceful dove with the olive branch in its mouth. But "the wicked is like the troubled sea which cannot rest."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.