Jesus, The Sorrowing Comforter

There are four simple black frames hanging in our bathroom, each containing a different verse of Scripture. I put them up shortly after we were married, so that each morning as we got ready for the day and each evening as we ended it, we would have little nuggets of truth before our eyes.

A few weeks ago, as I was drying off from a shower, I noticed that they are all from the Gospel of John. Perhaps his words particularly resonate with me. Or perhaps I find him to be particularly quotable.

There is one section of John that is disproportionately represented in these framed verses. It’s a part John’s Gospel I return to again and again because of the comfort and encouragement I have found there. And, because it’s Lent, it has me thinking.

I’m speaking of Jesus’ words in John 13-17. It’s the section of John that biblical commentators call the “Farewell Discourse” and the “High Priestly Prayer.” It begins with Jesus taking on the role of servant and washing his disciples’ feet, and it ends with a prayer. In John, we don’t hear Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying for the cup to pass, sweating drops of blood. Instead, we hear Jesus’ prayer for his disciples then—and for all who would believe in him. We hear him praying for us.


In between these two moments, we read the words of Jesus on his last night with his disciples before he is arrested. In just a few hours, he will be handed over to the authorities, betrayed by one of his closest friends. He will be falsely accused, mocked, beaten. He will be sentenced to die a shameful and excruciating death on a Roman cross. He will take on his shoulders the sins of the world and bear the wrath of God.

Jesus knows what is coming, and as he stares down his impending agony, he sits with his friends—and he comforts them. I am overwhelmed by the love in this action. He is about to enter into the worst suffering the world has ever known, but his concern is for his disciples, these same disciples who will abandon him in terror.

Jesus himself would say that night that he was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). He could use some comforting and encouragement himself. But even in this moment, his eyes are on those he loves. He says to them…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

These words have comforted many of us in our own times of suffering. But how much more precious are they when we remember that Jesus spoke them in loving concern for his friends who were about to see him killed.

In the midst of his own suffering, Jesus continued to serve and love. In these words of peace to his disciples. In his provision for his mother to be cared for, as he hung on the cross. In his words of pardon to a dying criminal, in his words of forgiveness for his executioners. Even as he took on the weight of atoning for sin, even as he fought for the redemption of the cosmos, his eyes were turned with love toward those he came to save. 

What wondrous love is this, oh my soul. What a Savior.