Sermon 1700 John 14.1-12 May 10, 2020
It would be great to be little again. Mom could hold you and say it would be all right as she kissed you and tucked you in. Dad would poke his head in the room as he turned out the lights and make some bad Dad-like joke, “Don’t dent the floor when you fall out of bed.” This was a lot more realistic for me when I was young, because I had the top bunk. The next thing you knew the rising sun would be inviting you to rise and shine. And you would. A new day with lots of opportunities.
They weren’t just words. They weren’t empty promises. Those simple actions and statements of our parents made us the forward thinking, confident adults we grew up to be. Are you ready to rise and shine again? I am.
Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled.
Heaven is our home (1-4).
Jesus is our Way (5-7).
This is our heavenly Father’s will (8-12).
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going (1-4).”
It is going to be all right. Heaven is our home.
The problem with society’s ability to deal with a crisis like the one we are facing is that our fears are always in front of us and our comfort is always behind us. The ambulance comes just as the coroner is pulling out. Let me explain. What do we draw comfort in? The good times we had. The days when the hockey arena was filled every home game. Had to know somebody to get a seat in a restaurant at 6:30 on a Friday night. That New Year’s Eve on the Strip. Hoo boy! What times we had! But what good is comfort like that in times like this? First there was the fear, apparently justified, that there wouldn’t be enough ventilators for patients. Then there wouldn’t be enough protective gear for medical staff. Then there wouldn’t be enough tests for the public. Well, that one has been always there, like LA smog. We might run out of toilet paper (happened). We might run out of dairy products (sort of). We might run out of meat. Even now there’s someone trying to come up with the next thing we should fear. See what I mean? Past memories are powerless in the face of future fears.
We have been drawing from some pretty shallow wells of comfort to get through life. God is showing us it is not enough. Our anxiety is telling us God is right.
Jesus gives us words that are not shallow, promises that are not hollow. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Don’t let your hearts be tossed about. Don’t let your hearts run here or run there, like the guy at the checkout changing lanes four times, because he mistakenly thinks the other line will go faster. Do not let your hearts be troubled, because heaven is our home. There is room for every believer in heaven. No vacancies, sold out, closed for a private party. We all know and sort of expect that from our experiences in the pre-COVID-19 world. Some of our members were even expecting that of our church when we open up, that they will have to make a reservation to get the service time they wanted. That’s not how we work and that certainly is not how our Lord works. In heaven there is room for every believer, room for you and me. That is our eternal home. That is why God created the human race. He wanted us to enjoy fellowship with him, face to face for all eternity. Even when Adam and Eve fell into sin, it did not change God’s plan.
That’s where “I go to prepare a place for you,” comes in. Jesus is speaking these words to his disciples on the night he was betrayed, the day before he would be put to death. If we think at times our world is falling apart, we can almost put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples. In the next twenty-four hours their Teacher, their Lord, would be betrayed, tried, condemned, crucified, dead and buried. Jesus was going away to prepare heaven for them by his sufferings and death on the cross. That is where the housecleaning would take place.
Just stop and think about it. Your mother-in-law back east will visit you once again. And what will you do to prepare? Clean up. Get the carpets shampooed. Dust everything. Make the toilets gleam, even underneath those caps that keep it attached to the floor. Wash away the dirt.
Jesus prepared heaven for you and me by washing away the dirt of sin with his blood on the cross. And as surely as he died to take away all our sins, he will come back for us and take us to be with himself. It is every generation’s dream that it would happen in their lifetime. Oh, to enter heaven with your whole family, never to have to endure another funeral when, in an instant, in a twinkling of an eye, Jesus returns on the Last Day! But it is also our living hope as we return from every Christian funeral, we will see our beloved brother or sister in the Lord in heaven one day. This world is just temporary. All the solutions to the problems of this world are temporary. Thanks to Jesus’ words we have our eyes fixed on what is eternal. We are looking forward. Heaven is our home.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Jesus is the way. Jesus’ words leave no impression on his disciples. One is quick to pipe up.
“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him (5-7).’”
No, the disciples didn’t know where Jesus was going. They had consistently refused to listen to any of his warnings about his death and resurrection. Maybe Thomas wasn’t overstating their ignorance. “We don’t even know the way!”
“I am the way,” Jesus says. Now, those words can have two different meanings. Jesus can show us the way or he can actually be the way. If Jesus can show us the way, he’s like Google maps. You want to go from point A to point B, earth to heaven. Just follow this road, take a right there, a left here, second roundabout there and straight ahead. Your destination will be on the right. Lots of people are happy with Jesus showing us the way. It is up to us to us to follow the directions. Getting to heaven depends on our efforts. But if you are like me, I can get lost in a parking lot. All the parking stalls are angled one way, but I’m coming from the opposite direction. If Jesus is the way, nobody is going to get to heaven, because we do get lost, lots of times. Just look at our coping mechanisms regarding the COVID-19 virus. Another shallow well of comfort that will dry out.
But what if Jesus is actually the Way? What if, instead of a map, Jesus is like one of those moving walkways, like they have at the airport? What if Jesus the Way actually gets us to heaven? “No one comes to the Father except through me.” We can’t get to heaven unless it is through Jesus. Not on Jesus, not behind Jesus, but through Jesus. This Way brings us to heaven. To make sure we don’t miss his point, Jesus quickly adds, “I am the truth and the life.” Jesus is truth. He brings the truth of God’s way to heaven to us. Jesus is life. He gives eternal life to all who believe in him. On the Last Day he will call us out of the grave to life everlasting. He gave a sneak preview of that when he said, “Lazarus, come out!” and a man who had been dead four days walked out of his own tomb.
You and I know the uncertainty and the anxiety of thinking our safety depends totally upon us. We aren’t smart enough to anticipate everything. Some things are out of our control. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says. Everything depends totally upon Jesus. Jesus is our Way.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. This is our heavenly Father’s will.
“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father?” Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (8-12).’”
I think military men who have been in combat might understand better than others the situation we currently are in with COVID-19. Orders can be altered or countermanded completely depending on circumstances, especially circumstances on the battlefield. You might come expecting a skirmish and end up engaging in a battle. Better change your plans. Better be certain that when you change those plans the chain of command has your back. In excellent outfits your initiative is encouraged and rewarded. In others, it is beaten out you.
Jesus was sent into this world. Although he created it and came to that which was his own, his own did not receive him. It was as if the battlefield circumstances had changed. The plans and execution had to change. Certainly there is some heavy theology going on in Jesus’ words about the Father being in him and he in the Father, far heavier for me and you to go into at this point. But what I want to show you is do not let your hearts be troubled, because this is our heavenly Father’s will.
It was our Father in heaven’s will that heaven be opened to all who believed. It was our Father in heaven’s will that Jesus be the one who carried us there. Far from Jesus playing fast and free with the playbook, as some of the Jewish religious leaders falsely kept accusing the Apostle Paul of, Jesus followed the playbook exactly. Everything went according to the heavenly Father’s plan. Everything was done with his approval. Everything was done with his consent.
The miracles were proof of that. Before he raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus prays to God the Father. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me (John 11.31).” Jesus told his enemies he could only do what the Father showed him to do. His disciples were proof of that. Jesus spends the night in prayer before he picks his twelve apostles. Near the end of his life he thanks his heavenly Father, “They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word (John 17.6).” If a rebellious son is hateful to his Father, how much more the rabble following that rebellious son? Jesus, the Son of God, is perfectly obedient to his heavenly Father. Indeed, that’s why we call him Son; he perfectly carries out his Father’s will. If God the Father is devoted to God the Son who carries out his every word, God the Father will be equally devoted to those who love and follow God the Son. It is for this reason that they would do even greater miracles than Jesus did. No one could do this if God were not with him.
Is what we are suffering through our heavenly Father’s will? Ah, there’s another heavy theological issue, but let’s untie this tangle with a scissors. No. “Deliver us from evil.” If God wants to deliver us from evil, he wouldn’t be the instigator to bring evil into our lives. God permits evil to come into our lives. Part of it is the natural outcome of sinners living in a sinful world. If you live under the airport’s flight path, you are going to hear the planes. Part of it is to let sin manifest itself and mature so people are left with no excuse. Everyone thought Caiaphas the high priest was a wonderful man of faith until Jesus came along and even then people were ready to give him the benefit of the doubt until the final days of Jesus’ life. Even the pagan Roman governor Pilate could see Caiaphas was eaten alive by jealousy. Part of it is discipline, to remind us this earth is not our final home. There is a better home, a heavenly home waiting for us. Part of it is so that the power of God may be revealed. If Lazarus had not died, Jesus would not have shown his power in raising Lazarus from the dead. And finally, part of it is so that the power of God may be revealed in you and in me. Because of the stay at home orders we have discovered how wonderful that woman we married is, how neat that guy we call our own is. We have seen mothers soothe their children. We have heard dumb Dad-jokes that become the foundation for a solid tomorrow. We have looked at each other and seen, not only people we need and love, but people who are fallible and frail, giving their best within their limitations and struggling against their uncertainties. We have seen even in our enemies people who have hopes and dreams like ours, people who breathe the same air we breathe. We wish them well, even as we try to give them the best.
Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled.
Heaven is our home (1-4).
Jesus is our Way (5-7).
This is our heavenly Father’s will (8-12).
“I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day. Forgive me all my sins, and graciously keep me this night. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
It’s a new day. Rise and shine!