John 14:1-12 Easter 5
Don’t Let Your Hearts Be Troubled
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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.” 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 know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 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 I do not speak on my own authority. 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 works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (NIV2011).
Dear friends in Christ,
Somewhere at home I have a couple pictures of my oldest sister’s first day of kindergarten. In one picture she is standing at the front door of the house. She’s in her red dress, a grin on her face, ready to head to school. In the second picture she is starting down the sidewalk and my next oldest sister is running after her, crying, because she doesn’t want to see her big sister leave. We might call that separation anxiety.
The anxiety of being separated from a loved one doesn’t just affect little children. It can affect parents when their children start to grow up and leave home. It can affect the student who is leaving for a college on the other side of the country. It can affect a wife whose husband is about to be deployed overseas. It can affect the widow and the widower. Separation from a loved one can affect any of us.
I. Jesus has prepared a place for you
On the night before Jesus’ death, the disciples had a case of separation anxiety. Their hearts were troubled, like a sea tossing in a storm, and they a hard time comprehending what Jesus had just told them. He had told them that one of them would betray him, that another would deny him, and that all of them would run away on account of him. Jesus also said that he would be them only a little while longer and that where he was going they could not come. What did Jesus mean by all this?
Jesus wasn’t just their teacher. He was their mentor, their leader, their friend, and their Lord. They had given up everything to follow Jesus and had spent the last three years with him. They had hoped that Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel. So what exactly did Jesus mean when he said that he was going somewhere where they could not come? Where was he going? And why couldn’t they go with him? And what would happen to them when he left?
Jesus understood their fears and he spoke to calm their anxious hearts. Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled,” he said. All that was about to happen was exactly in line with God’s great rescue plan. Very soon Jesus would leave his disciples, but he wouldn’t abandon them. His immanent departure would be for their benefit, to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. Jesus was leaving them to go the way of the cross.
That same night Jesus would be arrested. The next day he would be handed over to be crucified. His journey to the cross would not simply be the heroic act of a Jewish rabbi meant to rally his followers against the abuses of the establishment or to fight against the unjust Roman oppression. Jesus’ journey to the cross would result in God’s forgiveness for the world of sinners. He was going to pay the debt that prevents people from entering God’s house. Then God would confirm Jesus’ payment by raising him from the dead and placing Jesus at his right hand.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” The disciples didn’t need to be afraid. Jesus was going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. And if he was going to prepare that place for them, he most certainly also would return to take them there to be with him.
We can understand the troubled hearts of the disciples. Maybe you haven’t betrayed your Lord in the same way that Judas did that night. But if you are like me, there have been times when your love for what this world offers has surpassed your dedication to Christ. Maybe you haven’t denied Jesus in the same way that Peter did. But if you are like me, there have been times when you have covered up your Christianity for fear of what someone else might think of you. Maybe you haven’t run away from Jesus the way the disciples did when Jesus was arrested. But if you are like me, there have been times when you have run away from God’s grace.
When I consider those times that I have failed to measure up, my heart quakes. I see that my faith is lacking and my flesh is weak. My sin is always before me, and my Lord has every right to leave me. But, instead, with wonderful compassion Jesus says, “Don’t let your heart be troubled...”
Because of Jesus’ journey to the cross, God has forgiven the times you and I have failed to love him above all things. Because of Jesus, God has forgiven the times you and I have denied him, and the times you and I have abandoned his grace. Don’t let your heart be troubled! By raising Jesus from the dead, God has guaranteed that your sins are forgiven and that you will live with him. By placing Jesus at his right hand God has guaranteed that he will continue to rule all things for your good until he returns to take you to live with him in the glory of his Father’s house.
II. Jesus is the way to the Father
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled… I’m going to prepare a place for you.” But the disciples still didn’t understand. They were thinking about a literal road, a physical path that Jesus would walk to get to wherever he was going. But Jesus patiently continued to turn their attention to spiritual matters and an important spiritual truth that he wanted them to cling to. When Thomas asked, “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.”
Jesus Christ is the only way for sinners to live with God. Many object to that claim, insisting that it’s an arrogant, narrow-minded, and intolerant statement. They want to believe that as long as a person is sincerely seeking God, that person will be able to find God on whatever path that person has chosen, and that that person will be with God in heaven someday.
Even within the visible church, people ignore Jesus’ claim and assume that many paths lead to God. Some start down the path of their own righteousness, imagining that the good things they do in this life will earn them a place with God in the next. Others trust the path of their own ancestry, imagining that they are safely on the road to heaven because their parents or grandparents were members of a church. Others imagine that the path to God is any sort of transcendental meditation or some spiritual connection with nature. But if they are right, then the Son of God is wrong. If what they say is true, then Jesus is a liar. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Several years ago I talked with a young man who grew up as a member of a congregation but who had not worshiped with the congregation for years, except maybe on special occasions. He was a big outdoorsman, a fisherman and hunter. When I talked with him about his relationship with Jesus and how faith comes from hearing the message of Jesus, he replied, “Pastor, you don’t need to worry about me. When I’m on the lake or in the woods, that’s my church. That’s where I’m with God.” It’s true that a person can know something about God from nature. Nature demonstrates that there is a god who is wise, powerful, even kind. But nature can never tell anyone who the true God is or what he has done to rescue sinners from their guilt and condemnation of their sin. In order to truly know God, people need to know his Son. In order to know what God has done to rescue us, we need to know Jesus because he is the only way, the truth and the life.
Notice that Jesus does not say, “I show you the way and the truth and the life.” He is not just another prophet like Moses or Elijah, or another apostle like Peter or Paul, who pointed people to God’s promises and the way they should walk. No, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life because he is the fulfillment of God’s promises. He is the Son of God incarnate. He is the LORD’s Anointed who came to fulfill all of God’s promises and to reconcile the world to God. No one else could have done that. No one else has done that. And no one else will do that. Jesus alone is way to the Father. He alone is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except though him.
Every day sin threatens to separate us from God. But, Christians, don’t let your heart be troubled. By his perfect payment on the cross Jesus has reconciled you to God and has prepared your place in heaven. And if he has prepared that place for you, he will most certainly return to take you to live with him there. You can believe it. That’s his promise. Amen.
Pastor Karl M Schultz
May 14, 2017