Easter 5a, May 14, 2017

May 16, 2017

Dwelling With Jesus

John 14:1-14


1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.


It was just after the last supper that Jesus spoke these memorable words to his disciples. Of course one of the things that makes these words memorable is that we often hear them read at funerals. It’s fitting that we read this passage on such occasions because it very clearly addresses the expectation of life after death. Jesus didn’t want us to live in fear of death. Jesus wanted us to live with the understanding that our relationship with God doesn’t end at death. He wanted us to trust that the kingdom of God is a community that extends beyond this world.


Of course this wasn’t something that the disciples were wanting to hear. Jesus spoke these words prior to his death, and they weren’t happy to hear him speak in that way. I think they were still hoping that Jesus was going to enter Jerusalem and establish a more tradition type of kingdom. Jesus had been telling them what was going to transpire, but it was hard for them to equate crucifixion with glorification. Their hopes for a glorious kingdom on earth had not yet died, so it wasn’t easy for them to hear him talk about going to prepare a place for them anywhere other than Jerusalem.


The disciples were frequently confused about the things Jesus said and did, but I think this is to be expected when someone embodies and articulates the truth of God. An eternal kingdom isn’t as easy for us to comprehend as a temporary kingdom. What Jesus wanted us to see and to understand isn’t easy for us to get our minds around.


I think most of us can identify with Philip, who wanted Jesus to be a little clearer about what he meant. Philip was a little weary of the images Jesus used, so he just came out and said what many of us are inclined to think. He said, Lord, just show us the Father and then we’ll be satisfied – which isn’t exactly a small request. It’s almost as if he said, just give us everything and then we’ll be satisfied. Philip sticks his neck out, but he’s not alone in his thinking.


Now maybe we can be a little critical of Philip because he was with Jesus when Jesus turned water in to wine, restored the sight of a man who was born blind, fed five thousand with two loaves and three fish, walked on water and raised Lazarus from the dead, but apparently that didn’t answer all of his questions. And maybe the point is that nobody will ever have all of their questions answered about the reality of God. The boundless nature of God is not something we can get our minds around, but even those of us who weren’t with Jesus when he did those miraculous things have been given all we need to know about the reality of God.


It’s probably natural to be like Philip and want more evidence of the presence of God, but we’ve all been given all that we need. God knows the language of our hearts, and God knows what we need to hear in order to trust that God was revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it’s still not easy to be a faithful follower. It’s hard for us not to let our hearts get all twisted up and troubled.


And Jesus knew this about us as well, and that’s why he told us not to let our hearts be troubled. Jesus knows we need to hear this, and he’s very clear about there being plenty of room in God’s big house, but it’s hard not to worry about all the things that are going on in our own little worlds.


Jesus didn’t want us to be burdened by the troubles of this world. Jesus wanted us to find our way in to our eternal home, and while I believe that our place in God’s home becomes much clearer to us after we depart from this world, I’m also convinced that we can get a foot in the door of God’s home while we are still occupying real estate on Earth. Jesus promised us a room in his Father’s house, but I sort of wish he had used that occasion to talk about his mother’s home.


And I’m going to use the occasion of Mother’s Day to invite you to think of the place that Jesus went to prepare for us as being in the home of our eternal mother. I’m not advocating that we change the language of the Trinity, but I think Jesus provided us with this image of providing room for us in his Father’s house in order to appeal to our affection for home. I don’t think Jesus was talking about the architecture of the place when he spoke of preparing a place for us – Jesus was talking about going home. Jesus was using the language of the heart when he said he was going to prepare a place for us in his Father’s house. I think Jesus was telling us that what he came to offer was the opportunity to dwell in the comfort of an eternal home, and for many of us, the comfort of home was established by our mothers.


I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Mothers are a lot like human beings – they don’t always give their children a taste of heaven, but a good mother is wonderful thing. In fact I would say it’s a divine thing. I’m pretty convinced that for most of us our image of God is highly influenced by the way we were treated by those god-like people we knew as our parents. It’s an image we have to get over to some extent, but I think the way we are nurtured as small children has a powerful impact on us, and for most of us that most primary impression of the world was given to us by our mothers. Fathers provide a lot of comfort as well – I’m not wanting to exclude us from the picture, but mothers are often the best at this comfort thing.


At least this was my experience. I was very fortunate to have had the mother I had. Now I could give you a list of things she might could have done better, but it wouldn’t be a long list. She made me feel welcome in the world, and I’m grateful to her for that. She was a very comforting person, and when I hear Jesus telling his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled I find myself remembering how well my mother could bring comfort to my troubled heart when I was a child.


My mother was a loving person, but she wasn’t what you would call an easygoing person. She didn’t have an overbearing personality, but she had a powerful presence. In fact, she didn’t really have to use words to let you know how she was feeling. We had some difficult times, but we mainly had good times, and I’m so grateful to her for giving me a powerful sense of belonging. She enabled me to know how good it is to have a place in a home. I had a good father as well. I don’t mean to take anything away from the role he played in my life, but I think it’s accurate to say that my mother defined our home, and I was blessed by the way she did that.


So when I hear Jesus talking about not letting my heart be troubled because he is going to prepare a place for me in his Father’s house I find myself thinking about that sense of belonging that my mother provided. I believe Jesus wants us all to experience the most profound sense of belonging, and I believe we attain that by trusting and loving and following him.


Jesus said a very bold thing to his disciples after he told them not to let their hearts be troubled and how he was going to prepare a place for them. It was in response to Thomas saying he didn’t understand where he was going that Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.


I think this is a passage of scripture that’s easy for us to misinterpret. I think the first thing that comes to mind when we hear these words is that we Christians have clearly made the right choice – that by claiming Jesus Christ as our savior we have put ourselves on the only legitimate avenue to God. Some people read this text as reason to gloat. Some Christians might be inclined to want to start chanting: We’re number one!! We’re number one!!   But I don’t think that’s the proper response to what Jesus was saying.


If you simply pull this text out of the context it’s easy to think Jesus was simply saying that anyone who worships God without using his name will never find their way to God, but I don’t believe that was his intent. It’s essential look at what was going on when Jesus spoke those words. It’s important to remember what Jesus had just done before he began this after-dinner speech. The last thing Jesus did before he began speaking to them was to wash their feet, and he did that to remind them of the way they were to treat each other.


Yes, Jesus pointed to himself as the only way to get to the Father, but he wasn’t pointing to himself as the one who knew the magic words that would open the gate to God’s kingdom. Jesus pointed to himself as the person who fully understood and practiced the perfect love of God. Jesus understood himself to be the way the truth and the life, and when he finished teaching his disciples everything he knew and praying for them to remain true to what he taught he willingly went to Jerusalem to face death by crucifixion.


Jesus didn’t speak these words in order to provide us with an attitude of religious superiority. Jesus spoke these bold words in order to remind us of how we are to live if want to dwell in the house of the Lord. Yes, it’s a privilege to abide in one of those rooms that Jesus talked about, and it’s a gift, but we need to have the right attitude about what it takes to be full participants in the household of God. The worst thing we can do is to have an attitude of superiority. The best thing we can do is to maintain an attitude of love and generosity toward everyone else.


When Jesus spoke of himself as the way, and the truth, and the life he had just washed their feet and he was about to give his life as an act of sacrificial love. The privilege that comes to us as Christians is the privilege to practice unbounded love. It’s like the privilege of being a mother or a father – you do whatever it takes to give life to your child.


We really have been provided a great gift from our heavenly Father – who is also our heavenly Mother. The son of God, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ has revealed to us the way to live as children of God. He provided us the truth about the power of love, and he has invited us to live the life that never dies.


So, Do not let your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in him.


Thanks be to God.




One Response to “Easter 5a, May 14, 2017”

  1. Earl Says:

    Thank you, My Mother was and always be in my heart, Mother’s Day or not.

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