John 14: 1-14 Sunday 28th October 2018 9:45 and 11:30am
By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 29 2018 12:56PM
Have you ever visited a really grand house? Maybe a National Trust or other heritage property. Have you marvelled at its magnificence but ultimately gone away thinking ‘It’s not a place for the likes of me’? Over the course of years of family holidays, I’ve visited many grand houses and felt exactly like that – they were beautiful, but not a place for me. Then three summers ago, we were staying in Devon. We’d seen a leaflet for Coleton Fishacre, the home of the D’Oyly Carte family who produced many of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas and decided to visit. It’s an impressive building with large rooms and beautiful décor; yet walking through the rooms, I didn’t feel out of place. I could look around and imagine myself living there. It felt like a place for the likes of me.
Our passage of John’s gospel today follows on from t Jesus’ revelation that Peter would deny knowing Jesus and being his disciple. They have also heard that Judas will betray Jesus. Peter is undoubtedly shocked and disturbed by this. The other disciples too would have been shaken by these revelations. When this is added to the dawning realisation that Jesus is leaving them, that he is facing death, it is small wonder that the disciples are troubled. So, as he continues to prepare his disciples for his imminent arrest and death, Jesus offers reassurance to his troubled disciples. He tells them that their faith will be rewarded with a place in God’s house; he offers them a new intimate relationship with God as their Father through himself; and he promises them that works they do in his name will glorify God.
Firstly, Jesus tells his disciples that their faith will be rewarded with a place in God’s house. In vv1 and 2 he says: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ These words of Jesus may be familiar to us as words of reassurance used in a funeral service, offering comfort that a loved one is now at their eternal rest with God. However, here, Jesus is reassuring his disciples about his own death, as we see in v3: ‘And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ The disciples, in choosing to follow Jesus, have already placed their trust in him. With the hour of his death approaching, Jesus now wants them to remember their trust in him and hold on to it because of what his death will accomplish. Jesus’ death will make it possible for his disciples to be where he is – with God. And it is their faith in Jesus and their recognition of him as the Saviour, the Messiah that will secure their place. Jesus is speaking collectively to his disciples – there is a place for all believers. However, we are individuals, unique and precious to God and Jesus is promising we will have our own place with the Father and that he has prepared it for us. Our uniqueness is set out both in the prophecy of Isaiah 43:1 ‘But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’ and in John 10:3 ‘To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.’
Do you need to hear the words of reassurance that Jesus offers his disciples here? Do you feel as Peter did, that you’ve let Jesus down? Take heart from Jesus’ words today: your faith in him as your Saviour has secured you your place in the Father’s house and at the appointed time, Jesus himself will come and take you to be with him.
Secondly, Jesus offers his troubled disciples a new intimate relationship with God as their Father through himself. Through Thomas’s question in v5, Jesus has realised that the disciples haven’t understood his teaching about himself. Thomas says: ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus takes Thomas’s question and uses it to frame his answer. In vv7 and 8, Jesus answers: ‘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 the Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ John’s gospel has spoken extensively of Jesus coming from the Father, revealing God, bringing new life and then returning to the Father. Now, the focus has shifted to Jesus’ role of leading people to the Father. For us to approach God as Father requires Jesus’ mediation. We cannot come to God on our own merit – our fallen state, our sin which displeases him prevents this. Acts of repentance and worship are not enough for us to be right with God to approach him. God will judge the sin of humanity. However, Jesus offers us a new way. His death takes away our sins. He sacrificed his life so that we could have ours. With Jesus, and in Jesus, we can come to God not just to worship him as God, but as our Father who loves us and wants us to be with him. More than that, God is no longer some distant being. The disciples can know him and have seen him because they have seen Jesus. We can know him because he sent his Spirit to live within us.
But despite Jesus’ words, the disciples still don’t seem to have grasped what Jesus is saying about his divine nature. In v8 Philip says: ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ You can hear Jesus’ disappointment in their lack of understanding in his answer in vv9and 10: ‘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?’ Jesus is God’s agent – ‘anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’. We can write to our MP, or to the Queen and get a reply from one of their staff, their agents, but the response comes as from the person we have written to. It carries the same weight and authority. And so it is with Jesus. If we have seen him, we have seen the Father; if he speaks, it is as if God has spoken. But Jesus is not just God’s agent, he is also God and there is a mutual indwelling – ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’. More than representing God, Jesus presents him. Jesus is God on earth. Jesus doesn’t say that he is the Father but that he is one with the Father. In John 10:30, Jesus says ‘I and the Father are one.’ We can remember too, John’s words in the opening verse of his gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Jesus asks his disciples to believe this, to trust his word that he and the Father dwell in each other, or if necessary, believe based on the evidence of his miracles, which show that the Father is in him and working through him.
Then, Jesus goes on to promise that the works the disciples will do will glorify God. In vv12 and 13 he says: ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’ Jesus doesn’t want us to have an inactive faith, a merely intellectual or emotional response. He wants us to respond with our whole being, to share, through our salvation in God’s own life, which is an active life. How can our works be greater than those of Jesus? After all, he raised Lazarus from the dead. Look again at Jesus’ words – ‘they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.’ Once Jesus has returned to the Father, he will send the Spirit, who will accomplish a union with God with us. Our works will be greater because they will show the reality of a God who is one with his people, of a shared life with God, which has been made possible by Jesus’ completion of his work in his death, resurrection and ascension. And Jesus promises that he will do whatever we ask in his name. This shouldn’t merely be a formulaic ending to our prayers. Rather that we should pray in keeping with Jesus’ character. His concerns should be our concerns. We should pray in union with him. Through being in union with him, we take up his agenda, which is, in all things, that the Father may be glorified. What we ask for in Jesus’ name must be to the glory of God. It must be what Jesus wants, not what we want. When we pray and work like this, Jesus’ promise to do as we ask advances God’s purposes in us, in the church and in the world.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for your words of reassurance to your disciples. We thank you that we too, can be comforted by your words that you have gone to prepare a place for us in your Father’s house. Thank you for the new relationship you have made possible for us to have with God as our Father. Help us to stay close to you so that we do not try to approach God on our own merit. And help us to remember that we are one with you and the Father because your Spirit lives within us. Teach us your concerns for the world so that when we pray, and when we do your works, we do it always for God’s glory. Thank you Lord Jesus. Amen.