“Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know and the way you know.”
Isn’t that comforting? It is not surprising that these words are often read at funerals. Jesus said these words to his disciples shortly before his arrest and crucifixion. He knew that they would be upset by his death and ascension, and he wanted to comfort them.
These words are part of his farewell discourse as written in John 13-17. Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure. Jesus came to earth from his father, and now he was preparing to go back to his father’s house. It is the same house all believers will go to one day.
These same words comforted the early Christians, especially when they were being persecuted. They also give us comfort today. When something terrible happens, we often ask “Where is God?” This is only natural. Jesus asks us to trust him in the midst of our confusion. The special comfort is to believe and trust in Jesus. When life gives us hard knocks, we can let go of uncertainties and believe that Jesus has prepared a place for us in our heavenly home because we can trust him.
The phrase “Do not let your hearts be troubled” might seem a little ironic to us as we gather for worship. After all, whose heart isn’t troubled? All of us have had turmoil in our lives at one time or another. It doesn’t matter if the turmoil is caused by problems within our family, at work, among our friends or even within our churches.
Jesus has already made many dwelling places for us here on earth. Some of these places are places of worship such as a church. Here we can be unburdened from past wrongs. Here we can be ourselves and get help carrying life’s burdens. It is at times like these and in places like a church where God shows us unconditional love, mercy and surprises.
These places are tailor-made for all of us, both as individuals and as a faith community. They remind me of the words of a song that was popular in the late 1970’s. It was recorded by Peter Frampton and is entitled “I’m In You” It describes how Jesus comforts us here on earth. The first verse goes like this:
I don’t care where I go
When I’m with you
When I cry you don’t laugh
‘cause you know me
I’m in you, you’re in me
I’m in you, you’re in me
‘cause you gave me the love
Love that I never had
Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament teachings that there is only one way to God and one way to see God. Jesus’ ministry and character reveal and reflect God’s character of love, forgiveness and grace. God works through Jesus and he works through us thanks to the Holy Spirit that lives in us. We, like the disciples, can do even greater works than Jesus did thanks to the Holy Spirit.
The disciples could do works that would be greater than the works Jesus did because they could go out into the world. Each and every one of us can also do great works because we can go out into the world and do what Jesus and the disciples did. The disciples had the privilege of working for God and knowing the purpose for their lives. We can also have the same privilege and purpose. Jesus will guide us in the direction he wants us to go. He will help us to “keep our eyes on the prize.”
The reason why Jesus went away was to secure our future. He prepared a heavenly home for us. Jesus is the only way to heaven. Most people today, if asked why they think God will let them into heaven, would say that God will let them into heaven because they try to be good and go to church. They also believe that if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds then God will let them into heaven. Man’s pride believes that God somehow owes him a place in heaven or eternal life as a reward for good deeds, earnest effort or sincerity. We can’t earn our way to heaven. Belonging to a particular church or a particular denomination won’t get us into heaven. Jesus is the only way to salvation. Jesus is the only way to heaven.
We, like the disciples, dread death and the separation it creates. Death and separation are Satan’s stronghold, and the only remedy is faith in an unshakeable God. This faith will help us to do God’s work in our world. When we pray to God in faith, we glorify God. When we glorify God, we can do great things for him. Praying to God in faith is the cure for anxiety. We pray because we believe in prayer. Prayer is the result of our deepest belief in God. In order for us to believe in God and do his work in our world, we have to have intimacy with God.
Sometimes we are afraid to pray to God because we are afraid that God will turn down our requests. Prayer is not about getting God to do what we want him to do. It is about releasing God’s will on earth. God even said “no” to Jesus when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had to submit to God’s will, and we must obey God’s will. That is the only way God can be glorified in life.
Jesus is exalted by God to the highest place in the universe. That is why everyone has to bow down before him. That is why Jesus said that no one can come to God except by going through him. Jesus bridged the gap between God and man that was created by the sins of Adam and Eve. In return, we are to spread the Good News of salvation.
Jesus and the Father are one. Jesus is the perfect representation of both our heavenly Father and our heavenly home. In fact, one reason why Jesus came to earth was to show us the Father. Jesus showed us what God is like and what God likes. God likes to be glorified and when our prayers glorify him, they will be answered in his own time and in his own way. Our prayers glorify him when they are offered in Jesus’ name. Jesus will return one day to take us to our heavenly home. Will he find us doing what he told us to do, or will he find us doing nothing?
If we follow Jesus, we must obey his instructions. We have to surrender our way of doing things, even if it means suffering for his sake. We have to trust that his promises will come true, even if other people say that Jesus is no longer relevant. He is the way to eternal life even when we are surrounded by death. We must keep our eyes focused on heaven so we won’t be distracted by the things of the world. In other words, we must have an eternal view of life.
The way to God means following the narrow road to salvation instead of the wider road to damnation. The wide road is travelled by people who follow the ways of the world. The narrow road is travelled by people of faith. Sometimes we don’t know what lies ahead on the narrow road, but we can be thankful that Jesus has laid out the steps we have to follow. He won’t lead us astray. He will provide for our needs. He will shape our character and define how we are to live godly lives. He will show us the words, deeds, characters, and attitudes we are to have in life’s joys, sorrows and difficult moments.
Those who follow the narrow road will rejoice when Jesus returns because they have been redeemed by his blood. His return will fulfill our hopes and dreams. Those who follow the wide road will mourn because his return will bring their judgment. They did not believe that he died and rose again for their sins, so they are doomed to spend eternity in hell. If we follow Jesus, our hearts will not be troubled.
Some of you may remember a children’s TV show called “The Friendly Giant” It ran on the CBC Television Network in Canada from 1958 to 1985. At the start of each show, the Friendly Giant said that he would “hurry over first and go in the back door so I can lower the drawbridge down and open the big front doors for you.” He would then arrange the furniture for his guests. In other words, he prepared his home for visitors. Similarly, Jesus went to heaven to prepare a place for us to go to. Going home fulfills the longing we have for God. Only God can fulfill the emptiness of our souls.
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