Our society does not handle death well. I believe that at least part of the reason is that most of us don’t really deal with seeing death. A century ago, most people died at home.
Now, according to a Stanford study, only about 20 percent of Americans die at home and most people die in hospitals or nursing homes.
A century ago, it was much more common for a funeral to be at a person’s home. The family would clean and dress the deceased. Sometimes you’d have several days with a dead person in their former home.
You saw death.
People lived shorter lives.
In today’s America, funerals are becoming less common. With modern day practices, when there’s even a funeral at all, the focus is on making a person look lifelike. Funerals are not generally handled by families. It’s been outsourced to funeral homes who handle the process. Funerary practices are an essentially universal human custom.
But it’s becoming increasingly popular for some Americans to opt for nothing. No funeral, no memorial, no visitation, no celebration of life.
We don’t handle death well. For many, it’s an uncomfortable and taboo subject. But for Christians we should not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
In John 14, while Jesus is looking ahead to the cross that awaits him, he is bringing comfort to the disciples in talking about the promise and hope of heaven which is found in Christ.
It’s the Last Supper. In the preceding passage, Jesus has told the disciples of his impending departure. Peter has questioned this and said that he wants to go with Jesus.
Jesus says that Peter cannot go with him and predicts Peter’s denial. It’s important to remember that because chapter 14 is the continuation of what precedes it. It’s the same stream of thoughts as we saw at the end of chapter 13.
The main idea of this passage is that Jesus is the way to life in a dying world.
Jesus presents the reason for our hope
John 14:1: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
Jesus begins by giving a command. Let not your hearts be troubled.
Because the human heart is often troubled. For the disciples, Jesus knew that they had a harrowing experience on the horizon of seeing their Lord go to the cross and taken away from them.
We have many troubling experiences in our own lives. We can have anxieties over our health or the health of our family members. We can be stressed about the state of affairs in our world. We can be troubled by the things we fear.
And as for the disciples, Jesus has the same message for us: Let not your hearts be troubled.
Easier said than done.
There’s a comedy sketch that I really like with Bob Newhart. He’s playing a psychiatrist and a woman comes to him seeking help.
She tells Newhart that she has this fear of being buried alive in a box and how crippling this fear is and how it’s interfering with her quality of life.
Newhart reassures her and says that he has two words for her that she can use to deal with her fears.
The woman in the skit takes out a pen and paper and Newhart growls at her “stop it!”
Newhart explains that she doesn’t want to go around being afraid of being buried in a box.
So stop it.
As the sketch progresses, she talks about other fears she has, and Newhart continues to give the same advice “stop it.” I think the humor of the skit is that that’s how we can sometimes treat the problems of others.
Stop feeling that way, stop thinking that way.
That’s easier said than done.
At the last supper, in a very trying situation, Jesus commands his disciples “Let not your hearts be troubled.”
I think we can have that “stop it” attitude sometimes in the church. To hide. To say things are fine when they’re not. To say we’re ok, when we’re not. To feel this pressure to always seem to have it together.
Let not your hearts be troubled.
Jesus said it. He commands it. We don’t want to be disobedient do we? But how do we follow that command? I think we can make the mistake of acting like the Bible calls for us to be stoic. Not showing emotions.
But that’s not what Jesus is calling us to.
In fact, in the gospels, we see that there were times when Jesus himself was troubled.
A troubled savior
In the preceding chapter, right before Jesus predicts his betrayal, John writes in 13:21:
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit
Again in John 12:27, when Jesus is looking forward to the time of his death, he’s praying to God and says: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.”
Jesus was troubled sometimes. Life is troubling sometimes. Jesus isn’t calling us to just muster up the strength to act as if we’re fine on the outside.Because Jesus isn’t calling us to appearances. He’s calling us to reality.
To not have troubled hearts and then Jesus gives the commands: Believe in God; believe also in me.
I take both of those to be imperative commands. We are to believe in God and to also believe in Jesus Christ. We need both. To believe in God without believing in Jesus as the Son of God and savior of the world is to not believe in the greater revelation of the truth of God to the world.
Believing in Jesus without believing in God is to disbelieve in the one who sent him and the God whom Jesus reveals. And as the chapter further unfolds, Jesus will give his richest teaching of the Holy Spirit so far in this gospel.
And so the antidote to the troubled heart is the truth of God. Not just some vague ascent “Yeah, I believe in God.” But having the Lord be your rock, be your strength, be your hope, and your joy.
Going to the Lord in our struggles. Gong to him in prayer. Filling our minds with the truth and knowledge of who God is. Going to him in faith.
In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul says: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Lord is who is meant to be our comfort in times of trouble.
Jesus prepares a place for his people
Verse 2: In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
Verse 2 is one of those Bible verses that’s really beautiful in its simplicity. It’s a wonderful idea and even the words have a nice ring to them.
In my Father’s house are many rooms.
Now I think we can get too caught up in the house metaphor. What’s the house like? What does it look like? How big is the house? Does it have a finished basement?
That’s beside the point. The point is more that heaven is the abode of the Lord and that it’s a place where there is sufficient space for the people of God to reside. Heaven is heaven because that’s where God is.
Jesus talks of preparing a place for his people. Once again, what does that mean?
Is he the foreman on a construction project? He was a carpenter. Is he building a place?
I agree with D.A. Carson’s interpretation that the preparation for a heavenly abode has more to do with Christ’s redemptive work of going to the cross, his death, resurrection, and exaltation. It is those which signs our heavenly mortgages.
But that is another reason why our hearts should not be troubled.
Because we have a savior who has given us an eternally glorious inheritance.
Life is not for the faint of heart. There’s so much junk that we have to deal with. There is so much we see that can bring us down. There is so much sin and moral decay that can make us cynical. There is so much that is wrong in the world. And there are so many horrible things that we can suffer through.
But Jesus promises his people a future in the house of the Lord.
I think too many of us do not spend enough time thinking about heaven. That is our hope. That is what we were made for. And Jesus went to the cross so that we can have eternal life in heaven.
The Bible says that heaven is a place where God makes all things new.
Revelation 21:1-2: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The Bible says that heaven is the place where all the pains of this world are taken away.
Revelation 21:4: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
I hear politicians talk. A lot of them put out these utopian ideas of what society can be. There can never be a perfect society because the world is fallen and imperfect.
But when we are glorified in the presence of the Lord, there will be no sin, or pain, or death. Jesus is the way to life in a dying world because he prepares a heavenly place for us.
Jesus promises a return to his people
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
There’s a logic to verse 3. If I go and prepare a place for you
The second part of the statement is I will come again and will take you to myself
Jesus did go to prepare a place for us. It was necessary for him to go and prepare a place for us. And because he has gone to prepare a place for us, we can have assurance that he will come again and take us to be with himself.
That there will be union with Christ. In theology, the doctrine of the last things is called eschatology. It’s the study of the last things, coming from the Greek word “escatos.”
And John 14:3 is the clearest statement that Jesus makes in the gospels of his return. Now there are a lot of different eschatological views in churches and among theologians. But one thing that’s not disputed in the church is the reality of Christ’s literal, bodily return.
And this idea is really an essential element of our faith. That as sure as Jesus came into the world at the incarnation, Jesus will come again. As sure as Jesus is risen from the dead we have the promise that Jesus will come again.
The second coming is a necessary event in bringing all of the promises of Christ to their ultimate fulfillment. Without that, we have no reason to hope in Christ. And without that, Jesus is a liar.
Jesus says that he will come again to bring us to himself so that where I am you may be also.
Jesus prepares a place for us. And Jesus will come again for the purpose of uniting his people to himself so that they can have access to the heavenly place that he has prepared for us.
Jesus provides the way to heaven
Jesus has just talked of the heavenly place he is preparing for his people and his return.
Verse 4, Jesus says: And you know the way to where I am going.”
Now it’s true that they know the way literally. As Jesus will say in a couple of verses, HE is the way.
And they know Jesus. And so they know the way, literally, to where he is going.
He has also told them the way that he is going to get to heaven and his glorious return. It is by way of the cross, his death, and his resurrection.
But that’s not so obvious to the disciples.
The Apostle Thomas speaks up in verse 5: Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Is there a more important question that a person can ask?
Verse 6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus is the way. This is the sixth of the seven I am statements that Jesus gives in John’s Gospel. Jesus is THE way. He’s not a way. He’s not the best way. Jesus is the way to God, the way to heaven, the way to forgiveness. It’s an absolute claim that Jesus makes.
The blind men and the elephant
Now that is an idea that is not popular in our postmodern world. The exclusivity of Christ. But that’s what Jesus says. That he is the one way to God. There are many who say that there are lots of ways to God.
Many like to believe that getting into heaven is about how good a person is.
There are people who treat religions like they’re all basically teaching the same things and that none is truly better or worse than another.
It reminds me of the parable of the blind men and the elephant.
In the parable, three men who are blind come up to an elephant. Each of them comes to a different part of the elephant and has a different experience of the elephant.
One man feels the trunk. It’s swings around and he feels the power in the trunk. Another man comes to the side of the elephant. It’s massive, like a wall. Another man is at the rear of the elephant. Kind of unpleasant and smelly. They all have experiences that are true but none of them has the full picture.
That’s how some treat religions. Like they all have a piece of the truth but none of them fully has the truth.
The problem with that parable is that it’s assuming that you yourself see the full elephant and have the knowledge that they don’t have the full truth.
I think the idea that all roads lead to God appeals to our modern western sensibilities. I hear people say statements like those often. That no religion is any more true than any other. You know who disagrees with that?
So for people who want to say that all roads lead to God impose an absolute upon all the religions of the world that they almost universally don’t teach in order to avoid saying someone is wrong.
It’s saying that you have a greater understanding of absolute reality than all the world’s religions.
I think that’s actually pretty arrogant.
It’s one thing to say what one religion teaches on a particular topic. It’s another thing to speak for all religions. Especially when it’s something that they do not teach. It’s certainly not what the Bible teaches. It’s not what the Lord Jesus teaches.
He doesn’t teach that you can go any way. Jesus is the way. He is the truth. He is the life. No one comes to the father except through him. The fact that Jesus is the truth and the life flows from Jesus being the way. Jesus is the truth. He is the ultimate revelation of God in the world.
His word is truth. Jesus is the life. He is eternal.
John 1:1-2 says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.
Jesus has life in himself.
John 5:26 says that Jesus has life in himself. In John 11:25, Jesus said that he is the resurrection and the life. And Jesus is the one who gives eternal life.
Jesus says “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Because Jesus is the way to the Father. He’s the one who fulfills the father’s will and atones for the sins of the world. Jesus has said “I and the father are one” (John 10:30). John 1:18 says that while no one has ever seen God, Jesus makes God known. Whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father (John 14:9). Jesus is the one to whom the Old Testament points.
A lot of these same ideas are summed up at the end of our passage in verse 7: If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
There’s no middle ground with Jesus. He didn’t intend for there to be.Either you believe he is the savior of the world who reconciles us to God or you don’t.
But you cannot believe that Jesus is the way and believe there are other ways. Because when there are other ways, Jesus’ way makes no sense.
When there are other ways, Jesus’ life and ministry makes no sense. The cross makes no sense when there are other ways. Jesus died for humanity to show us that there is no other way. Jesus is the way to God, the revealed truth of God who gives us life with God. And the response to him is to follow his way.
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