Notes from a sermon preached on 25.01.09pm
Jesus has just told his disciples that he is leaving them.
They’re unsettled, worried.
What are we going to do without him? What is going to happen to him?
Where is he going?
For John’s readers, no doubt these fears were echoed by his readers. There days were uncertain ones as Christians. Times of persecution. What did the future have in store for them? Were they safe? What was going to happen to them?
Jesus’ response – ‘Do not let your hearts be worried. Trust in God, trust also in me’ (v14).
Easily said! Why should we? What does he offer to back this up?
Our Future is Secure in God
To those who didn’t know where they would be in the future – would they be safe, imprisoned, homeless – Jesus said ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms!’
God has somewhere prepared for us. Our future is secure in him.
Nowhere is there a literal description of ‘heaven’, just a series of different metaphors.
We talk of living with God, but here the picture is more than that, it is more intimate. We are invited to come and live with him in his house. His house becomes our home.
I think this is a fantastic metaphor.
A home is somewhere safe – an Englishman’s home is his castle.
A home is somewhere where we are looked after – I remember being ill in my digs at University. All I wanted to do is go home and be cared for.
A home is somewhere where we can be ourselves. Most of the time we spend wearing different masks – a face for work, a face for church, a face for our friends and so on. We take time to present to them the person we want them to know us as through our dress, our actions our speech. We also take care to shield from them the bits we don’t want them to see – bits we are embarrassed about, or worried about how they would react to us. At home, we can take off our masks and be simply ourselves. We don’t need to take time to put on a mask – our family know who we are, sometimes better than ourselves. We don’t have to hide away our quirks or embarrassing secrets, as our family are there for us.
A home is somewhere we belong. We might go to work, but that isn’t where we belong. We might go to the shops, or the pub or the cinema, but these are not places where we belong. We keep coming back home – that is the place where we start the day and the place we end the day.
Genesis recognises the importance of home when it talks about marriage. It notes that when the two become one, the man leaves his parents and makes a new home with his wife. It notes it because this is such a dramatic change in their lives.
We have a home with God secure for us, a place where we will be safe, where we belong, where we can be ourselves, a place where we are cared for.
Jesus is Taking Us There
The second thing that Jesus tells them to bring them security is that Jesus is going to take them to their new home, going to take them to God.
What is the difference between a house and a home? It’s the nature of the relationships that there are in it. The room that Jesus goes to prepare for us is not simply a place where we shall live, a house, but a home.
It is impossible for us to get to know God on our own. He’s invisible, unknowable in so many ways, so beyond us, greater than us, bigger than us. Ecclesiastes says as we looked at a few weeks ago, that God has set eternity in our hearts. There is a instinctive feeling that surely there must be more than this, that there must be something or someone else out there God. Throughout time, people has expressed this through religion – humanities attempts to reach out to God. But it is impossible for us to reach him – the fate of the Tower of Babel is a monument to the futility of that quest.
How can the house God has prepared for us become a home when we can’t have a relationship with him as we’ve never seen him and can’t comprehend him? Jesus tells us that he is the answer, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him’ (6-7).
Jesus is the exact imprint of his Father, in his will, his desires, in his character. He looks and acts just like his Dad. The fact that they’d seen God though him, means that they could relate to God, be at home with him. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important for us to read the Bible. The disciples could get to know what God the Father was like by watching and listening to Jesus, The Son. Clearly Jesus is no longer with us – but as we read its pages, Jesus steps out of its pages so that we can see him once more.
This home though, is not just a future thing though, in a very real way, God invites us into his home now. Jesus says, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’ (23). If we demonstrate our trust in him today – and by trust I mean not simply saying I believe, but living as if you believe – then our Heavenly Father will come and dwell with you.
Our hearts needed be worried, but we can trust in God because our future is secure in him and because Jesus is going to take us to that future by making God known to us.
Jesus is Sending the Spirit
The third reason we don’t need to let our hearts be worried, and can trust in God instead is that there is a reason for Jesus leaving his disciples. He was not just going to prepare a room for us, but also so the Spirit could be sent to us.
The word for the Spirit used here is the Counsellor. In Greek it is paraclete, meaning one who comes alongside. Another key word in Greek here is the word used for another. It means another of exactly the same kind. The Spirit is not simply like Jesus, he is exactly like Jesus. The Spirit is divine as Jesus is divine as the Father is divine. We can relate to him exactly as the disciples related to Jesus. In fact this is why it was so important that Jesus went allowing the Spirit to come. Only a handful could relate to Jesus at any one time – but through the Spirit is able to live with all of us at the same time.
We have not been abandoned as orphans, left relationshipless, but the Spirit has come so that we can continue to have a relationship with the Father and the Son.
The Spirit comes to reassure us of our future hope in God.
The Spirit comes to remind us what Jesus has taught us – in him as well as the Bible, Jesus comes alive before our eyes, of course it is through the Spirit that we hear in a living way what God says to us through the Bible.
There is one more aspect to the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit comes to bring us peace.
How do we make peace?
We strive to provide for ourselves. We seek to control our lives and what happens to us. Again, as we’ve been reading in Ecclesiastes in the mornings, this is a futile task. We cannot control the world, determine what happens to us and around us. The Teacher might say, trying to make peace is like chasing after the wind, meaningless!
But in the Spirit, God is with us. With the Spirit we know our relationship with him is secure no matter what happens to us. With the Spirit we know that our future is secure. These things are in the safe hands of God – and this knowledge can bring us real peace.
Of course it is one thing for us to sit hear tonight and nod away agreeing with all of this. But agreeing with it is not enough. Jesus calls us to trust in him, to base our lives on this faith.
Perhaps the final thing to encourage us to trust in God is Jesus’ example.
Jesus sees what is to come. No doubt he was uncertain, worried etc.
Sometimes fear, concern etc. can paralyse us. End up doing nothing out of fear for what could be…
But how does he finish this conversation? He says, ‘Come let us go.’
Do not let your hearts be troubled, says Jesus, trust in God, trust also in me.