A sermon delivered by Howard Batson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Amarillo, Tx., on January 13, 2013.
Beach front or mountain view? Or how about an island retreat?
HGTV has a whole slate of shows that help house hunters find their dream abode. During the 30-minute shows, you are taken through the emotional experience of both finding and purchasing a new home.
More interesting to me is “House Hunters International,” where you travel with American or Canadian couples as they search for their new home in Prague. Or Rio de Janeiro. Or Tokyo. The show is interesting because you learn that houses in America aren’t like houses in othoer countries or cultures.
And then an odd one – “Extreme Homes.” Here you might find a seaside house made of refrigerator panels. Or a floating home that was once a ferry boat. Or, what about the home built in Portugal to resemble a giant flashlight.
Then, finally, there is “House Hunters” with a tropical twist. On this particular show, you go along with couples that aren’t looking for just any house. Rather, they are looking for an island. They are going to own and live on their own island. I followed one family as they toured three separate islands – beautiful beach fronts. Now, that’s taking “I don’t like my neighbors” to the extreme. The man said he didn’t like neighbors. He pointed over to an island across the way and said, “They’re too close.”
Well, whether it’s house hunters here in America or looking for an extreme home or an island getaway, none of these are anything to compare to what the Lord is preparing for His people.
Beach front. Mountain view. All those rust, rot, and fade away. But in our Father’s house, there are many mansions.
Let’s put our passage in context.
The Lord Jesus whom we exalt is not just a baby in a manger. He is not a character in a children’s story. He is far more. The first time He came, He came veiled in the form of a child. The next time He comes, All the world will see just who He really is – the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The first time that He came, a star marked His arrival. The next time that He comes, the heavens will roll up like a scroll, and all the stars will fall out of the sky, and He, himself, will light it.
The first time He came, wise men brought Him gifts. The next time He comes, He will bring gifts – rewards for His own.
The first time that He came, there was no room for Him. The next time He comes, the whole world will not be able to contain His magisterial glory.
The first time He came was obscure – only a few attended the occasion in the little known town of Bethlehem. The next time He comes, every eye will be able to do no other than behold Him.
The first time He came as a humble infant. The next time that He comes, He will come as King and Lord, ruler of the heavens, the earth, and the sea.
I. Christ has not abandoned us. He has gone to prepare a place for us.
Let not your heart be troubled.
That was easy for Jesus to say, but the disciples were troubled, heavy of heart. In fact, the text actually says, “stop being troubled.” It was not a teacher telling his trouble-free students that he hoped they would never have to worry. No. This was a teacher whose students’ hearts are far from tranquil. Their teacher is talking about things that are very unsettling to them.
He has told them that He can only be with them a little while longer (13:33) and that He was going to a place where they would not be able to follow Him. Peter has declared that he is willing to follow Jesus wherever He might go. In fact, declared Peter, “I will lay down my life for you.”
“Really?” asked Jesus. “You will lay down your life for me? The truth of the matter, Peter, is that you will even deny that you ever knew me. Three times you will do this.”
All the disciples were, by now, troubled. Judas had betrayed. The Lord had predicted Peter’s threefold denial. And Jesus was talking about going places where they could not even follow Him.
These men had left everything for their Lord, and now He was informing them that He was going to depart to a place where they could no longer follow Him. “Not follow you? We have abandoned all else that we might follow You. You, yourself, called us from our fishing nets, from our tax-tables, and You called and asked us to leave it all behind in order to follow You. And now you are departing?” Their hearts were troubled.
Have you ever learned that someone really important to you – your child, your best friend, your brother – is moving far away? A sick, empty feeling of being abandoned.
And Jesus knows that in a few short hours they are going to experience things that would literally shatter their world. So He tells them to be calm. “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; for I go to prepare a place for you” (vs. 1-2).
A pastor who had been having difficulties with his church accepted a chaplaincy at the sate penitentiary. Before he began his farewell sermon on his last Sunday at the church, he told the congregation why he was leaving. “You don’t love me,” he moaned. “You have not paid my full salary. You don’t love one another. So I’m going to be a chaplain at the penitentiary. Now my text this morning is from John 14.” He cleared his throat and read, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
“My Father’s house” clearly refers to heaven. Jesus never had any quiver of uncertainty in His voice when He spoke of eternal life. Rather, He spoke with the assurance of one who had come from the eternal realm. As one speaks of his own hometown, He spoke of His Father’s house. No quiver of uncertainty, no mumble from a doubting heart. Jesus spoke with certainty, assurance, and confidence. In His Father’s house there are many permanent dwelling places – places that He is preparing for His own. It was Oriental custom for the son and daughter to have apartments under the same roof as their parents. The purpose of His departure was to make ready the place where He could welcome them permanently.
If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
Take comfort, troubled hearts. Although it is true that your Master is going away, know that He will return to bring you once again unto Himself. Every cure or comfort of this earth is ultimately temporary, for the earth itself is passing away.
The only lasting comfort is that found in the knowledge that one day the clock will cease, the sands in the hour glass will pass no more, and the sun will finally find rest from its continual travel. The people of God will rest forever in the shadow of the holy. The church, the bride of Christ, will finally, as an end to her anxious wait, be joined by the resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the bridegroom. Whatever else gives hope, there is no greater hope than the magisterial return of our Lord, who now sits resurrected, ascended, and enthroned at the right hand of God.
Let us never forget, let us ever be mindful of the fact that, indeed, one day – maybe today – Christ will return. Let us never suppose that just because the sun rose today that it will always rise tomorrow. Let us not only appear as if we are ever mindful of the blessed hope, but let us allow it to occupy a priority in our minds.
The animal kingdom provides several examples of sleeping postures which suggest that some who appear to be awake may, in fact, be lost in slumber. The horse can actually sleep while standing up. The huge hippopotamus snoozes as he floats in the water. Bats nap while hanging by their feet, and the little desert shrew takes a siesta with his eyes wide open.
Martha Snell Nicholson, Christian poet, penned these words:
The best part of Christianity is the blessed hope of His second coming. How I ever lived before I grasped that wonderful truth, I do not know. How anyone lives without it these trying days I cannot imagine. Each morning I think, with a leap of the heart, “He may come today.” And each evening, “When I awake, I may be in glory.” Each day must be lived as though it were to be my last, and there is so much to be done to purify myself and to set my house in order. I am on tiptoes with expectancy. There are no more grey days – for they are all touched with color; no more dull days, with glory just around the corner; and no more lonely days, with His footsteps coming ever nearer, and the thought that soon, soon, I shall see His blessed face and be forever through with pain and tears.
Notice in the passage that there is no real description of eternal life. Rather, it is enough said to assure the followers of Christ, the very ones who were dreading His departure, that they would once again be with Him. “That where I am, there you may be also.” Being with the King of kings and Lord of lords, being embraced by the arms that loved you enough to be nailed to a cross to die in your stead.
A country doctor would often carry his dog on house-calls in the late hours of the night. A believer who was dying was fearful and looked to the doctor for comfort. The physician was silent, at a loss for words with which to comfort the one fearful of passing into eternity. Just then a whining and scratching was heard at the door, and in bounded the physician’s dog – his tail wagging because he was glad to see his master. Sensing the opportunity, the physician explained, “My dog has never been in your room before, so he did not know what it was like in here. He did not know if it was warm or cold, light or dark. But he knew that I was in here – that his master was in here – and that was enough.” In the same way, we look forward to an eternity with Christ. Those who have received Him as their Lord and Savior know very little about heaven, but we know, in the words of John, that where He is is where we want to be.
Good news for troubled hearts: the Lord has not abandoned His people. He prepares a place for them in heaven. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (14:18).
There is more good news for the heart that is troubled.
II. The Father will send the Helper to be with His children until Christ returns (14:16-17).
The word used for the Holy Spirit is a word that means “called to the side of.” The word is always used in the gospel of John by Jesus to speak of the One sent to supply the need of His followers after He has ascended to the Father. Jesus is telling the troubled hearts that while it is necessary for Him to go places that, for now, they cannot follow Him, He is asking the Father to send another One who will be with them continually. And, in fact, the Spirit will not leave them because He will be in them (14:16f.). He will be their teachers (14:26). It is He who will remind them of all that Jesus said and did. And He, by divine design, can only come down to dwell within the hearts of men if Jesus goes away.
How is it that the Spirit will be able to comfort the disciples as Jesus has comforted them? Without exception, the things that we are told that the Spirit will do for the believers are things that Christ was doing for them. Notice:
1. The Spirit will dwell within the believer as Christ had dwelt within the believer (14:17; 15:4).
2. The Spirit will teach the believer even as Christ had taught the believer (14:26; 13:13).
The Spirit is our comforter, our friend. Good news for troubled hearts . The Father has sent the Spirit to comfort those who call Christ “Lord.” We join together this morning to worship the same Lord, but each of us carries a different load of baggage with us as we make our way to church.
Some come this morning with a strained relationship with our spouse, we have not really enjoyed our marriage for some time.
Others gather this morning with a changing relationship with our children. Things don’t seem so simple any more. Perhaps they have graduated – your whole family structure appears to be strained at the very seams.
Some of us come this morning with our minds occupied by the needs of an elderly parent. They used to give us comfort and guidance, and now their tired eyes look up to us and plead for guidance. This role reversal comes accompanied with many problems of its own.
Still others come with difficulties in our employment situation. We have either lost our job or the future does not appear nearly as certain and sure as we would like for it to appear.
Poor health is the burden carried by many. We have to make the best of our situation, but things will never be the same. We are beginning to admit that to ourselves.
Some of us who are young come feeling left out of the in-crowd. We feel rejected, unloved, and of very little value.
Life is a journey, a very tough journey, and you are a pilgrim making your way – one small step at a time, never knowing what awaits you at the next junction.
The disciples were troubled. They had radically changed their lives for their great teacher, and now He was speaking of the necessity of leaving them, of journeying to a place where they could no longer be His traveling companions. They had become accustomed to spending much time with Jesus. They could not imagine life without the sparkle that He shared, without hearing Him teach as they tried to contemplate His every word. Their lives could never be the same after coming in contact with this man called Jesus – but now He is to leave. He is talking about making a journey. They feel abandoned, perhaps even downright angry. Their life no longer made any sense.
Listen to the words of Thomas in verse 5. “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Thomas wants Jesus to stop for a moment. “Lord, what is all this talk about your going on ahead of us, about your preparing a place for us where we may later join You. Lord, how can we know the way to where You are going if we do not even know where You are going?”
Then Jesus replies with one of his most profound statements of all – good news for troubled hearts.
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Jesus’ reply is personal. He did not claim to merely know the way, the truth, and the life as a formula which He could impart to the ignorant. He actually claimed to be the answer to human problems. Jesus’ solution to the troubled heart is not a recipe. It is a relationship with Him. He Himself is the answer, and only as we are vitally related to Him as brothers and sisters of faith are we able to approach life’s difficulties.
Not only is His statement personal, but it is authoritative. However you may approach the problems that trouble your heart – through counseling, medication, or support groups (and all of these certainly have a role to play as we seek to make sense of our entangled world) – if your solution is not grounded in the hope that can only accompany a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the help of the Comforter, His Spirit, your solution is only temporary. It is a “quick fix” that may temporarily numb the pain, but it is not a real solution.
He is the only way to the Father because He has an intimate knowledge of God, unmarred by sin. He is the truth because He has the perfect power of making life one coherent experience, irrespective of its ups and downs. He is life because He is not subject to death. In fact, by the power of His resurrection He made death subject to Him. Because He is the way, the truth, and the life, He is the only means of reaching the Father.
Jesus’ statement was not admitting a narrow arrogance. Rather, He was making the only possible deduction from the fact that He, the unique Son of God, was the sole means of access to the Father.
Good news for the troubled heart. Christ has not abandoned us. He has gone to prepare a place for us. He will return, that once again we may be where He is.
Good news for a troubled heart. Even as He goes, He asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit, the One who comforts, to abide within us that we may lean on Him for understanding, comfort, and care.
House hunting? I don’t think I’ll ever own an island retreat or a Caribbean cabin – but one day, I will dwell in His eternal presence, a mansion by any measure.