************ Funeral Sermon on John 14:1-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This funeral sermon was preached on February 7, 2008
Milen Vander Tuig funeral
Where is Milen Vander Tuig? What has happened to him? I want to tell you, the family and friends of Milen, that he is in the place that Jesus has prepared for him.
Did you hear what Jesus says in our text? "In my Father's house are many rooms ... I am going there to prepare a place for you." Do you understand the image?
When a young Israelite man was engaged to be married, he went to his father's house and got a place ready for his bride. Usually this meant adding a room or a suite of rooms to the father's house. So, the groom and his brothers or servants would labor. They would add on to the father's house. Dirt would be packed, a foundation would be poured, bricks would be laid, a roof would be raised, doors and windows would be installed, and the inside would be finished. During the entire building project the bridegroom eagerly anticipates the bride's arrival; he can hardly wait for the time when they live together as husband and wife. When the room is ready, the groom would get his bride and bring her into the mansion. For the bridegroom and the bride this is a time of great joy. The moment they have been waiting for has finally come to pass.
"In my Father's house are many rooms." Older brothers and uncles have already added their rooms to the father's house. In fact, the father's house is no longer a simple house; it is more like a many-roomed mansion. It is no longer a single family dwelling; instead, it is a community, even an entire village. The bride will be taking up residence in a portion of a large mansion and will join a throng of people who are already there.
"I am going there to prepare a place for you." Jesus is the bridegroom. The church is His bride. He ascended into heaven where He is getting a room ready for the bride's arrival. And, like a bridegroom He awaits the bride's arrival with great anticipation.
"In my Father's house are many rooms." This reminds me of the old song: "I've Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop." There is a mansion up there. Filled with people – a whole host of brothers and sisters. Rooms were added for the patriarchs, for the prophets, for the faithful in exile, for the apostles, for the early martyrs, for the Reformers, for Milen's granddaughter, for Milen's brother. Room after room has been prepared by the heavenly bridegroom as He eagerly awaits His bride.
A room has been added for Milen Vander Tuig as well. This past Sunday he was taken by the bridegroom into the Father's mansion. From the point-of-view of Jesus and Milen, this is a time of great joy. The bride has been taken into the house of many rooms and the bride and groom are finally living together in the joy of the marriage relationship.
You may know that Milen always wanted to live in Iowa again. In the last year of his life he had a chance to visit and show the kids the two miles he walked to school, in the snow, bare foot, uphill both ways. He may have thought his heart belonged to Iowa but now he knows it was another place he was yearning for – a mansion just over the hilltop with the heavenly bridegroom.
Did you notice how Jesus starts off this passage? "Do not let your hearts be troubled." That's the problem, isn't it?! We often let our hearts be troubled. We mourn that Milen, a husband and father, has died. We are upset that he was in a nursing home or hospital bed rather than somewhere else. We think of the changes and frustrations he underwent because of his stroke. And, our hearts become troubled. Troubled, disturbed, upset. This word describes King Herod when he heard that a King of the Jews has been born (Mt 2:3). This word describes the disciples when they thought the Lord Jesus was a ghost walking towards them on the water (Mt 14:26). This word describes the stirring of the water in the pool of Bethesda – all mixed up (Jn 5:7).
"Do not let your hearts be troubled." Stop being upset. Stop being disturbed. Stop being all stirred up. Yes, Milen has died but he is now in the mansion with the heavenly bridegroom. That is not a reason for trouble but a reason for joy.
Now, I need to tell you, the family and friends of Milen, that not everyone is given a room in the Father's mansion. If you don't believe in Jesus, you are not given a room. That's why Jesus talks about trust or belief in the opening verse: "Trust in God; trust also in me."
When Thomas heard Jesus was leaving to prepare a place, he wanted to know the way to the Father's mansion. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). Unless you believe Jesus is the WAY, the only way, you have no place in the Father's mansion either.
How is Jesus the way? Don't forget when Jesus says this. Jesus says "I am the way," just before He hangs impotent upon the cross. He says "I am the truth," just before the lies of evil men nail Him to the tree. He says "I am the life," just before He Himself is placed in the tomb.
Jesus is the way to the Father's mansion because He suffered and died and arose from the grave. He is the only way.
I need to emphasize this because people today want to believe all paths, all roads, and all faiths lead to God; they want to believe that all religions are equal. People want to believe that all people will be saved. So, for instance, they believe Mohammed, Buddha, and Confucius are on a par with Jesus and the faiths or religions started by these men are as valid as the Christian faith in bringing one to God and heaven.
A study of the Bible shows us that humankind has tried all sorts of ways to get to God and heaven. During the Old Testament period, for instance, Israel's neighbors thought they could get in touch with God through the sacrifice of their children, or by dancing and screaming as they did with Baal in the contest against Elijah. During the New Testament period, there were those in Israel – like the Pharisees – who thought they could get in touch with God by observing the Law and its rules and regulations. I suppose Milen could have thought he deserved heaven because he started a fund for the family of a Nascar driver who was killed.
Today, as you know, some attempt to get to God and heaven by killing themselves in order to join aliens behind a comet – remember the Heaven's Gate Cult. Because they are promised an instant trip to Paradise, suicide bombers from the Middle East blow themselves up or fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
How many ways are there to God? People want to believe there are as many different ways as there are different people and beliefs.
I'm always taken aback by anyone who thinks all roads lead to God, that all religions are equally valid. Nobody believes that about anything else. I wonder why anybody believes that about religion.
This past Summer my wife and I drove to South Dakota to visit our second son. Let's say for some reason I believed all roads lead to South Dakota. So, instead of taking I-90 or I-80 East I took I-5 North and just kept going and going. Would I have ever reached South Dakota by doing that? Of course not! But I would have ended up in British Columbia, Canada and maybe even Alaska.I am sure you get the picture – it is impossible to believe that all roads, all faiths, and all religions lead to God and heaven; that all are equally valid.
There is only one way to the Father's mansion. That way is Jesus – the Jesus Who suffered and died for your sins. You need a personal, living relationship with this Lord Jesus in which you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is not enough to know about Him. Instead, you must personally know Him. So, if you know your theology, if you fly through Seminary with a 4.0 GPA, if you know all your Catechism answers, if you memorize vast sections of the Bible, but have not made personal contact with Jesus Christ Himself, then you are not following "the Way."
Milen knew this. Milen put his trust in Jesus. So Milen has been taken by the heavenly bridegroom into the Father's mansion. Today he is experiencing life with Christ in a way that is not possible on this earth.
Every death is a good time to look at yourself and ask: when I die where will I end up? Do I trust in Jesus? Do I trust in Jesus alone? Do I know in my heart that He is the only way into the Father's mansion?
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