************ Sermon on John 14:1-7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 17, 2015
"Jesus is Leaving"
Ascension Day 2015
I Lonely Hearts
A As I told the boys and girls, Jesus is leaving. He is leaving for His Father's house (vs 2). He is ascending into heaven. This news "troubles" the hearts of His disciples (vs 1).
The word "trouble" 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," says Jesus. Stop being upset. Stop being disturbed. Stop being all stirred up.
So, why does the Ascension trouble the disciples? What is wrong? Why do the disciples view the Ascension as bad news? They fear being without Jesus. According to verse 18, they fear Jesus is leaving them as orphans. They fear being all alone. They fear loneliness.
B What comes to mind when I say the word "lonely"? What is your image of loneliness? An exchange student who misses home and family? Someone in the military service away from loved ones over the holidays? A salesman or truck driver always on the road? An elderly person in a nursing home? A widow or widower without family? A classmate who is mocked and scorned and bullied at school and on social media?
Loneliness is more than the absence of people. We can feel lonely in a crowd, among friends, in the family, and in a church. We all feel loneliness at times. The most gregarious and outgoing of people, the popular, the famous, the attractive, may try their best to hide it, but it is still there.
In our flight from loneliness we plunge into a frantic togetherness. We have clubs for every imaginable purpose: sports, music, photography, bird-watching, cycling, Rotary, science, home school, astronomy, future farmers. Our time and the time of our kids is overloaded with endless activities.
C Jesus is leaving. He is ascending into heaven. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me" (vs 1). Trust, because Jesus is doing something to get rid of your fears and your loneliness. Trust, because Jesus has a plan that will answer all your concerns.
II The Heavenly Bridegroom's Answer
A So, on this Ascension Day, what is Jesus' answer to the worries and anxiety of His disciples? What is Jesus' answer to the concern of being all alone? Listen to what Jesus says:
(Jn 14:2-3) In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
We know Jesus was a builder while on earth (Mk 6:3). He grew up working with wood and plans. He grew up building things. Our Bible reading indicates Jesus continues to build today. The ascension did not mark the end of His work. He doesn't sit around in heaven doing nothing. Rather, He is busy in heaven. He is busy building: "I am going there to prepare a place for you" (vs 2). I am ascending to prepare a place for you.
B It is not obvious to us, but in saying this Jesus has in mind Jewish marriage practices in His time and place. Let me explain the image Jesus has in mind.
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 their part of 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.
C Jesus says, "I am going there to prepare a place for you." I am ascending to prepare a place for you. Think about this in terms of Jewish marriage practices. Jesus is saying He is the bridegroom. And, Jesus is saying the church is His bride. He is ascending 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.
"I am going there to prepare a place for you." This further implies a plan. This implies blueprints. The bridegroom doesn't just add a room or a suite of rooms anywhere. The bridegroom doesn't build over the fire pit or over the well. God, in Christ, has a plan so the whole building blends and holds together.
"I am going there to prepare a place for you." This implies a foundation because no one builds without a foundation. In particular, this implies the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone (Eph 2:20).
"I am going there to prepare a place for you." This also implies work. Hard work. It doesn't just happen. The hard work was done by Christ upon the cross and in the grave. And, it continues to be done as He is in heaven.
So, Jesus tells His disciples He is leaving. He is ascending. And, He tells them He will be hard at work. He tells them He will be getting a place ready for His church, His bride, His people.
Do you hear Jesus' answer to the fears of the disciples? Do you hear Jesus' answer to the concern of being all alone? "I am going there to prepare a place for you ... And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (vs 2,3). "I am not abandoning you," He says. "I am not leaving you as orphans." "I have a plan for the loneliness you fear." That plan is the marriage of the heavenly bridegroom and His bride, the church.
D Jesus indicates the work has already started. "In my Father's house are many rooms" (vs 2). Meaning what? Meaning that the father's house is no longer a simple home; 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.
"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; and -- to mention the last three people in our church who have died -- rooms were added for Edythe Adams and Bill Billman and Darwin Houtsma. Room after room has been prepared by the heavenly bridegroom as He eagerly awaits His bride.
E On this Ascension Day we hear Jesus talking about leaving and we hear Jesus talking about coming back:
(Jn 14:2-3) I am going there to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me ...This reminds me of what the angels said to the disciples on Ascension Day:
(Acts 1:11) "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Jesus is going up. And Jesus is coming back. Jesus is going up to get a place ready. And Jesus is coming back to take us to be with Him.
I want to ask this morning, is He coming back for you? The heavenly bridegroom returns for His bride. The heavenly bridegroom doesn't return for the bride's maids. The heavenly bridegroom doesn't return for friends of the family. The heavenly bridegroom doesn't return for members of the extended family. He returns for His bride. He returns for the church. He returns for those who trust in Him and believe in Him as Savior and Lord.
Do you know what this means? This means 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."
Is the heavenly bridegroom coming back for you? He is, if you believe. He is, if you by grace have given Jesus your heart and your life. He is, if you are His elect and chosen bride. So come to Jesus, congregation. Believe in Him. Trust in Him. And He will take you to be with Him. And He will drive away your fears, your loneliness, your aloneness because you are with Him!
III Jesus the Way
A When Thomas heard Jesus was leaving to prepare a place, he wanted to know the way to the Father's mansion (vs 5). Someone who worships with us told me about a conversation with an unbelieving friend. This friend wanted to know, "Where is heaven? "Very simple," was the response. "Find the big dipper, follow its line to the little dipper, and turn right. That is where heaven is." It took a moment for the friend to realize he was kidding.
"Where is heaven?" How do we find the way? Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). Jesus is the only way to the Father's mansion.
B The world wants to believe we all worship the same God. The world wants to believe we all end up in the same place. The world wants to believe all paths, all roads, and all faiths lead to God; it wants to believe that all religions are equal. It wants to believe that all people will be saved. So, for instance, it believes 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. It believes astrology and healing crystals and channeling and new age mantras are as good as Jesus.
Our pluralistic world today needs to hear the Biblical message that Christ alone is the way to the heavenly mansion. Our pluralistic world needs to hear that every path but one leads to hell and hell's destruction. The world needs to hear the words of Jesus, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6).
Roman Catholics need to hear this teaching as well. Let me remind you of some of the reasons for the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church says we are saved by grace completed by obedience. The Roman Catholic Church says salvation is received through faith and works. The Roman Catholic Church says we come to God through Christ and the saints. Notice, Roman Catholics believe there is more than one path to God.
Liberal Christians need to hear this teaching as well. I am sure you realize there is a brand of Christianity that sees no need for Christ or for Christ alone. I am talking about theological liberals. These liberals proclaim and worship "a God without wrath who brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of Christ without a cross." I conducted Edythe's funeral yesterday. Someone came up to me afterwards and said, "You used the "S" word. I have not heard the "S" word for a long time." The "S" word is SIN. If you don't believe in sin then you don't believe Jesus is the only way to the Father because you don't need saving.
C "Lord," asked Thomas, "how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way ..." The way is a person. The way is to follow Jesus Himself, not a system of doctrine. So, if you know your theology, 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." To follow the Way, you need a personal, living relationship with the Lord Jesus in which you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
D Let me end by reminding you of why Jesus is the way. Jesus says "I am the way," just before He hangs in pain 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 and rises from the dead. Jesus is the way to the Father's mansion because He suffered and died and arose from the grave. He is the only way.
(Jn 14:1-4) "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (2) In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (4) You know the way to the place where I am going."
Jesus is leaving. Jesus is ascending into heaven. But there is no reason to be troubled. As we read later in John's gospel, "It is for your good that I am going away" (Jn 16:7).
It is for our good. It is for our benefit. But only if you believe and have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
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