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Sermon – Reservation/Satnav

March 5, 2014

 John 14: 1 – 6

This afternoon we are going to listen in on a private seminar. We are going to be flies on the wall, as Jesus teaches his disciples. John has been telling his readers the story of the ministry of Jesus. Just 3 years which Jesus spent fulfilling the task that he had been sent to this world to carry out.

The four gospels are the biographies of Jesus. All of them contain different aspects of the story. Not all describe exactly the same incidents, and even the same events can be given a different slant by the writer.

John’s approach is in some ways a surprising one. Some of the gospels describe the healings and miracles of Jesus, coming thick and fast one after the other. What has struck me recently reading through John over several months is actually how little of the action he describes. Only a small number of miracles are recorded, admittedly some very spectacular ones, for example turning water to wine, healing a man born blind, raising a dead man to life. But what strikes me in John’s book is that he places a huge emphasis on what people had to say. There is an awful lot of talking going on.

Even when Jesus heals, what is surprising is how much time John gives to describing what people had to say about Jesus actions, whether it was praising him for healing a lame man, or condemning him for blasphemy in the things he said, or complaining about the way he healed people on the Sabbath. Most of the time John records how people were totally divided by Jesus words and actions, even when he had fed the equivalent of a football crowd with one boy’s packed lunch.

And what we have read this afternoon is part of a long section of conversation between Jesus and his closest followers. As his time among them is coming to an end, as he prepares for the violent death which he has been predicting all along, he has much to tell them. And no doubt much of what Jesus has to say to his disciple’s worries them.

How can they not be worried when their teacher and leader talks so openly about his death, when he is telling them plainly that they are going to have to carry on without him? Are they worried? Of course they are.

So as we have read. Jesus moves to encourage his friends. The fact is that Jesus has spoken of his death, but he has also told them of his resurrection. Death is not going to be the end for him, a point that the disciples struggled to take in. But even when that happens he is going away, so either way the disciples feel abandoned.

Jesus comforts them “Don’t let your hearts be troubled”. They could know a peace even in the dark events that were ahead of them, even in a day when Jesus would no longer be physically with them. And there was a key to knowing that peace. And that was faith. To believe in God. And to believe in Jesus his son.

Believing in Jesus the Son of God changes everything. It changes worry to peace, darkness to light, death to life, punishment to forgiveness. That is what the disciples need to hold on to. And that is what we need to hang on to also – faith in Jesus.

How does Jesus comfort his followers? In a number of ways, but in these particular verses he encourages them with a promise. A promise of a future home. Why was Jesus going away? Jesus tells them it is because he has work to do, a work in his father’s house.

To talk of God’s house doesn’t really do it justice. When we think of a house we might think of a two up two down or a semi-detached with a nice garden. But the Father’s house that Jesus describes is huge beyond our imagination.

Think of the largest hotel in the world – the Ismailovo hotel in Moscow has 7,500 rooms for example. And that doesn’t even come close. My Father’s house has many rooms And Jesus describes how he is going to prepare a place for his disciples – he is getting their rooms ready. That is what he does for all those who believe and follow him in this life.

Take a close look at the doors of the rooms. They don’t have numbers on. They have names. Reservations have been made. Jesus us coming back to take his followers to be with him there in the many rooms that he has made ready.

And that is something that Jesus promises to many many more. It’s a fantastic place, and as Jesus says “you know where it is”.

But then someone else speaks.

Perhaps you’ve been in a situation like this. In a class or a talk. You listen to what the speaker is saying and actually you don’t understand. There are two things you can do. You can just leave it, and stay confused, or you can raise a hand and ask for an explanation.

Thomas raised his hand. He didn’t understand.

Thomas is a disciple we read about a few times in John’s gospel. His name was Thomas Didymus but today he is better known as “Doubting Thomas”. Thomas gets a bad press. I think unfairly. Where he did have doubts I suspect I would have done had I been in his place. But actually Thomas was an honest and brave man. On one occasion John records how Thomas had said “Let’s follow Jesus, and die with him.” That maybe not the most optimistic thing he could have said, but you have to say if he really thought that – it took some courage. It took some devotion to Jesus if he thought his very life was at risk by following him.

And actually now all he does is voice a question. And frankly, knowing how these things work, his question was probably one that others had in their head. He was the one who had the nerve to ask.

We should never be afraid to ask questions. Maybe you have been coming here a while and you listen each week and you have questions but are afraid to ask. There are people who would be only too happy to help you find answers.

Or perhaps you’ve been following Jesus for many years and it bothers you that there are still many things you don’t understand. You can bottle that up or you can quietly ask the question. The church is a loving community where we should always feel we can discuss our doubts and fears.

What he is saying is “Lord, you say we know the way to where you are going, but I’m not really sure I know where you are going, so how can I know the way”.

It’s a good point. How can you set out on a journey, if to begin with you don’t know the destination? Most of us when we go on a journey know where we’re going. That’s essential information. And hopefully there is someone who knows the way, whether it is the bus driver or airline pilot.

Nowadays it is possible to get a small computer in your car or your mobile phone to tell you the way to your destination. But I tell you it only works if you type in your destination. You need to know where you’re going and then how to get there.

And Jesus’ reply is one of his most famous statements about himself. “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

Jesus underlines the destination is the Father’s house. To be with God. That is where he is going to take his followers.

But to get there does not involve memorising a map or feeding information into computer. The way Jesus talks about is not a road. The way is a person. And that person is Jesus.

This world will teach us that there are many ways to God. Jesus tells us there is only one. Jesus is the way. Faith in him. In his life death and resurrection. That is the way to the place he has for us.

He tells them too that he is the truth. There are so many lies in this world. There is so much we do not understand. There are people who tell lies and let us down. What is the truth? What can we really believe? Jesus tells us he is the truth. He is completely trustworthy.

And Jesus tells us that he is the life. At the beginning of his story of Jesus, John writes “in him was life”. If we want life as it was meant to be that is only found in Jesus. People will tell us all sorts of things we need to have a fulfilling life, but Jesus says “You should not look any further than me”.

Jesus is the life giver. Yes he had told his disciples that he was going to die. And so he did. But he did that for a reason. He did that not just for his disciples. But he did that for you and me. It was the whole purpose he came into the world. It was his rescue mission.

And when he rose from the dead he defeated death. He made life possible for all who believe in him. John said for those who believed “he gave the right to be called children of God”. What a relationship. And what a home.

So don’t let your hearts be troubled. Whether you worry because you have no idea what life is about, or whether you worry because even though you love Jesus you struggle with doubts or failures, you can trust in him. You can rely on his work for you. Your name can be on the door ready for your welcome. With that encouragement we can face all that this life brings.

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From → Christianity

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