John 14:1-14 / 5 Easter A / 22 May 2011 / Holy Trinity – Hacienda Heights, CA
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1
Well, you’re here this morning, seeming to have survived the May 21st rapture madness. In case you hadn’t heard, Jesus was supposed to have come secretly to whisk off his believers yesterday, at least according to Harold Camping who was wrong about this in 1994 and was wrong again yesterday, leaving his followers looking like Linus in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin. In the OT false prophets were stoned to death, so they didn’t get a second chance to fleece the sheep. In our day, we just have to put up with it and try to convince our friends and neighbors that we are not like those crazy people who believe that the world is going to end and Jesus is going to come again.
The problem is that we actually do believe that the world is going to end and that Jesus will actually appear again in glory at at day and an hour no man knows and no man can know, to raise the dead and to give His believers eternal life. And we believe that not because someone found some hidden meaning in the Bible or worked out some crazy numerical scheme as if the Scriptures required some secret decoder ring to get at the true meaning. We believe in a last day and we believe that Jesus will appear again because He said so. He’s the one who also said He would die and on the third day rise again, which He did, which is why we believe that He will appear again in glory on the Last Day, on a day and at an hour no one can know.
I don’t know how the Scriptures could have been any clearer. There is an end to all things, and at that end there is a “parousia,” a coming of our Lord. We confess it in the creed, that He comes “to judge the living and the dead.” And since we don’t know the day or the hour, the only thing we can do is trust Jesus and go about our vocations right up to the very end. I know that kind of thinking is not going to sell a lot of books or make the headlines, but how would you like to be one of Harold Camping’s deceived followers this morning? Some left everything to follow a fraud, a deceiver, a false prophet, though as I understand it, some of the people that worked at his radio station didn’t buy a word of it and planned to be at work on Monday. I wonder if Camping will show up. He hasn’t been heard from since May 21 passed without much more than an Icelandic volcano popping it cork and a little rumbling here and there. He’s got a lot of explaining to do.
Our Gospel reading this morning ties into that sort of thing, coincidentally, (and it is a coincidence). Jesus is in the upper room on the night He was betrayed. He is at table with them, celebrating the Passover. This is the table where He institutes the sacrament of His body and blood and gives His disciples a share in His sacrifice even before it happens. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the supper. John records the sermon and the prayer that went along with it.
Jesus speaks of His imminent departure. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus speaks of HIs going away and His return. In John, almost everything means at least two things. This is no exception. Jesus is about to “go away,” that is depart into death, being lifted up on the cross as the one atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world, that like the serpent was lifted up on the wilderness by Moses, so Jesus would be lifted up in death so that all who look to Him in faith would live.
And He would “come again,” return to them three days later, bodily risen from the dead, that they would know with all certainty that He had conquered sin, death, and the power of the Law to condemn. They would see Him, hear Him, touch Him, eat with Him and know beyond all doubt that truly He was risen from the dead. And so for a little while, a short three days, they would not see Him; and then in a little while, they would see Him again, risen from the dead.
But there’s more. In John, there’s always more. Jesus would also depart in the sense that He would be elevated to the right hand of majesty, enthroned over all things at the Father’s right hand, and in that state of exaltation, no eye of sinful man may look on Him and live. So He would hide Himself, be enveloped by the cloud, and withdraw His visible presence from His disciples so that they would have to listen rather than look. And He would come again, return visibly on the Last Day to raise the dead and gather His believers to Himself.
Thomas, typically, is skeptical of the whole thing. “We don’t know where you are going, Lord, so how can we know the way.” Until Jesus dies and rises, none of the disciples get it. Thomas included. He’s thinking in terms of a trip, like going to Ft. Lauderdale or Bakersfield. But heaven is not a place and a GPS is not going to guide you there. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” Jesus says to Thomas.
Jesus is the Way, the only Way, and there is no other Way to the Father except through the Son. You can claim “God” up and down, and even call Him “Father” if you wish, but no one comes to the Father except through the Son. The way to life is narrow – one man, one death, one resurrection, one Baptism.
Jesus is not one way among many ways, one truth among many truths, or one life among many lives. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And there is no other. So put to rest this notion right now that there are many paths to God or many names of God or many gods. The only Way to the Father is the Son whom He sent. The only Truth about God is Jesus. The only Life that extends to eternal life is Jesus.
He doesn’t show the way, as though the way to the Father was to do certain things, to imitate what Jesus would do. Moses showed the way; Jesus is the Way. He doesn’t simply speak the truth; He is the Truth. He doesn’t simply give life, He is the Life.
Philip chimes in. “Lord, show us the Father, and we’ll be satisfied.” So much like us, those disciples. Slow to believe, focused on all the wrong things, seeking proof when you already have Jesus right there in front of you. Show us the Father. You say you’re going to bring us to the Father, well, show us. And yet that would contradict what Jesus had just said. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” You’re not permitted to see the Father. You’re sinful. You cannot look on God in His unattenuated glory and live. You must be shielded by the Son, covered with His righteousness, washed in His blood, justified by His word.
You can’t deal with the Father directly. Yes, you can pray Abba, Father and say Our Father but only through the Son. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It’s somewhat misleading to say simply “God accepts you as you are.” That’s true, but it’s only true in His Son. He accepts His Son Jesus just as He is, and He accepts you as you are in Jesus, joined to Him in baptism, trusting in Him in not in yourselves. So it’s better and more accurate to say that the Father accepts you just as you are in His Son Jesus.
To deal with the Son is to deal with the Father. You don’t get one without the other. And the Holy Spirit too. (He comes in the next verse.) The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. Jesus’ words come from the Father. Jesus’ works are the Father’s works. That’s what are the miracles were about, to show the Father’s work in the Son so that you might believe, that is, trust Jesus and trusting Him would have life in Him.
Jesus goes on to say to them that they will do even greater works than He has done. He’s going to the Father by way of His own death and resurrection. He will send the Spirit upon His church, that gathered in His name greater works than all the miracles Jesus ever performed would be done. Sinners would be justified in His Name and stand before God’s judgment acquitted. Men and women from every tribe and nation and language would be baptized, washed in the rebirthing and renewing bath of water and Word and become new creations in Christ. God would, through the words and works of men, gather to Himself a holy nation, a chosen people, a royal and holy priesthood to declare the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.
That’s the work and message of Church, to proclaim Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness, life, and salvation of the world. Not to prognosticate the day and the hour of the Last Day. Not to tell people that believers will be “raptured” from this world and spared the sufferings of the end times. Not to set people’s sights on some millennial kingdom on earth when Jesus says His kingdom is not of this earth. But to set before the eyes of the world Jesus Christ and Him crucified, bearing the sin of the world as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And if you don’t hear that plainly and clearly, then turn the other way and run from it. It’s not Christian no matter how many Bible verses are quoted. Remember the temptation of our Lord. The devil loves to quote Scripture.
“What ever you ask in my name,” Jesus says, “this I will do.” “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” No, not that way. Not the way the prosperity, name it and claim it preachers preach it. God is not some permissive parent in heaven who gives his bratty children everything they want no matter how destructive it might be to them. Finish the verse. “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Those are the prayers that come with this guarantee. What brings glory to the Father in the Son.
And what glorifies the Father in the Son? In John, especially, it’s when Jesus is lifted up high on a cross and dies. That’s His hour of power, His moment of glory when the Father is glorified in Him. And that is your moment of glory too, when you died with Christ in His death, and through Baptism were buried with Him, and by the working of the Holy Spirit were raised with Him and seated with Him already now in the heavenlies. You don’t need to be raptured! You’re already glorified in Christ! And on the Last Day, Jesus will raise you so you can see it for yourselves.
Until then, let not your hearts be troubled, by your sin, by your death, by the devil, by false preachers, by anything in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in Jesus His Son and your Savior. Trust HIm for your forgiveness, your life, your salvation. He is faithful. He will do it.
In the name of Jesus,