Going Home and Coming Back

John 13:31-14:6

This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the sermon for November 15. I am only hitting the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.

In our study of the Discourses of Jesus in the Gospel of John, we have come to Jesus instructing His disciples, in the “upper room.” Our passage is John 13:31-14:6.

Jesus has just dismissed Judas Iscariot from the room (13:26) and now He is with His most loyal disciples. He begins to tell them about His impending death. Keep in mind this is a couple of hours before His arrest.

In 13:31, He explains to His disciples that this is a time of “glorification,” not a time of defeat. Jesus is concerned with the feelings of His disciples regarding His coming demise, but He Himself is not depressed. It is as though He is stepping into the arena for a Superbowl and anticipating a reward after the struggle. Nevertheless He is concerned for the emotional welfare of His disciples over the next few days.

In verse 33, He says that He will be with them only a little longer. That they will look for Him and He won’t be there. Where He is going, they cannot come, but will come to Him in the future. He is speaking of entering death.

As He prepares for this horrendous event, He gives a last charge to His disciples. He says, “A new commandment I give you….” (13:34) The disciples all knew about the 10 commandments which had been given 1400 years before. Now Jesus is talking about a new commandment. What is this new commandment? The new commandment is, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He uses the word “agape.” Which is a self-sacrificing love, the good of the other person over my good. The way you will know Christ’s true disciples is how they show love to others. Christianity is known for its almsgiving to the poor, its establishment of orphanages, hospitals and poor houses, its favoring of education for all, and ways of helping people help themselves. This is unique from all other religions of the world. That mandate to help other people is elevated by Jesus in the Upper Room to be as important as keeping the 10 commandments. Holiness in deed is as important as holiness in personal life and thought.

Peter immediately asks (13:36) where Jesus is going and Jesus replies, “Where I am going you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Jesus is trying to tell them of His death. All Christ’s disciples will eventually follow Jesus in death, but it is also true that had not Jesus died for our sins, our death would be very different. Impetuous Peter, once again, interrupts Jesus and promises that he will be with Jesus to the point of laying down his own life. Jesus then tells him that someday he will lay down his life for Christ. However, before the rooster would crow the next morning, Peter would deny Him three times (13:37-38).

Jesus then continues to prepare His disciples for the fact that He is laying down His life for them. He begins by saying, “Do you let your heart be troubled” (14:1). Now He says something very important. “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” How often in our study of the book of John have we seen this word “Believe.” He tells Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the crowds, Jairus (whose daughter had died), and even the Pharisees and Sadducees that they must believe in Him. Now He is telling the disciples exactly the same thing. They have already believed that Jesus is, indeed, the Messiah (Christ).

Now He is calling on them to continue that belief in hard times. There is an aspect of belief where we come to know who Jesus is and accept Him as our Savior. In this Gospel, John uses the word “receive” to refer to the point in time when someone believes (for example, John 1:12). However, there is an aspect of continuing to believe in Christ especially in hard times. The hardest times for the disciples would be this very evening and the next day when they would witness Christ’s arrest and see His execution. Jesus calls on them to keep on believing.

We need to do the same in our lives regardless of the COVID-19 virus, the changing political situation, the unrest in the nation, and the turbulence on the international scene.

Belief must have a promise with it. We do not simply believe things MIGHT get better, or believe despite all the bad stuff happening. Jesus now promises His disciples (and if you are a believer, He is promising this to you also) that we will dwell with Him after we have passed through death. “In my Father’s house are many rooms.”

A word about “rooms” is important here. Many of us grew up with the old King James Version and it read, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” We think today of a mansion as a very large house with 2-story pillars where the very wealthy lived in antebellum America. When the King James was translated, the word “mansion” meant a suite or a wing inside a palace where residents of the palace lived, or a small cottage on a large estate where high ranking servants lived. For sake of accuracy, God has promised us a dwelling place in His heavenly abode.

This word “dwelling places/mansions” appears in the NT only in John 14. At the time Jesus lived, it referred to “living quarters” for people of importance in a larger palace or courtyard, students studying away from home, ambassadors and traveling agents carrying on business for a king or nobleman, or military officers needing adequate privet quarters. It does not mean simply a sleeping area or a motel room. But it also does not mean a huge palace of your own. When we get to heaven, we will see what this entails. It will be great. And it will be glorious. However, it may not be a multi-room mansion on a grand estate.

Jesus has promised that He is going ahead of us to, “…prepare a place for you.” “You” would imply that He is preparing a place for each and every one of His disciples. And if we believe in Him, we are His disciples. Belief is far more than merely than trying to convince ourselves that things are or will be okay. It includes bonafide promises of God that we will have a place with Him.

In verse 14:5, Thomas asks, “How do we know the way to this ‘place’?” Jesus’ reply is, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me” (14:6). The way to this kingdom is through Jesus Christ. How do we take this way? We believe in Jesus Christ. He is the truth. While we do not know everything, what we do know is true. He is preparing a place for us.

Lastly He is life. We need not fear anything, including death, if we are trusting in Him.

CH Jim Odell