Trusting in Jesus
John 14 : 1 – 14
St John's Gospel allows us insights into Jesus' self-understanding. Chapters 14, 15, 16 and 17 record His own teaching of his disciples in his last days on earth. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms”. What does this mean? Jesus had just concluded the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot had left to betray him. Peter had professed everlasting loyalty and Jesus had just prophesied Peter's denial. It must have been a sombre and troubled atmosphere. Soon the disciples' world was going to fall down about them. Their leader would be crucified. This would be their darkest hour. Probably everyone here has known such a time. Your own loss or bereavement, an unwanted diagnosis of illness, personal heartbreak in family life, disappointment, failure and misfortune. Jesus tells his disciples to keep trusting in God and also to keep trusting in him. The King James version then says 'in my Father's house are many mansions'. This suggests somewhere like Murieston in Livingston or Marjoribanks Street in Bathgate – more probably Morningside in Edinburgh and Pollockshields in Glasgow. Newer translations suggest 'in my father's house are many rooms' – meaning – grand rooms, large rooms, reception rooms rather than sitting rooms or TV rooms. According to one estimate, the Holy City of Jerusalem described in the Book of Revelation is to be 1500 miles long and 1500 miles wide. That is roughly from Edinburgh to Rome north and south and east and west. A big place then.
Some scholars think that this idea of many rooms means different stages of heaven. Judaism held the belief that there will be different stages of blessedness dependent on how good a life we have lived. Greek thinkers thought of heaven as a way of progression and advancement not a static state. Even Paul talked about being caught up into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2). We used to hear the phrase 'the seventh heaven' quite a lot but not very much any more. It is sourced in Hinduism, Judaism and Islam but not in Christianity. It is also apparently the name of Scotland's premier lap dancing club. Some early Christian scholars thought that some would be worthy of spending eternity in the very presence of God while others would be at a greater distance while still being saved into eternal life. This would depend on levels of Christian goodness and holiness. In Roman Catholicism of course as you know, there are prayers for those who have left this life. Masses are said for the repose of souls. Piety is offered for the transfer of someone from limbo or purgatory into heaven at some future time. Protestant Christian is more brutal, black and white, saved or not saved. What 'many rooms' means is that God's love is expansive and wide, inclusive and not restricted by space or any human concept of deserving. What Jesus is saying is 'there's a place for you' if you believe in, love, follow and serve Jesus Christ.
'I am the way, the truth and the life' is one of Jesus' greatest sayings. What does it mean? The Old Testament has many references to walking in the way of God. 'You shall walk in the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you' says Deuteronomy 5:32,33. 'This is the way, walk in it' says Isaiah 30:21. 'Teach me thy way, O Lord' says Psalm 27:11. If you are lost and ask for directions, someone may tell you to turn back, take a left turn, second on the right, round the roundabout, first left and third right and say 'Cheerio'. You might get there, most probably you will not. If you are lost Jesus takes you to where you need to be in person. Jesus is the way of salvation, Himself. The idea of 'truth' is also in the history of Judaism. 'I have chosen the way of truth' says Psalm 119:30. People claim to speak the truth. People swear to tell the truth in courts of law but then many of them tell lies. We may think of people we know as being honest and decent and straightforward but we do not claim for them or for ourselves that we embody truth. Jesus did embody truth and he said that he did. Jesus talked the talk and walked the walk. He was the incarnation of the truth that God is love, that God loves you and me. He was the incarnation of the truth that there is eternal life after this human life is over. He rose from the dead to prove this truth. 'I am the life' again has roots in the faith of the Jews. 'Whoever heeds instructions is on the path to life' says Proverbs 10:17. 'You show me the path of life' says Psalm 16:11. Life here is meant the life abundant lived in the friendship and fellowship of the Living God. It is a better life, a good life, a life with purpose and direction. It is the opposite of the dead end life, the life that leads to self-harm and self destruction, to drugs and drunkenness, to zero self-esteem and to personal failure. Jesus gives his own life to us to save and rescue us from living bad, reckless and futile lives all our days. It does not need to be so. There is a Saviour, Christ the Lord.
All this was not good enough for Jesus' disciple Philip. He was not convinced. He asked to see God. That would take his doubts away. 'Show us the Father' he said. Jesus replied 'If you have seen me you have seen the Father'. This was an astonishing claim to make. But it was consistent with what we know of Jesus' birth, and of his resurrection. It was consistent with his ministry of healing and nature miracles. Jesus was God scaled down to human size for our understanding. That is what Jesus meant. All that you can understand about God as a human being is seen in Jesus. It is not a scientific proposition. It is a personal relationship of love and grace.
Jesus asked Philip to think about what Jesus had taught him and how it had affected him and he asked him to think about the miracles he had performed as evidence of his being no ordinary man. He then went on to say that if we have have faith in Jesus we can do even greater things than he did. Has this been proved true? Jesus could only live and work in Palestine in that short period of time nearly 2000 years ago. But what he was saying was that anyone anywhere on earth for all time thereafter could benefit from knowing Him in his risen and ascended state, returning to the Father. And so great things have been accomplished in the name of Jesus for all these near twenty centuries, people have found salvation, people have found the love of God, people have lived in peace and brought peace to others. Churches, schools and hospitals have been built all over the world. Anyone can get in touch with the risen Jesus and if they decide to follow him, they can do great things for themselves and others.
This passage of Scripture closes with a saying which Christians have found difficult to understand. 'You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it'. Lots of people have prayed this prayer but the answer they wanted did not come. Unanswered prayer is one of the most damaging issues in Christianity. Now at a basic level I am sure that you will understand that if you pray for your football team to win a match or the league, Jesus may not necessarily help to make that happen. You may ask Jesus to help you win the lottery and he may not do that either. But you may sincerely ask for help for a member of your family and it may never happen. You may ask for healing for someone who is ill and it may just not come. Jesus was talking to Philip. He like the other disciples became a first generation apostle. They were filled powerfully with the Holy Spirit and could heal the sick in Jesus' name with a word or touch. Over the years, the Christian Church settled down to a routine of worship and service and family life in local communities. Expectations became less and reliance on the overall goodness of God's love and care and providence strengthened even when some prayers were not answered as wanted. That's where we are today. We generally speaking don't pray enough, we are not committed enough and our faith is not strong enough to see miracles that we read about in the New Testament. But they do still happen, Indeed they happen all over the world. You don't hear about them. They don't make the TV evening news. When Jesus healed people he usually did it quietly and without fuss and he asked people not to talk about it. Even here over the years, from time to time, we have seen a few healing miracles. It does still happen. Jesus' words are true even for us with our half-hearted Christianity.
We have seen a miracle today in Jesus' love for these children expressed visibly in the water of baptism. He is near to us and we are dear to Him. We can and we should and we must trust in Jesus always. He will never let us down. He will always be there for us. We can know him and receive him in our hearts and live in his friendship all our days.