In the last few chapters of John, the disciples have become increasingly confused by the turn of events. They were expecting thrones, glory and a victorious kingdom to suddenly appear. They have given up everything and thought that they would gain it all back in Christ. Instead, it now seems that Jesus is leaving them.
The more they try and keep up with His plan the more they get lost in the mystery.
And the more helpless they become, the more they fumble the ball trying to figure it out.
On this side of the cross, we have never faced the prospect of losing Jesus, being left as orphans. This burden is peculiar to the disciples since they had known Jesus in the flesh.
Peters’going to deny Him, someone is going to betray Him and now, as earlier, He is announcing His departure from them. So, at this point, Jesus sets aside any anxiety for His own trial, crucifixion, betrayal and the desertion of friends and turns to comfort His disciples.
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)
In John 14, Jesus comforts the disciples in three ways.
- By telling them that His going away is not permanent.
- By telling them He is going to return in the Person of the Spirit.
- By assuring them that the Spirit will keep them on track.
Jesus says He is leaving so He can prepare a place for them.
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? (John 14:2)
What does Jesus mean here? Many take it to mean that He is going to get Heaven ready to receive them. But, given the context, I am not convinced.
First, it seems hard to believe that this would be of any comfort. This interpretation would mean that Jesus is saying, “I’m going away now, but don’t worry, we’ll catch up and get back together again when you’re dead.”
Second, Jesus doesn’t say He will take them to heaven. He says He will return to take them to Himself.
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. (John 14:3)
What Jesus is promising here is not the comfort that will one day come when we die but the comfort that will come from an unbreakable bond made possible by His ascending and the Spirits’ descending in the very near future.
The issue here is not so much location: Heaven or earth, but the disciples unbreakable union with Christ.
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When Jesus says to Thomas, “I am the way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6), He is saying more than that He will show us the way, the truth and the life.
Jesus’ character is equal to His person. He doesn’t just show the way: He is way. He is the path, not just the tour guide. He doesn’t just preach the truth, He is the truth. He doesn’t just offer life: He is the Life.
And as they, and we, journey through this life, it is the Spirit who is going to keep our hearts at peace and maintain our faith in Jesus.
This last point is important.
Jesus says that He is telling them these things now in order to comfort them so that when these things happen, they will believe (John 14:29). This only makes sense if the events described are going to happen during their lifetime.
If the comfort is that they go to heaven when they die, then this last verse (John 14:28-29) doesn’t make sense. It makes Jesus out to say that they will believe all of this once their dead, which is a bit late really, and again, not much comfort.
But this is a great comfort.
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)
Though His disciples don’t fully understand the inner workings of God’s plan, Jesus is calling us to trust Him, even if we can’t fully see the way we are going.
We have to come to grips with the fact we do not have the map. Jesus does.
But what they do have are His commandments.
And so the evidence of our faith and our love will be keeping His commandments. And we will have His Spirit abiding in us. For our comfort, and for our joy.