A Place for You / John 14:1-14 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 7th 2023 / The Season Of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 7th 2023: Season of Easter / John 14:1-14, “A Place for You”
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. 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. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends today we will meditate on life work and death but not necessarily in that order, we will think about Jesus and His Father and us as part of that family of faith.
Saint Thomas and the other disciples were with Jesus that Thursday night before the day we call Good Friday, before the day Jesus was crucified, the night before Jesus’ death on the cross. The familiar Gospel reading we heard this morning from John chapter 14—is familiar because we often hear it at funerals—is part of Jesus' conversation with them on that Thursday Night. Jesus knows that in just a couple hours He will be arrested on false, trumped up, charges and that within 24 hours He'll be dead. He knows something that Saint Thomas and the rest of the disciples don't know. We know it, so for us the questions asked that night by the disciples fall into the category of dramatic irony. Knowing what is coming has some impact on us as we listen; Saint Thomas and Saint Philip and the rest of the disciples that night were living it in the moment, for us we are invited to apply the whole of it to our lives today.
The disciples had been with Jesus every day for three years and Jesus had never "gone away" from them for anything more than a couple hours, to pray, and He always returned. So when Jesus tells them, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. 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. And you know the way to where I am going,” it's only natural that Thomas should ask, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” He literally couldn’t understand what Jesus was driving at. ‘You are going away to the Father?’ How can we follow You to Him if we don't know the way? How can we follow You if we don’t know the way to where the Father is to be found?’ This is a reasonable line of questioning from Thomas and the disciples.
Saint John the disciple, one of the twelve disciples, wrote all of this down for you, so that you as a Christian can know the whole account of what happened. At the cross Jesus did "go away" when He died there nailed to that tree of His crucifixion, but three days later He rose from the dead and returned to them. One week later, after spending time with the other disciples, Jesus saw Saint Thomas in the flesh and pointing to the nail holes from His crucifixion and the wound in His side that He'd received in death at the point of a Roman spear, Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This we hear every year the Sunday after Easter.
So here we are five Sundays into the season of Easter and we seem to have backtracked into Holy Week again with this Gospel reading. Consider this, the meal that Jesus gave that night, the promises He made that night were not for that night only, nor were they for only a couple days until His Resurrection on that first Easter Sunday, no these promise are for all time, until The End of Time. This means they are not only for Thomas and Philip and the other disciples gathered there that night in that upper room, they are for you, you were not there that day in the flesh that day as they were, and yet you benefit from these words. You didn’t have the experiencing of hearing these promises from Jesus first hand and yet, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” In these words of promise Jesus promises to take us to Himself and to His heavenly Father. We are called to trust that it is as Jesus says that He is the Way and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. We also trust that we can now the Father through the Son. Many of you will have heard me teach how the Apostles Creed reveals the nature of God’s relationship within the Trinity: The Father sends the Son, the Son send the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit points us to Christ Jesus through the gift of the faith and Jesus who is always pointing us to the Father is Himself the Way to the Father. So we know the Father through the Son whom He sent, and we know the Son through the Holy Spirit whom the Son sent, and round and round it goes. This is just a beautiful thing: The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus points us to the Father, the Father sends us Jesus, Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit.
Always in the Trinity the shifting focus is off of Themselves onto the other to further reveal who They are in doing so. There is great humility there within the Trinity. This is the nature of Jesus’ answer to Saint Philip when Philip asks “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.”
40 days after Jesus' Resurrection, after spending time with the remaining disciples, after appearing to more than five hundred brothers at one time, after appearing to James, then to all the apostles, after all that Jesus went “away” again ascending into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. On that day, on the day of the Ascension—which we will celebrate on Thursday May 18th hosted at Grace Lutheran Church—just before He left, Jesus said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I Am with you always, to the end of the age.” The promise is that He is both with us always and that He will come again on The Last Day, this is what the angels that day say to the disciple, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” When That Day comes Jesus will come to take us to Himself not just in sprit not just in soul as He does when we die in this life but in the body physically, when our lowly bodies are transformed in the resurrection on That Day “to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” This is the Jesus that we believe in, the Jesus we confess to be faithful and true in the Creeds of the Church. From our baptism to this very moment, in the hour of our death and forevermore Jesus has been, is, and ever shall be with you.
Dear ones, when life makes that blurry, when grief and lose make this hard to understand, when we have moments of doubt because we are unable to see it, remember Jesus is with you not only in the best of times but in the worst of times also. He is with you in your lowest moments, when you are drowning in the troubles of your life and when you are mired in your sin, He is with you even in your moment of death, that moment the World dreads with the greatest fear. Remember too that Jesus is one who experienced death Himself, this is not a foreign experience to Him. Jesus drank the cup of death, He drank every last drop so that you will have life, so that you will have life in Him and have life to the full, so that you will have the cup of blessing together with Him and with all those who keep the faith, who partake in that cup with you as Christians in Christ Jesus. You with all the host of heaven who recognize the Body of Christ in the meal together in this same Jesus Christ across time and space all joined together in Him. That Thursday night before He went to His cross Jesus was working hard to teach them these things that their hearts would not be troubles, so that they would continue steadfast to believe in Him regardless of what they were about to experience in the hours and days to follow, regardless of whatever was thrown at them.
As Jesus went to the cross, He went there to prepare an eternal place for you, a place at the table, a place for all those who believe in Him and a place for all those who have departed this life to their eternal life in the Christian Faith, with their faith in Jesus. There in that place with the wooden beams, with the nails Jesus renovated your life, took away your sin, and secured a room for you in Heaven, a place for you in His heart until The Last Day and our resurrection from the dead. This is Jesus' labour of love for you, His heavy labour, His hard work, that you would find rest in Him. Jesus likewise makes this invitation to you when He says, "Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Rest for your body, "rest for your souls."
So thinking about work, I’m going to ask you have you worked on the farm? I know some of you have. Have you worked on other peoples farms? I just heard yesterday about someone who is joyfully going to work really hard on a farm because they love it so much it’s their favourite place in the world! Maybe you worked in a mill or driving a school bus, or in a bank or with wrenches and winches, with engines and machines. Perhaps you pushed papers and crunched numbers, made deliveries, stocked shelves, operated a cash register, ran intravenous lines into arms. Have you worked around the yard, worked around the house? We all labour away at various things in our life and we pray that our labours are welcome, and well received, and for today, and every day, and for our last hours and last day in this life we pray that we find our rest from all of our labours in Jesus, just as He promises us, trusting that His labour at the cross bring us rest from ours.
As Christians we look forward to that rest, we look forward to the happy reunion that takes place when we are gathered together in Christ Jesus, and at the communion rail we have a little foretaste of the feast which is to come which will be served at that happy reunion in the new Heavens and the New Earth. You can think of it like this; we are like young ones at the children’s table we await the day when we will all sit at the same table in paradise, with those we love and miss and with those we have yet to meet in person, all our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. For ourselves we do not know the day or the hour that the Father will call us home, we don’t know when Jesus will come and take us to Himself but, by the grace of God, we can know and trust what the promise we hear in this Gospel reading today means. And while the hour of our departure may be unexpected for us, that doesn't mean that we need live our life unprepared for it. Trust in Jesus and you need not live the rest of your life unprepared, Trust in Jesus and you will not only have Jesus but you will have the Father also, Trust in Jesus and you will have the Way and the Truth and the Life, you will have the Way to the Father. This means today you are free to work hard as you are able, free to labour hard for those you love, even if it is to labour for them in prayer and kindness and love, you are free to labour for everyone around you, even for people you don't love and who don’t love you, and when you are exhausted from all that you have done in Service to God and your neighbour find your rest in Jesus, who is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” remembering always that Jesus promises to be with you, to prepare a place for you, which He has done. In Christ you are not alone. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 John 20:27-29
 1 Corinthians 15:6-7
 Matthew 28:18-20
 Acts 1:11
 Philippians 3:21
 John 10:10
 Matthew 11:28
 Matthew 11:29
Photo Credits: main photo detail of the James Tissot (French, 1836-1902) painting "The Last Sermon of Our Lord (Dernier Sermon de Notre-Seigneur)," 1886-1894 from the brooklynmuseum.