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Easter 5A Sermon — John 14:1-14 (LSB Easter 5A)

May 22, 2011

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May 22, 2011 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA


[Jesus said:] “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.”


For the next several Sundays, the Church will be hearing Jesus’ words spoken on Holy Thursday during His Passover Meal with the Twelve. In His discourse, Jesus speaks about Himself, about His relationship to the Father, about His work, and about promises that His followers will have fulfilled for them. All of this leads up to the events of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is given to Jesus’ apostles, so that they can perform the duties of their commission.


This morning, you heard Jesus speak to His disciples about going away from them and returning: “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Jesus’ departure from His disciples was imminent. It happened just hours later, as the Temple guards and Sanhedrin leaders arrested Jesus, hauling Him away for trials before the High Priest and the Roman governor. Jesus was going away. But He was leaving with a particular objective: to “go and prepare a place for you.”


Through His departure, going away to die, Jesus fulfills the purpose for which His Father had sent Him. His leaving was to accomplish what His Father had assigned Him to do. In John’s Gospel, many of Jesus’ words include references to His divinely-given mission. Words to that effect are found in the Gospel Reading for today. Speaking about Himself, Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the One who grants access to the Father. Through His going away, the disciples have a place in the Father’s household. Jesus can make the promise of preparing places in the Father’s house because He has divine sanction: “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.” What Jesus accomplishes through His going away is the Father’s work to bring salvation.


The unity that Jesus has with the Father is important to note. Because it is so, the descriptions of the Lord in the Scriptures apply to Him. In the psalm that you prayed this morning, those descriptions read: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.” That description includes statements made about what the Lord does. That is what Jesus is speaking of when He says: “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.”


The unity that Jesus has with the Father allows Him to make the great statement of promise that He gave to the disciples: “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.” The disciples in the Upper Room had troubled hearts and souls. They were shocked by the prediction of Jesus’ betrayal by one of their own. Peter was told that he would deny Jesus. Their Master had said He was going away, and they could not come with Him at that moment. But through these events, Jesus earns for them a place in the Father’s household. This is the outcome of the work that the Father’s will desired to be done for the Twelve and for sinful humanity.


Jesus’ relationship to the Father and His fulfillment of the Father’s will is what gives you hope, even in the midst of all that troubles your hearts. Like the disciples in the Upper Room, you await what Jesus accomplished for you. He has gone away, but has promised to return. He has said that you will be with Him wherever He is. He has told you that you know the way. But what is that way? It is the path that travels to suffering and dying with Jesus. It is the way that takes you to the grave, to death. That is the way Jesus traveled. It is the way that His disciples followed. It is the way that led Stephen to martyrdom.


But if death is the final destination, even if it be the death of Jesus, then that is of no comfort for you. That would be like what the psalmist described: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” Only because the Father has done His work through Jesus, including the raising of Him from death, can you have hope. Jesus is no ordinary man, but is the Lord—the “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever”—in the flesh. What He says is true: “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.” Those works include raising Jesus to life.


The way that Jesus went included His rejection and betrayal, suffering and dying. But this is what the Lord had prophesied: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” and “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The way that Jesus went also included His resurrection and exaltation. That is what gives you hope. So then, Jesus words are comforting: “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.”


So then your hearts have something to cling onto in the midst of troubling that comes as you wait for Jesus’ arrival. The events that happen in this world bring plenty of troubling. There is the sorrow felt when beholding the disasters that sin has brought into creation. Righteous anger and frustration because of the futility of sinful mankind abounds. There is contrition for the evil works that you have wrought. Guilt and remorse linger in hearts and souls. Questions arise concerning the ability to walk in the way that Jesus laid out. And there is the mind-haunting doubt over whether all this is true. All of this troubles the hearts of Jesus’ followers here on earth. That is why the words of Jesus come to you: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.”


But the words of Jesus are not a mantra. His words are not meant to distract hearts, minds, and souls away from thinking about what troubles them. Rather, they are to put forward what can be trusted, believed, and hoped for—the answers to what causes the troubling. Jesus says: “Believe in God; believe also in Me.” And what He means is: “Believe in who I am. Believe in what I have done for you. Believe that I have died, yet I live again. Believe that My sacrifice has atoned for all your sins and overcome all your faults. Believe that I have conquered what can truly harm you. Believe that I hold the keys to Death and Hades, chaining them so that they can no longer enslave you. Believe that I have prepared a place for you in the Father’s household and that I will return and take you to Myself.”


Jesus’ words are spoken with His divine commission and the acts that He performed undergirding them. That is why He says: “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.” Trust in the authority that Jesus bears. Trust in the works that He has done, including His dying and rising again. For that is what gives you access to the Father and has opened a place for you in the Father’s household.


As you wait for Jesus’ return, you can also believe those whom He has commissioned. For they also speak, but not on their own authority. Rather, they carry the authority of the Father given through the Son who has died, risen, and ascended and delivered by the Holy Spirit. So when they baptize you, you were crucified and raised with Jesus. When they proclaim the works of Jesus, you believe what has been done to save you. When they absolve you, your guilt is removed. When they present the Body and Blood of Jesus to you, you eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. These are the way that Jesus brings you His comfort for your troubled hearts.


So then, you look forward with faith to what awaits you. You believe that Jesus is in the Father and that the Father is in Him. You trust that the Father’s will for your salvation has been fulfilled, seeing it in the works of grace and compassion that Jesus has done for you. You rely not on yourselves, but on the Lord who made heaven and earth, who keeps faith forever, who acted for you. And you hope in what it all means for you, as Jesus has revealed: “In My Father’s house are many rooms. . . . 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.”


T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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