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LSB Easter 5A Sermon – John 14:1-14

May 19, 2014

May 18, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“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 take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”

“I shall return…. I will come back for you…. I will find you…. I’ll be back….” Whether historical or fictional, from brave generals or heroic characters, those famous statements disclosed a promised return. A marker is laid down to be picked up by the person or people who have received this promise. They are to hold on to it, waiting for the time when the departing person will make his or her way back to them. That marker is to be a source of hope during the time that the person is away.

In the Upper Room on Holy Thursday, Jesus gives that marker to His disciples. For the next three Sundays, you will be hearing portions of what people call Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. John’s Gospel provides the words that Jesus spoke as He discussed His departure from His disciples. Jesus speaks them in the hours leading up to His betrayal, arrest, trial, condemnation, and death. In that long discourse, Jesus gives instructions to His disciples, a sort of last will and testament. But He does more; He makes promises to them.

That great promise is what you heard today. All the disclosures that Jesus made about being betrayed by one of the Twelve, about being denied by Peter, and about being put to death caused sorrow and angst among His disciples. Jesus acknowledges that: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” He notes the fear and anxiety that fell over His followers. But He also provides the hope that will overcome their troubled hearts. Only trust in who Jesus is and what He will accomplish for them can do this.

But Jesus does not exhort His disciples to a generic faith. No, He tells them what to believe in, what to hope for: “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 take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Everything that Jesus revealed would happen to Him in the next hours had to be viewed through the prism of that promise. Jesus’ promise discloses what these events will accomplish.

Jesus’ words take His disciples back to what He had already foretold. Holy Thursday was not the first time that Jesus’ followers had heard mention about their Lord being betrayed, handed over, tried, and condemned. No, Jesus had made that known several times during His time with the Twelve. In fact, He had made statements about these events at what seemed to be inappropriate times. For these passion predictions were spoken at times when Jesus’ glory seemed to be at great heights: in the aftermath of His transfiguration, after Peter’s great confession about His being the Christ, in the hours that followed the pomp and ceremony of the Palm Sunday procession.

But all this was done with a purpose. Jesus makes it very clear that His fate is the cross. He must die. That cannot be avoided. But this was not the failure of a movement or a martyrdom that crushes faith. No, these events are part of the agenda that Jesus must carry out in order to fulfill His great task of redemption. It is how He will make good the promises that His Father had spoken to His people. Not only had Jesus spoken of the death that He must undergo, He also revealed that resurrection would also be His fate.

That is the prism through which the events that followed that Last Supper had to be viewed: “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 take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Jesus was incorporating His followers into Himself, into the Temple of His Body that would be torn down and raised up again. Room was being prepared for them through His death and resurrection. That is how the disciples old and new would have a place in the new life that Jesus was bringing.

Jesus’ death and resurrection were not evidences of His failure; they were the signs that He had accomplished what He was sent to do. And the faith of all who would believe in Him is to be rooted in that. This is the point that Peter makes to the congregation of Christians: “For it stands in Scripture, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.’” Jesus’ identity as the Chosen One, the Messiah, the LORD’s Servant, is not denounced by His betrayal, arrest, condemnation, and death. No, it is confirmed. For that is what the LORD had set for Him to do. And Jesus calls His disciples to put their trust in that: “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” The works that Jesus performs fulfill what the Father had spoken through the prophets of old.

This same exhortation is made to you who have heard the testimony of Jesus. When hearing of the words and works of Jesus, you are confronted with the same announcements about His betrayal, arrest, condemnation, and death. They are foolish things in the eyes of the world. They seem like nothing of eternal significance, let alone divine power and authority. And yet, these are the acts by which Jesus prepares a place for you in His Father’s house.

Thomas Paine’s famous lines from The American Crisis described what those who were devoted to independence faced in late 1776: “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” The words would inspire people to once again take up their cause of establishing a nation. But times that truly try men’s souls are what Jesus is referring to in His statement: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” The disciples were troubled in the Upper Room. And you also know about having troubled hearts. You know about sorrow that comes at death. You know about anxiety that arises during sickness. You know the fear of relocation, of new workplaces, schools, and residences. You know guilt that drags like an anchor. You know about helplessness when events are out of your control. Yes, these are the things that try your souls.

But those are the times when Jesus has His words sound again in the hearing of His disciples old and new: “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 take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Jesus’ words drive you back to what had been foretold and has been fulfilled. You are called not to be a “summer disciples” or a “sunshine believer”. No, you are exhorted to be faithful unto death and receive a crown of life like Stephen. That is not given by trusting in yourself or in your own courage and strength. But it is when putting belief in the promise that Jesus has made and in the acts that He has performed to fulfill that promise.

That 1776 pamphlet also included the statement: “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” But the independence movement and its troubles pales in comparison to what Jesus has faced and overcome. Hell is not easily conquered: it required the death and resurrection of God’s Son. The conflict is hard, but the triumph that Jesus has won has a glory that will never be exceeded. But this is what transpired when “the stone that the builders rejected became the cornerstone.” Because this has been done, the exhortation goes out, especially in the times that try the souls of Jesus’ disciples: “Believe in God; believe also in Me.”

But the exhortation given to you is not for an empty faith. No, Jesus’ makes a promise to you. The death and resurrection that He predicted have occurred. The work of preparing a place in the Father’s house for you has been completed. You know the way where Jesus has gone; you will state it in the Creed in mere moments. His promise is that He will return and take you to Himself. So you have your hope set on what the acts that Jesus accomplished mean for you. You look forward to when Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, the time when the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come will be given to you. That is when your hearts are troubled no longer, when all that you ask of Jesus will be done. That’s the marker that Jesus leaves with you. It is the source of your hope.

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

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