Living for Eternity
Everything in One Basket
Turn to John 14. Our passage this morning is a well-known passage, one that you may have heard a number of times at a funeral.
“‘Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going. How do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.’”
John 14:1-6 (LSB)
Let’s pray. Lord as we come to your Word again this morning. We continue to be so amazed at the truth that You are revealing to us through the Gospel of John. Lord, You are our only hope. For there is no one else but You. Without You we are eternally condemned. But with Christ, we become children of God. Lord, and this we believe. So guide us this morning as we humbly come before Your truth again, amen.
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”
John 14:1 (LSB)
Simply, three commands:
#1 – Do not let your heart be troubled
The word translated as “troubled” is the Greek word tarassō means inward commotion, to churn over. Those times in your life when you may hear news that does not only enter your heart and cause sadness, but remains there. A tightness that does not go away. Now time can help. As sometimes we might hear of something or have to confront something that causes our hearts to churn within us, but over time it goes away. It may be something that we have to do but we find out about it suddenly. But after getting chance to think about it, or get some sleep we are able to pull up our socks and do what needs to be done. But then there are other things that do not go away and they may keep us awake, especially something that we cannot do much about. The next 2 commands:
#2 – Believe in God and #3 – Believe in Christ
We spoke about this the other week. That a belief in God the Father demands that we also believe in Christ. That the two cannot be separated by the fact that the Father has this character and the Son has that character. Yes, they are distinct as they are two different Persons, but they are not distinct in will or character. Yet some separate them deliberately while others separate them unintentionally. That God of the Old Testament, the Father, is a God of judgment. And the God of the New Testament, Christ, is a God of mercy and love. This is a misunderstanding of God. True, Jesus’ mission when He came was to save, but He will also come as judge someday. I want to look at two distinct statements about God in the Bible. Revelation 19 says:
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sits on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; having a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself, and being clothed with a garment dipped in blood, His name is also called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron.”
Rev 19:11-15a (LSB)
This is a reference to Jesus Christ. And then a passage in Nehemiah:
“But You are a God of lavish forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.”
Neh 9:17b (LSB)
This is a reference to God the Father. So, we need to understand that the character of God the Father, and the character of God the Son is the same. So, Jesus has said to not let your heart be troubled. And now He is going to tell us why.
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”
John 14:2 (LSB)
See, the reason that we are able to live without anxiety is because Christ makes clear to us the truth, as He wants to make sure we have heard and listened to what He has said. If it were not so, I would have told you. In reality, it would be hard to deny Jesus Christ as a person who lived. History proves the existence of Christ, believing that Christ lived is not a great step of faith. Virtually all historians agree that a Jewish man called Jesus of Nazareth existed. That he lived in Palestine in the 1st century, and it was upon His teachings that Christianity was founded. Secular records speak about Jesus being baptized and being crucified. These facts are well-known to both the Christian and to the non-Christian world. There are even secular records about the preaching of His resurrection, though secular history would not claim that Jesus rose from the dead, they certainly admit that many claimed that He did.
I remember as a young guy at the age of 10 watching on TV the Apollo 11 mission to the moon when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. “A small step for mankind.” I also remember a year earlier when Apollo 8 went around the moon and sent back pictures of the moon and pictures of the earth. So, you have this human view of the moon and this human view of the earth. The reality of that is clear. When listening to the news report of the Apollo 8 mission, the three astronauts could see what they saw. They saw the moon as they viewed it. And they saw the earth as it sat in space exactly as the book of Job tells us:
“He stretches out the north over what is formless And hangs the earth on nothing.”
Job 26:7 (LSB)
And they saw our earth as they traveled back to the earth on Christmas Eve 1968. Yet when these men saw such creation, a deeper truth came upon them, as they marveled at the creation of God and made their famous radio statement. As Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman began to read from Genesis 1, they read the creation story, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And they went through each day of creation, reading that what God created, that it was good. And ended with this statement, “From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you.” And I do not even know if any of these men were Christians, though many say Lovell was, but they saw a reality of the moon and the earth while traveling in space, but they also communicated to those listening of what God had said. And I say all this to stress the fact that Jesus came to the earth. And you would have to have your brain turned off to say He did not, whether you are a Christian or not, as it is undeniable. But here is where we must decide to go further. Are we going to believe in the works of Jesus? Though even secular history would say that people claimed He did miraculous things, secular history would not say that He did them, but only that many believed that He did. And you know you could even believe that Jesus did the miraculous and it would not make a lot of difference. For people in Jesus’ day some believed in His miracles but still did not believe in who He was. For there will be those in the end who will do miraculous things that will deceive people and have no love for Christ.
But there are two things that Jesus makes clear in His teaching that do make the difference between those who are truly His disciples and those who are not. One, that He did rise from the dead, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” If we believe this, the passage goes on to promise that He will come back for us. But the second thing is even greater and relates to our passage, for it includes all this, His existence, His works, even His resurrection. And that is this, believing in what Jesus has said. In other words, you have seen all the evidence, but do you believe (vs 2) what I have told you? See, just as the astronauts saw much of the evidence of creation, as they looked at the moon and the earth. But it moved them further, to read the truth of God’s creation. They saw it, but they also believed that God created it as they read His words. So, the question really becomes, is what Jesus has said true? In other words, do you believe He is the Creator? the Saviour? everything that Jesus claims to be? and everything He has said about everything? In other words, if we were there we would have seen the miracles, but would we have believed what He said?
And how Jesus’ words this here is sort of like we might have said as children, that we might say something and if a friend would question it we would immediately respond, well if it was not so, I wouldn’t have told you. I have probably said that myself. So, Jesus is stating something here and immediately reinforces what He has just said with “If it were not so, I would have told you.” So, in our battle against turmoil, in our battle against anxiety, worry about what will happen, whether that is something that is going on with you personally, health, or in your family, or at your workplace, or as you consider the world scene, as none of us have to look too far to find something to worry about. Anne’s Mom and I had a great relationship. We enjoyed some robust biblical discussions, which were all good. But Anne’s Mom used to worry about a number of things, and I used to tease her that if the thing she was worrying about today turned out okay, she needed to have some backup worries so that she wouldn’t run out. And we used to tease each other, but the reality is this, all of us have worries, some of us may just vocalize them more than others. But to combat that, here is the question, “Are you going to believe in the words of Jesus?” “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places…for I go to prepare a place for you.” Do you believe this? That’s the question! See, it is not that we believe that Jesus lived, for anyone who can read would believe that Jesus existed. The Scriptures tell us that Satan himself believes in God. But the question is this, do you believe in what Jesus said?
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
John 14:3 (LSB)
Jesus said “If I go.” So, a short time after this Jesus was crucified and resurrected, He meets with His disciples and then He goes. And here is the promise given by Christ, that, if I go, I promise you these three things:
- I will prepare a place for you
The Greek word hetoimazō translated “prepare,” is a word that was used in Bible times as preparing for a king coming for a visit. So, the roads, the accommodations, everything was done before the king’s arrival. This is the same word used here for how Christ is making ready for the coming of His bride, the church. In this case, it does not only mean the actual coming but also the place to stay for the visit. Have you ever gone somewhere on a holiday and you know you have so many days to enjoy? I’m terrible for this. I will often be thinking of how many days we have left at the cottage. How many more sleeps? While Anne just enjoys herself. Well, I will have my work cut out for me in heaven at this place that Jesus is preparing, as there is no number of days. No more night, nothing like what we think of today as a day. And the time, if there still was any, is infinite, for there are no end-of-days. So, I guess we could say we will have a check-in time to this place but no check-out time. How long will you be staying sir? Well as far as I know, forever. Really? Did you bring enough with you?
When Anne and I stepped down from youth ministry at Emmanuel, the church sent us on a trip to attend the Founder’s Week at Moody in Chicago, and we stayed at a very fancy hotel. We had made the 6-hour drive in February from Chatham. And as I am driving up under the fancy canopy at the hotel, with Mercedes and BMW’s driving through all shined up. And we come through with our Dodge Caravan just plastered in salt. And the guy comes out for the valet parking and we unload all our stuff at the back. Well, we were going to be there for four days so we knew we would have to eat out a bit, and were a little frugal with our money. So, we had this massive cooler with doughnuts and pop tarts and cans of pop and cereal. It was a little embarrassing, but we didn’t care. But the check-in at the place, that Jesus is preparing is sort of an “all-inclusive” holiday place, for there is no need to bring anything, for Christ has made all the arrangements and provided everything.
The term “place” is interesting. It’s the Greek word topos. It means a place that is marked off, that there is some kind of boundary. And in this sectioned-off place are many dwelling places. And for many of us who grew up with the King James there was an immediate reaction to this, as it was always that there were supposed to be many mansions. I mean. I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop. What happened to that? And the NIV had the audacity to make it, “many rooms.” And many of us said, hey, I don’t want just a room, I want a mansion. I don’t want to stay at some fancy hotel in Chicago. I want this beautiful cottage all by myself by the ocean. A mansion just over the hilltop, a gold one that’s silver-lined. You sort of have to smile at the boldness of that song. Now we do need to understand Jewish culture, that family lived together. And the picture here as I believe the disciples would have understood it was that in the Father’s house, it includes rooms or dwelling places, enough for all those who are His children, all who believe. And what Jesus is confirming here is that if these preparations were not true, He would have told us.
Now we could end here with this statement and know that someday we will be in the Father’s house, and that there is a specific place being prepared. But there is also the lesson here of what is better. For we could read that God would prepare for us a place out by the ocean and we could live happily ever after all by ourselves or with those who are in our families. To be alone somewhere away with a book or a fireplace or a beach. For we do enjoy those times of relaxation, I do. But the lesson here is there is a place where our hearts should be even in this life. As the greater truth or the deeper understanding for us is to be with others of such belief, as this is where our hearts should be ultimately, a desire to be with God’s people. So, Jesus makes this promise to us, I will go and prepare a place for you. And if this was not the complete truth, He said I would have told you. The second promise:
- I will come again
This is not only the hope of the Christian, but this is a foundational truth about Christianity, that Jesus will come again. I was thinking about all the promises given to us in the Bible. There may be two that are the most precious. You may have another thought. But one, the promise of forgiveness, that we can live with such anxiety over our sin. Yet Christ promises to forgive all those who believe. But secondly, the promise of Christ’s return is so precious. And it is also I believe a test of our faith. That the one who is truly forgiven is also the one who truly believes and looks to the return of Christ. Because in a sense they are connected. For if Jesus does not return, I am not forgiven, as Jesus’ promise to forgive you and I must mean that his promise to come again must be true.
And this promise would have been such a comfort for His disciples, though I am sure it would have added some confusion. Here Christ is still with them. They likely do not truly understand all that is ahead. And when Jesus stood before Rome and eventually went to the cross, there may have been thought that He had been defeated, which explains why they went running. I also wondered about their understanding when Jesus was in the tomb for three days, and then He was resurrected. Would they have thought that this was the departure that he spoke of? That while He was in the grave He was preparing the place, and the return He spoke of was His resurrection and being with them for forty days. Well, whatever they may have comprehended rightly or wrongly, Jesus will make it very clear to them when he is resurrected and then ascends into heaven. Now here in John’s gospel, we are not told this, but Luke gives us the details of the events just before Jesus’ ascension into heaven in Acts 1:
“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’”
Acts 1:9-11 (LSB)
See, what we have here again is another promise from Jesus, In fact, reiterating His same promise of returning. I was thinking of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
1 Cor 15:17-19 (LSB)
What I believe we could place in the same category as the resurrection of Christ is the truth of His return. For we as believers could truly say that if Christ does not return, our faith is useless. If Christ does not fulfill His promise of returning, we of all people are to be most pitied. And what we learn from this 1 Corinthians 15 about His resurrection, is the depth of service of Paul and the depth of devotion of the Christian. Because really what Paul is saying is that we as believers have given everything to Christ, that must be the assumption, for why would he then say our whole lives have become useless if Christ fails us. And so, if Christ does not return for us, we become the laughingstock of humanity. We become the joke of Arkona, of Canada, all Christians from all over the world. Why? Because we placed all our marbles in one basket, for we trusted in what Jesus said. And if He does not come through, we are more than fools. Because we bet everything on His word.
Some of you may have some sort of retirement savings. And investments in various companies and businesses or things like gold or silver. When my Mom and Dad passed away, we met with our lawyer. Mom and Dad were given some zinc stock when they were married as a wedding present in 1945 worth, get this, $4500! The lawyer said that zinc had greatly increased in value over the last few years, this was 2006, and something like this could now be worth over one million dollars! So, he said that he would look into it. Well, the company went belly up about a year later and the stocks were sold for pennies. It was now worth about $30. Probably just as well. Anne probably would have become way too worldly. Here was the problem for Mom and Dad. Everything was placed in one basket. This is why investors today will recommend diversification, investing in a number of things so that if one stock takes a big dive, you don’t lose everything. But not so with Christianity, as everything is placed on one thing, Jesus Christ. We bank everything on the promise of reality His forgiveness and His return. In other words, we bank everything on what He said, on what He promised. I will prepare a place for you, I will come again. Finally:
- I will receive you to Myself
We need to know that the return of Christ will not be welcomed by most. I was reading 2 Chronicles the other morning, and it was speaking about the nations in the days of King Jehoshaphat:
“Now the dread of Yahweh was on all the kingdoms of the lands which were around Judah.”
- Chr 17:10a (LSB)
This can be a sobering thought. That when Christ returns, the dread of Christ will be upon the nations, as He will come to make war. But here is the promise to the believer, I will receive you to Myself. In other words, you are Mine. That word translated “receive” is the Greek word paralambanō, which means to welcome or accept. Some have described this as a handing over from the Holy Spirit back to Christ. That as Christ gave us the Holy Spirit while He was gone, the Holy Spirit looks after us until the return of Christ. Remember a few weeks ago we read that Jesus said to His disciples, if I do not wash you, you have no part in Me. So, here He comes back for those whom He has washed. See, what is happening here is that you and I and everyone born into the world, struggled with sin and therefore we became separated from God. And yet, because of our Lord’s willingness to die on our behalf. John has already told us:
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
John 1:12 (LSB)
Those who believe in what Jesus has said, those who cling to His promises, John now tells them that when Christ returns he will receive them. And what Jesus is teaching here, is that He is saying to all those who have heart trouble, that results in worry and tension and anxiety and ultimately death. He says, believe in Me, for I have been preparing a place for you. Your reservation is secure and everlasting, so there is no worry. And I will come back for you, and receive you to Myself, and you will live with Me forever. Yet a person must realize two things about what I have termed as “the cost.” One is the great cost of being without Christ. If you do not get that, you will not come to Him. In other words, your decision to follow Jesus would be delayed or ignored. Do you realize the great cost of being without Christ? Arthur Pink wrote:
“[M]ark it well, it is only in proportion as we are troubled by our absence from Him, that we shall be comforted and cheered by these precious words.”
Arthur Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, (vol. 2) 353
The cost of being without Christ, so eternally great! And secondly, regarding the cost, the cost of trusting in Christ, for everything must be given to Christ. Everything must be placed on one Stock (capital “S”) Jesus Christ. Because if Christ’s word is not faithful, our lives are useless, as everything depends on the truthfulness of what He has said.
Growing up we had an odd thing in our family. We often would twist the truth or change the truth, just in joking. But not if you said, honest, you had to be telling the truth. So. a common saying growing up, especially between my sister and I was “say honest.” And still, today if I tell Lynne something a little unbelievable, she will quickly say to me, get out! Say honest! The Bible tells us in Hebrews 6:
“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”
Heb 6:17-18 (LSB)
See, everything that Christ has promised us this morning is secure because of two things. One, Christ has promised it. And two, He has guaranteed with an oath. Jesus has said, honest, though He does not need to. If you place all your faith in Me: I will prepare a place for you, I will come again, and I will receive you to Myself. This is the promise and the oath of the One who cannot lie. Let’s pray. Lord, how can we express our gratefulness for Your love and provision? We who are so unworthy to receive the riches of Christ. The place He has prepared. And His presence forever. May our lives be characterized as a people who have given everything to Him. We have placed everything in one basket. Everything in one hope. Christ alone. And all God’s people said, amen.