Have you ever gotten to the point in your life where you feel you just can’t go on? I think we all have times like this. Maybe someone has hurt you. Maybe the pressures of life and work and family are starting to get to you. Maybe you’re bearing the burden of some particular sin. We all have been in situations like this.
Jesus’ disciples in chapters 13 and 14 of John’s Gospel are undergoing a similar issue. They’ve been with Jesus for three years, and now Jesus is telling them that he’s going to leave them. It is Thursday night, the night he’s going to be arrested; the next day he’ll be crucified. So, Jesus washes the disciple’s feet, tells them that one of them will betray him, tells them to love one another, and then says that he is going someplace where they cannot go. Jesus has to trod the road alone for a while. Finally, when Peter professes to follow Jesus wherever he goes, even to death, Jesus tells Peter that Peter will, in fact, deny Jesus.
If you’ve ever had a deep conversation with someone that emotionally drained you by the end, I imagine that this is how the disciples felt. Jesus has just laid a lot on them. They’ve left everything to follow him, and now he’s leaving. Have you ever felt like Jesus has left you? Have you ever felt abandoned? Have you ever felt faithless?
Well, we get to Jesus’ words at the beginning of chapter 14: “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.” Then, when Thomas protests that they don’t know where Jesus is going, so how can they know the way, Jesus says, “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” (John 14:1-7).
So, Jesus is leaving the disciples, but not to abandon them. It’s not that kind of leaving. No, he is leaving to prepare a place for them in the presence of his Father. He’s going on ahead.
Likewise, Jesus has not abandoned you. He is in heaven now, in the presence of his Father, preparing a place for you, interceding for you before his Father. He’s gone on ahead. And he can do this, because Jesus is God. He is the Son, the Second person of the Holy Trinity. We know the Father through Jesus. Jesus is the way to God, and he brings us along this path through the working of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. So, God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is preparing a place for you in his presence.
You also see this in chapter 2 of Peter’s first epistle. In 1 Peter 2:9-10, Peter refers back to the Lord’s promises to His people in Exodus to make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. And he also refers back to the Lord’s promises in Hosea. The prophet Hosea had two children born to him by his wife. But, she was a prostitute, and these children were not Hosea’s. T hey demonstrated the illegitimacy of sinful people who reject the Lord, both those of Israel – the Church – who had abandoned the Lord, and those of the nations – the Gentiles – who did not know the Lord. So, these two children were named “Not my people” and “No mercy.” They represent all those who are apart from God. We were born this way, sinners turned away from God. Yet, in His mercy, God promised that he would make “Not my people” His people, and would show mercy to “No mercy.”
So, look at what Peter says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
God has fulfilled his promises in Exodus to you in Jesus Christ to make you his nation, a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. And He has also fulfilled His promises to “Not my people” and “No mercy” to make you His people and to receive His mercy. He has done this for you and to you through Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life.
And so, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in [Jesus].” Jesus says this it way, because he is also God. It’s the mystery of the Trinity that we do not fully understand – one God in three persons. But, the important point is that since Jesus is God, and since he is in the presence of the Father, and since he prepares a place for us, for you, in his Father’s presence, you can bring your cares and concerns before him. When you get to the point in your life where you feel you just can’t go on, go to the way, the truth, and the life. When someone has hurt you, go to your comfort in Jesus. When the pressures of life and work and family start to get to you, go to Jesus who bears these burdens with you, even to the point of the cross. When you’re bearing the burden of your own particular sin, go to Jesus in whom you have forgiveness and life.
Don’t be afraid to call on the Lord to be faithful to his promises to you. Are you having problems in your marriage? Call on the Lord to be faithful to his promise that he Himself has joined you to your spouse in marriage as one flesh. Demand that the Lord fulfill his promise to truly make you and your spouse one, in perfect communion with each other and an image of the relationship that the Lord and His Church have. Are you bearing the burden of some particularly troubling sin? Call on the Lord to be faithful to his promise to not only forgive you, but to cleanse you of this sin. Demand that the Lord fulfill his promise to do this for you through Jesus Christ. And when the end of your days come, call on the Lord to bring you into the place he has prepared for you. Demand that the Lord fulfill his promise. You are His people and He has brought you into this relationship, so you can call upon him in your cares and troubles. For Jesus is the way to God.
Because what lies at the end of this way is life, not death. Jesus did not die and rise and ascend into the presence of the Father in order to leave you in your sins or in death or separated from God and each other. No, he did all this to forgive your sins, bring you into life, and restore you to communion with God and each other. You have all this now, already. But, only in part. We still struggle with sin, we still face death, we still have things which taint our communion with God and each other.
Let me relate a little story about my truck. When I bought it, I ordered it in November 2004 and waited for it to be built, finally receiving it on March 2, 2005. It’s number 383 off the assembly line. I love my truck, probably to an excessive degree. When I got it, it had 2 miles on the odometer, and it was pristine inside and out.
But, what happens when you buy a new truck? Pretty soon, it gets a little beat up. The first thing that happened to mine was a friend scratched the side with his huge belt buckle. I had to go out that day and get a special buffing compound to buff out the scratch. Then, over time I’ve had coffee spilt, food dropped, and crayon marks on the ceiling. I think I even have dried chocolate milk in parts. All these things have marred my truck, which was perfect in the beginning.
Now, we can take this as a metaphor for how the fallen world is, but I want to personalize it even more. Take it as a metaphor for your relationships with other people. When we start out, things are perfect. Then, we get some dings and scratches along the way in our relationships. Now, there’s two ways to look at this. One way is to long for the way things were in the beginning, when everything was perfect. I did that for a long time with my truck; it’s hard to accept that things are no longer perfect. But, another way to look at it is that every one of those dings and scratches represents an event in your life together. On my truck, the scratch from the belt buckle is from my friend when we were working together to move something. The coffee and food spilt is from my family who I was spending time with. The crayon marks on the ceiling are from my kids whom I love. All these dings and scratches add to the “character” of the truck.
Likewise, all the dings and scratches in our personal relationships add to the “character” of these relationships. We can long for the by-gone perfect days, or we can move forward, accepting that in these imperfections we share something special that no one else has.
And we still long for the restoration that Jesus promises us. My truck will never be new and pristine again, but God promises that you and the rest of His creation will be made new and pristine in a way that we don’t quite understand yet. So, go to this way, truth, and life; go to Jesus in your hurt and pain. For, Jesus says that he “will come again and will take you to [himself]” (John 14:3). He is returning to perfectly restore everything to perfection. All the hurt and tears will be removed, and only joy and peace will remain. He is returning to raise your bodies up to eternal life with him and each other forever in a perfect communion. That’s what we ultimately long for, and cling to.
(Image by Berthold Werner; edited by user Jaybear (File:Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre BW 15.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJerusalem_Holy-Sepulchre_Jesus-Detail-02.png)