Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
With these promises we find ourselves under the shadow of the cross to see that the promises given to believers are beyond anything we can ask or imagine.
The disciples are discouraged, perhaps they’re even starting to doubt Jesus, the darkest night in all of history is upon them, the night when the Shepherd would be struck and the sheep scattered. They are perhaps perplexed. How can He be betrayed when He is the Messiah? Surely the last days are about to be ushered in?
It is somewhat confusing that they trust Jesus when He tells them He is being betrayed, that He’s about to die, but always fail to miss that He predicted His Resurrection also.
We shouldn’t be too hard on them; they didn’t have the full story and we do. Yet we miss things too. I wonder if you’ve missed what Jesus is saying here when He says, ‘I go to prepare a place for you’? Have you ever thought, ‘Well God made the world in 6 days so the fact He’s been preparing this place for a long time must mean it’s going to be very grand’? It will be but that isn’t what He’s saying here. These disciples and us don’t make the grade. We are unrighteous, unworthy and totally incapable of getting into glory in and of ourselves. Jesus says, He is going to prepare a place for them by His crucifixion. He is going away to die that they (and us) can live forever with Him. Though the road is narrow, for Jesus Himself is the only way into glory, there is plenty of room, many rooms, enough room for all of us: Enough room for an untold number from every nation, tribe and tongue.
John Piper in his book, God is the Gospel, asks a startling question, ‘If you could have perfect health, no death, no sickness, everyone you’ve ever loved with you and live forever on earth but without God would you want it’? Our response should be like James Bond’s family motto, “The world is not enough.”
The promise here is bigger than that, but first consider not only who is making the promise but when He is making it. I’ve mentioned before the man from the West Indies who would tell me in a thick accent, “Son, someday soon I am going to take you to the moon.” I didn’t particularly want to go to the moon and the fact that my friend was dressed in very shabby clothes meant I wasn’t confident he had the means to get us there. My dad used to make promises that he meant at the time but he often wouldn’t deliver on them, he wasn’t trustworthy. I avoid making promises because I don’t know what the circumstances will be. Jesus has proven Himself to have the means. Here He’s equating Himself with God. He also has the character. We see that here especially, here He is in the darkest night of His life, the night before His crucifixion. We know from His prayer in the Garden that He is troubled and anxious at the weight of being separated from His Father and of bearing the wrath for sinners. Yet He says to this bunch of misfits, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled’: the tenderness of the good shepherd caring for His sheep, Jesus laying aside His own troubles for the sake of His friends.
So what are we promised by the trustworthy one? There is much here but two things to take particular notice of:
When our time is over He is coming back, personally for us. We can think of this at the time of our death for in a sense that’s true, but actually the text is talking beyond that, beyond heaven itself and all its glory. He’s coming back and He’s coming back for us. As Jesus uttered the name of Lazarus at his tomb, one day if we’re in our grave, Jesus will speak our name and we shall be resurrected like Him. You’ll not recognise me, I’ll be slim and blonde again. I wouldn’t mind looking like the teenage version of myself but our bodies will be better than the ones we have now. So the first promise I want us to consider is that He Himself is coming back for us.
Even better than that, whether it’s taking us to heaven or taking us to the new creation as glorious as either will be, He is coming to take us to be with Him. Why would we want to be anywhere else?
When John uses the word “with” the Greek word means “face to face.” So Jesus is coming back to bring us to Himself so that we can be face to face with Him where He is. The glory of the place, will pale in significance compared to the fact that we will be with Him where He is. Sinclair Ferguson in his book, ‘Ichthus’, summed this up nicely. ‘He who was in the beginning face to face with God has come in order to be “face to face” with us, so that we may live face to face with Him.’