Acts 7:55-60 John 14:1-14
We often hear the words from John’s Scripture at funerals. They are words of great comfort even when tears of grief are flowing and hearts are breaking with hurt for the one who has just been lost and for those who remain behind. They are certainly appropriate for the occasion.
But…Jesus didn’t offer them at a funeral. It was at the Last Supper…right after he told his disciples that he would be killed. They were comforting words surely…words intended to brace the disciples for the eventful days ahead.
He did that for Stephen, too. As Stephen was going through his crisis…Jesus who was seated at the right hand of God…stood up…opened his arms…and prepared to be the advocate for Stephen before God. Stephen was so reassured that he accepted his fate…and…asked God to forgive those who were ending his life on earth.
You and I may not have the opportunity…as the disciples did…to walk with Jesus in the flesh. We may not see him as Stephen did. There are times when you and I have to believe where we cannot prove with physical evidence. We have to be able to accept what we can’t understand. This is what Jesus was telling his disciples.
Let’s look at his message this way. Just as a teacher does before the end of the semester exam…Jesus was recapping his time on earth and his teaching for the disciples. A review might be good in these days of great personal, church, community, state, national and international challenges.
If in the darkest hours of life we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that purpose is love…then even the unbearable becomes bearable. Even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light. Jesus is the proof that God loves us so much. God gave us everything He had to give.
Just like the teacher in the classroom…Jesus also reminded them to trust that he was telling the truth to them. “If it were not so, I would have told you.” Jesus was always honest and did not try to bribe any person with promises of an easy way.
There’s always someone in the classroom who challenges the teacher with questions…someone like Thomas. “How can we know the way? Thomas asked. Jesus said I am the way. It’s like this. Suppose you’re in a strange place and you ask for directions. The person you’re asking responds with words about a right turn here and a left turn there and three traffic signals and so on. Pretty soon you’re lost in the words.
Now suppose a person took you by the hand and said come with me. That’s what Jesus does. He not only gives advice and directions. He takes us by the hand. He strengthens us and guides us personally every day. He does not tell us about the way. He is the Way. Life with Jesus is life indeed.
Jesus is the only way to God. No one gets to the Father except through him. It is in Jesus alone that we see what God is like. It is Jesus alone who can lead us to God’s presence…to our room in God’s house…without shame…without fear…without obstacles that can’t be overcome.
From the apostles came another challenge. Show us the Father. That will be enough.
After nearly three years…Phillip still did not get it. He had been looking at the Father all of this time. Jesus said that anyone who had seen him had seen the Father. That was a pretty bold statement to make in those days. People like Phillip thought God was different…that God was distant. Phillip…and the people of the day would never have thought they could see God. If you want to see God…Jesus said…look at me.
God…through Jesus…participated in the most intimate parts of lives. God entered into an ordinary home and into an ordinary family…perhaps like ours. He was born the son of a carpenter…and lived most of His life in a carpenter’s home. Through Jesus God sanctified human birth and the humble home of ordinary people like you and me.
God was okay doing the work of a human. Jesus learned the carpentry trade. He knew all the difficulty of living in an ordinary home…in a family…and every problem that comes to those who work every day. Though the Old Testament might have made us believe that work is a curse…the New Testament tells us that work has glory in that it was touched by the hand of God.
God knows what it’s like to be tempted. Jesus showed us a God who goes through the struggle that we also undergo. Make this note Phillip…and everyone else…God is not like a commander who leads from behind the lines. God knows the firing line of life.
Jesus shows us God loving. In Jesus we see God caring intensely…yearning over people…feeling for them and with them…loving them until he bore the wounds of love on His heart and all over His body.
Jesus made two promises that night.
First, he told them they would do great works….greater works than he had done.
Through the disciples a great many converts joined the church. The number continues to grow…and there is potential to grow even more. The disciples and those who followed to this day carried the gospel out of Palestine to the entire world. It is still spreading. Jesus couldn’t do that alone while on earth. In his human form He was confined to Palestine.
Jesus also promised that any prayer offered in his name would be granted. He didn’t say all prayers would be granted…just prayers made in his name. The test of any prayer is whether it can be made in Jesus’ name. When we pray we should always ask, “Can I honestly make this prayer in the name of Jesus?” It’s not about prayers for revenge…or for personal ambition or gain…or for some unworthy object. Many of us who listened to 1960s rock ‘n’ roll heard Janis Joplin sing, “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz.” That’s not the kind of prayer said in Jesus’ name. The prayer which can honestly be made in Jesus’ name…and which in the end says “Thy will be done” is the prayer that will always be answered…in God’s way and in God’s time. A prayer based on self will not.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled”…Jesus said. Not just words for comfort at a funeral…these are words that prepare you for every crisis in life…and words that should prepare you for every day in life…on earth and in heaven.
As you consume today’s news…or walk the streets of our community…or interact with your neighbor…do not let your hearts be troubled…let your hearts be touched.
Filled with the love and reassurance of Jesus Christ…not troubled.
Empowered with the desire…strength…and ability to reach out as Christ would do…not troubled.
Lovingly sharing the peace…joy and hope that comes with knowing Jesus Christ.
You have been commanded and enabled to do the greater works that Jesus promised could be done through him.
For you and I are among his disciples to whom he said…”Do not let your hearts be troubled.”