Home at Last

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : John 14:1-3

Jesus said, “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 when 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.”

John 14:1-3 rsv

The letter was on my desk for several days. I thought about it, reread it, shared it with others. It was one of the many we receive here at Words of HOPE from prisoners. Here’s an excerpt from it: “Christian radio is such a blessing to be able to tune in to here in prison. Programs like yours have a way of bringing us home in spite of our surroundings.”

I was struck by that phrase “bringing us home.” It made me try to imagine how prisoners must feel in their confinement. They’re away from familiar surroundings, away from the ordinary pursuits that most people are involved in, away from friends and loved ones, away from everything that once meant for them “home.” And somehow, the word of the gospel reaching them by radio, has a way, says this listener, of leading them there, bringing them home. Here’s one passage of Scripture that I think does that in a special way. Listen. I’m reading from the Gospel according to John, chapter 14, verse 1:

Jesus said, “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 when 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.”

BELIEVING IN JESUS

Now remember the situation of the disciples when they heard these words. They were all away from home. They had left their neighborhoods, their kindred, their old connections, even their ordinary work, to follow Jesus. They had thrown in their lot with Him. He had given them something to live for, bigger than themselves. He had quickened in them hope, and by His love had bound their hearts to His. Now they had received the desolating news that He would be leaving them.

Jesus must have seen the pain and apprehension in their eyes. He had a word for them, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” In other words, don’t let worry and fear toss you about and tear you apart.

Sometimes when we hear such advice, it isn’t especially helpful. People give us good counsel, but no resources with which to follow it. Well-meaning people sometimes mock us with such advice. When we’re despairing, they urge us to cheer up. When we’re terrified, they tell us: “Don’t be afraid.” And when we are stressed to the breaking point, they may say, “Take it easy.” We don’t feel supported by all that, do we? We’re told not to feel bad, but given no help, really, in feeling any better.

Jesus had something more to give His disciples than the advice, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” He offered them another way, a calming alternative. “Believe in God,” He said, “Believe also in me.” As an antidote for the trouble in their hearts, He calls them to trust. Trust in God; trust in me.

The call to rely on God, of course, was nothing new. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been for ages the refuge and strength of His people. They had been summoned again and again in the Old Testament Scriptures to look toward Him in their times of distress. “Trust in the Lord Jehovah, for in the Lord is everlasting strength” (Isa. 26:4). “O house of Israel, trust in the Lord, for he is your help and shield” (Ps. 115:9). And with that call to faith came strong words of assurance, “Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isa. 26:3).

The new thing here, the startling thing, is the way Jesus joins together faith in Himself with faith in God. The wording of the sentence in the original language brings the two together in the closest kind of connection. Jesus says, literally, “Trust in God, also in Me trust.” What does He mean by that?

Jesus is not proposing, obviously, two objects for our ultimate trust. He doesn’t present Himself as a second security for the disciples, an alternate refuge. He’s saying that the trust we owe to God alone is rightly placed in Him. Jesus is the full disclosure of God, the One in whom God comes to us visibly, personally, here in this world. Now that He has appeared and visited His people, all genuine trust in the living God has become inseparable from trust in Him, Jesus.

Isn’t that an amazing claim to make? He was saying that sort of thing all through His ministry. He taught repeatedly that to see Him was to see the Father. To hear Him was to hear the Father’s word. To receive Jesus was to welcome the Father as well. He taught that all people should honor the Son, even as they honored the Father. And here He’s urging His disciples to trust Him with the trust that only God deserves. That’s the first step, apparently, toward “home.”

TRUSTING HIS WORD ABOUT THE FUTURE

Next Jesus tells them several things that He will do on their behalf. He’s asking them to believe His word about the future and thus to be free from their anxious cares and their anguished sense of loss. He’s going away, He says, to prepare a place for them. Far from depriving them, His departure is for their sakes, for their benefit. The one who has been their leader throughout His earthly ministry is now going on before them into the world to come. There He will make things ready. He’ll secure their reservations, as it were. He’ll see that everything is in order for their arrival. He’ll be like a heavenly Joseph who goes on ahead to the abundance of another land so that his loved ones can join him there in their time of urgent need.

Jesus is telling them that they have a great future and that He’s the one who will secure it for them. His way to the Father’s house will lead first to Gethsemane: tears like great drops of blood, a horror of forsakenness. It will lead to Golgotha where Jesus will be crucified, offering Himself on behalf of His people, bearing their sins and sorrows. It will lead to death, burial and then to the glory of an Easter morning. He will meet His followers, risen from the dead. He will ascend to the Father’s right hand. And there crucified and risen for them, for us, He will make ready our place.

But that’s not all. Having done that, Jesus says, He will come again. That’s the great, unfulfilled promise throbbing throughout the New Testament. “This same Jesus,” comes the heavenly message, “who was taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Do we grasp this, friends? The earth has not seen the last of Jesus of Nazareth. He spent 33 years of ministry here in the first century and then ascended to the throne of the universe. One day, perhaps very soon, He will come again. We shall meet Him here.

Often in these days, we hear futurologists predicting what will become of Planet Earth and its human inhabitants. Perhaps the ozone layer will one day be completely depleted and we will all perish from ultra violet radiation. Perhaps the burning of fossil fuels will eventually bring about such changes in the climate that this planet can no longer support human life. Scientists tell us that the sun will at some distant time become a super nova and burn the earth to a crisp. Then, its fires finally quenched, it will leave the earth in the icy blackness of outer space. Perhaps a terrible plague or a nuclear holocaust or collision with a giant asteroid will destroy us all long before that. Those are all possibilities that can be made to sound plausible. But Jesus says with calm conviction that human history will have a different finale: “I will come again.” He wants His people to believe that. He’s going away but He’s coming again.

This return also will be for their benefit. “I will come again,” He says, “and will take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” This spoke to the heart of their need. He was going away, but the parting would not be final. There would be a reunion out ahead. Just as He went away for their benefit to prepare a place, so He would come again for them to take them to Himself. He was not forgetting them, not abandoning them. His heart was still with them. Dying, rising, ascending, reigning, returning, He would always be altogether for them. And when He returned for them, all separations, all partings would be over. Where He was, they would be, together, forever. Let the disciples believe that and they would have found the cure for troubled hearts. Their future, their destiny, was completely in the hands of One who would never let them go.

IN THE FATHER’S HOUSE

And that place they would share with Him at His coming would be, in the deepest and most wonderful sense, “home.” Remember how Jesus described it? “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” That’s the best description of heaven I’ve ever heard. I know what the other images are trying to convey: the golden streets, the crystal sea, the holy city, the tree with the leaves for the healing of the nations, the great feast, the heavenly anthems. It’s all wonderful. But best of all, to me, is to know that heaven is the Father’s house, that it’s home at last.

There’s a sense, friends, in which all of us are like the men and women behind bars, the refugees, the people in exile, those on the run. We’re all away from home. That’s the story of our sin. We turned our backs on God our maker. We went our own way. We journeyed to the far country until it seemed there was no way back. But like the father in the moving parable Jesus told, God didn’t forget His wandering sons and daughters. And, unlike that father, He didn’t simply wait for us to come back. He sent His Son Jesus to share our humanity, to bear our sins, to taste death for us all, so that we through faith in Him could come back home.

Maybe the thought of home touches off warm and bright memories for you. Maybe not. Maybe you can remember only discord, fear and abuse back there. But whatever it is that you’re longing for, whatever relationships have enriched your life, whatever it is that you miss when you’re away, whatever you may be longing for today of forgiveness and welcome, of security and love, it’s all there for you in Jesus Christ.

That prisoner who wrote to us said that our programs had a way of bringing him and his fellow prisoners “home in spite of their surroundings.” That’s what the gospel does. While we’re away in a far country, still behind bars or still in an unfamiliar place, while we’re separated from loved ones, friends and everything that made life precious and secure, the gospel already begins to bring us home. Right now, through Jesus Christ, we begin to know our heavenly Father’s love for us His children. Right now, by faith in Christ, we become God’s beloved sons and daughters, brothers and sisters in the family of God.

Everything isn’t perfect yet. God has a lot of work to do still in us. Our situations are anything but ideal. But our hearts aren’t troubled as they were before, our lives not convulsed with anxious cares. We’re believing in God and believing in Jesus. Deep in our hearts, we know we’re on the way home.

Maybe you have never had a real home. Maybe you’re an orphan or you feel like one today. You’re lonely, you’re troubled, you’re wanting something, missing something that you hardly know how to identify. Will you listen today to this word of Jesus Christ? Will you put your trust in Him, the One who came for you, died for you, rose again and has gone to prepare you a place? Will you believe His word that He will come again one day and receive you with all the rest of His people to be with Himself? Will you believe that the place He has prepared for you is in the many rooms of the Father’s house? It’s the truth for all who trust Him. When you meet Jesus, either at the moment of your death or at the time when He comes again, you will be “home at last.”

Prayer: Father, may many sharing this program today find in the words of Jesus the cure for a troubled heart. May they so trust in Him that they may know that they’re headed for the Father’s home and the Father’s heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.