Shortly before my mother passed into glory, I took a young friend to visit her. Before he left he asked, ‘What would you like me to read?’ Her immediate reply was ‘John 14’. Although only in her early fifties, she was ready for the home that Jesus had prepared.
The Saviour spoke the words of John 14 shortly before his own suffering and death. The disciples needed reassuring. Jesus had warned them of his betrayal and impending departure. How could they continue without him?
Encouragement in sadness
The news was devastating, even though Jesus had often hinted that he must suffer and die. The disciples were human and conned themselves into thinking that the worst would never happen.
Now it hits home. He isgoing to suffer. He isgoing away. But Jesus perfectly understands human grief and anxiety. Being the great High Priest who can sympathise with the weakness of his people, he gives them two delightful exhortations.
Firstly, ‘Don’t be troubled’ – don’t be disturbed by anxious thoughts that cause turmoil in the mind. We could speak like this to a troubled person and yet be powerless to remove the problem. But the speaker in John 14 is the Son of God who really can turn grief into joy.
Secondly, he says, ‘Trust in God’ and adds, ‘Trust also in me’. That places him on a level with God. Isaiah could declare, ‘I will trust and not be afraid’ (12:2) because he knew that God – and God alone – can save. Likewise, the disciples, recognising Christ as God, are reassured that his promises are utterly reliable.
Jesus makes it clear that he is returning to heaven and that his disciples would follow him – but not immediately. This glorious prospect, however, is not just for the eleven but also for us. What does this promise involve?
First, he calls heaven ‘my Father’s house’. There is no place like home. It is where we feel comfortable and relaxed. Believers will never be completely ‘at home’ until they arrive at the Father’s house. This world is not our home, for we are ‘aliens and strangers on earth’ (Hebrews 11:13).
The Father’s house contains ‘many dwelling places’. I like the AV word ‘mansions’ – ‘ever so many completely furnished and spacious apartments … and no crowding of any kind’ (Hendriksen). The word comes from the Greek ‘to abide’ implying permanence. The NIV ‘rooms’ could give the impression of a kind of bedsit! Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus embraces the cross and death so that all his followers shall eventually share an eternal home – variously called the Father’s house, the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), a heavenly country (Hebrews 11:14-16), and a kingdom prepared (Matthew 25:34).
Second, having secured heaven for his loved ones, Jesus returned there to prepare it for them – a place of total perfection. Think of the cleanest, most beautiful, most comfortable home you have ever entered. It is a hovel in comparison.
Heaven is a million times more beautiful and is completely devoid of sin of any kind. The imagination cannot grasp the holiness of heaven. We must wait with wondering anticipation!
Thirdly, the journey to the Father’s house begins with the new birth, when the life of God is poured into the soul. It concludes when the Saviour comes to fetch us. For most, that will be by physical death, when the angels, ministering spirits, bear the soul to glory.
However, at the end of time, the Son of God himself will command our dead bodies into life. He will call the still-alive saints and lead us together to the home prepared, as he says, ‘to be with me’.
The most wonderful thing about the Father’s house is that Jesus is there, our elder brother, our bridegroom. And ‘we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2). As Anne Ross Cousin expressed it so beautifully;
The bride eyes not her garment
But her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace;
Not at the crown he gives me
But on his nail-pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.