The WayRev. Philip Miller | May 9, 2021
Selected highlights from this sermon
In this passage from John 14, we find the disciples troubled by news that Jesus is leaving. Pastor Miller points out how Jesus shows His disciples—and us—that His departure means more of the love of God, not less. By His death and resurrection, through our faith in Him, Jesus offers us a loving home, by means of a loving path, into a relationship with a loving God, with a loving power that transforms us.
Jesus has less than 24 hours left to live and He knows it. In John 13:1, you’ll recall that Jesus knew that His hour had come, His hour to depart out of this world. And knowing that His time is short, Jesus pours out His heart for His disciples and for us in John, chapters 13 to 17. These are some of the most heartfelt verses in all the Bible, and Jesus opens up here like He doesn’t really do anywhere else in the Gospels.
Now, you’ll recall from the last time we were here together that in John 13:33, Jesus had announced His departure to His disciples. He said, “I’m only going to be with you for a little while longer. I’m about to go where you cannot follow.” And His disciples are understandably troubled by this declaration, by this news that Jesus will leave them. “How can they possibly go on without Jesus?” is their question. Not only is He their rabbi and their leader, but He’s their friend. He is the love of God incarnate in space and time come close to them, and now He’s leaving. But Jesus is about to show His disciples and us this morning that by leaving, His departure means more of the love of God, not less. By leaving, He will give us more of the love of God, not less.
So grab your Bibles. We’re going to be in John 14:1–14, this morning. John 14:1–14. If you want to use the pew Bibles there (the Bible in the seat rack there), you’ll find this on page 901. 9-0-1.
So Jesus’ departure means more of the love of God, not less, and what we’re going to see this morning is that Jesus offers us four things this morning. He offers us A Loving Home, A Loving Path, A Loving God, and A Loving Power. Okay? A Loving Home, A Loving Path, A Loving God, and A Loving Power. Those will be our buckets for our time together this morning.
Let’s pray together and ask the Lord to be our teacher as we open to John, chapter 14.
Heavenly Father, we gather here, asking that you would show us Jesus, that you would work in our lives, and help us to see ourselves, that you would change us and make us new this morning. We open our hearts to you. We hold nothing back, and we pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen. Amen.
So the first thing Jesus offers us as He departs is A Loving Home. A Loving Home. John 14:1: “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.”
Don’t you just love the emotional intelligence of Jesus? I mean, He picks up on the room, doesn’t He? He notices their distress. They’ve realized He’s leaving, and He speaks words of comfort and courage here. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust in me. Trust us. It’s going to be okay.”
Have you ever said that to your kids? “It’s going to be okay. Trust us. Trust me. It’s going to be okay.” Why? Jesus explains that He needs to go away in order that He might prepare a room for us “in my Father’s house,” He says.
Now the Old Latin and the King James Version translated this idea of room, space in His Father’s house, as mansions. Remember the mansions in all the songs? Mansions and mansions and all of this. But the idea in Greek is not so much a fancy house somewhere as it is more like an apartment, more like a house in a complex of dwellings. The first-century world would have families that lived together in houses that expanded, and like, you’d get married and they’d build another house on the property, and they would just sort of chain them together. And so you had community dwellings. That’s the picture here. A large extended property where there’s rooms upon rooms and dwellings upon dwellings where everyone can live. The whole family can live together. The emphasis is not so much on how lavish the accommodations are as it is on the quantity of available units, okay?
There is more than enough room for everyone in the Father’s house. There’s more than enough room, and Jesus here says that He is going to prepare a dwelling for each and every one of His disciples, the disciples that are gathered in the Upper Room and all the disciples who will follow Jesus down through the years. And this is a space that is customized. It is not mass-produced. It’s not a “one size fits all.” You know, “We just built them that way. We hope you like green.” No, no, no, these are handcrafted, hand-curated just for you, customized dwellings. And Jesus says He’s going to come back after He prepares these places for us. In verse 3 He says, “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.”
Now, this is fascinating to me, but the language here is unmistakably romantic. In the first century, if a man and a woman decided they wanted to get married, they would get what was called betrothed. Not engaged, but betrothed to each other. It was a formal commitment. It lasted usually about a year, and the man would go away and he would build the home for the family, the new married couple, to live in. This is what I described before, but he would often, you know, build on to the family property and create a little apartment where the new bride and groom could start their married life together. And then once those preparations were made, the groom would come back to the bride. He would marry her, and there would be this huge marriage feast, usually about a week long, and then he would take his new bride into their new dwelling place where they would be together forever. And this is the imagery that Jesus chooses to invoke here. He says, “I’m like a groom, and I’m going away, and I’m going to prepare a place where we can be together forever. And when I’m done, I’ll come back, and I will take you to myself so that where I am you may also be. And we will be finally home, in love forever.” In other words, what Jesus is telling us is that our true home is to abide in love with God forever. Our true home is to abide in love with God forever.
Do you want to know what makes heaven, heaven, friends? It’s not the streets of gold. It’s not that grandma’s there, although we look forward to that. It’s not the “no more crying or pain or dying.” All of that’s wonderful, but what makes heaven, heaven, is the presence of God. He is the one we were made to have a relationship with. His love is the love that brings us into ourselves and makes us fully alive. And it is in His presence and love that we will be most at home when we fall into the arms of Jesus forever. Heaven is not so much where you are as it is who you are with. It’s who you’re with.
As I speak this morning, my Grandpa Miller is in the final days of his life in Kansas City, and I cannot imagine the glories that await him. He will finally be home. It’s a loving home.
Secondly, a loving path. John 14:4: “‘And you know the way to where I am going (Jesus continues).’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘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.’”
Jesus said, “I’m going to the Father. I’m going to prepare a place for you and then I’ll come back and I’ll take you to myself and we’ll be together forever. And you know how to get there.” (chuckles) They’re so bewildered, aren’t they? I love Thomas. Thomas is like, “Um, (clears throat) we don’t know where you’re going. How could we know the way? We don’t have a map. We don’t have a GPS. We have no sign posts. We have no clue.” (chuckles) Such an honest statement. But it sets up for us the sixth “I AM” statement in the book of John. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” “You want to know the way, the way to God, the way to life? I am the way. You want to find your true bearings in this world, your true north? I am the truth. You want to find the pathway to life and abundance so that you could be fully alive? I am the life. It’s all here. It’s all in me. If you want to know the way to life and the Father and the glory and all that’s coming, it’s in me. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Now, some of you are sitting there, and maybe you’re kicking the tires on faith, and you’re curious about Jesus, but you read statements like this and you say, “Aha, that’s why I have trouble with Christianity. It’s because of stuff like this. ‘No one comes to the Father but through me.’ It’s so narrow. It’s so exclusive. How come you Christians have to insist that Jesus is the only way to heaven? I mean, come on.”
Well, first of all, let me just speak to that. First of all, you’re right. This is narrow. It is exclusive. But don’t you realize the real issue here goes back to Jesus? The reason Christians say things like this is because Jesus says things like this. Biblically faithful Christians have always said that Jesus is the only way to God because Jesus said it Himself: “No one comes to the Father but through me.”
Now, can I help you understand just for a moment? Would you lean in with me, and can I help show you that when Jesus says this He’s not being mean? He’s not being a jerk. I’m going to try to show you that Jesus’ claims, His exclusive claims here, rise not from religious narrowness so much as God’s authentic personalness. Let me show you.
The first thing we need to notice here is that Jesus does not say, “No one gets to heaven except through me.” He says, “No one comes to the Father but through me.” What’s the difference? Well, it goes back to our first point doesn’t it? Our first point is that our true home is to abide in love with God forever, that heaven is heaven because God is there. Heaven is not just a nice place. Heaven is where God is. It’s His personal home, so when the Bible talks about heaven, it’s not just the nice place in the sky. It’s the place where God is. It’s to fall into His arms in relationship and love and intimacy forever. It is a love relationship with the Father. And how do you have a love relationship with the Father? The same way you have a love relationship with anybody else on the planet, through the mutual opening of hearts.
The doors of our hearts open from the inside, don’t they? And if you go on a date you would sit down and you would put a little bit of yourself out there, wouldn’t you? You would show a little bit of yourself, and the date would progress if the person responded and accepted and loved and valued who you were as you expressed who you were. Right? And then as that acceptance comes, trust builds and intimacy starts to grow, and we start sharing more of ourselves and more self-disclosure, and that’s how loving relationships build. And friends, what Jesus is telling us is that God has opened wide the doors of His heart in Jesus. God has opened wide the doors of His heart in Jesus.
Friends, do you realize when God wanted to open up and get real, in the most vulnerable moment of His authenticity, He opened wide His heart in self-disclosure and Jesus came forth. Do you see that? And like every person on the planet, God wants to be loved for who He is, who He really is. As He self-discloses Himself, He wants to be loved as He reveals Himself to be in vulnerability and transparency and authenticity. Do you see this? And so the only way into the heart of God is through Jesus, because it’s the only heart He has to offer. And if you think about it, you’re just as exclusive in your loving relationships because you want to be loved for who you are, not for something else. Not for the person you pretend to be on social media, not who you feel like you have to posture yourself to be at work. You want to be loved for you exclusively, just as you are. And anyone who says, “I see your true authentic self, but I’d really prefer you be like this,” you can’t, love can’t grow there.
It is narrow, it is exclusive, but that’s because it’s personal, don’t you see? Jesus is the only way to the Father’s heart.
So we have a loving home by a loving path. Now to a loving God. Look at verse 8. “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ [And] Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father?” Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.’”
Friends, what Jesus is saying here is utterly staggering. To know Jesus is to know the Father. To see Jesus is to see the Father. To hear Jesus is to hear the Father because He says twice, verse 10: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” Verse 11: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
Do you hear the trinitarian language? Now, He hasn’t brought in the Holy Spirit yet, but He will down in verse 16. That’s coming next week. Wait for it. Right? But Jesus is showing us that the triune God exists as a community of eternally loving, self-donating, mutually indwelling persons, too one to be many, and too many to be one.
Now, there’s a lot of meat on that statement. Let me unpack it here for us. First, He’s the triune God, three persons, one essence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all co-equal, co-eternally God, one God. They are a community, a union, together with one another. They are eternally loving, brimming with affection for one another. They are self-donating. They are giving and receiving of one another. They are mutually indwelling. This is the inner, penetrating, mutually-reciprocating inhabitation of one another. As He says in verse 10, “The Father dwells in me.” What is this language? “The Father dwells in me, resides in me, lives in me?”
So this one God is too one to be many, and yet He’s too many to be one. This is the blessed Trinity. And theologians have had to invent a word. (Laughs) Don’t you love it? There’s nothing for this. There’s no other language for this. Theologians have had to invent a word to try to describe this mutual indwellingness of the triune God. They call it “perichoresis.” Perichoresis.
P-E-R-I-C-H-O-R-E-S-I-S. Perichoresis. It is the dance of eternal loving embrace, each person of the Godhead lovingly self-giving unto the others, and welcoming and receiving one another into themselves with unrestrained, overflowing intimacy, delight, and everlasting joy.
See, what Jesus is telling us is that at the backend of the universe, there is not meaningless chance, nor is there deterministic force, or an impersonal reality. At the backend of the universe is a tri-personal God who is so infinitely and infinitely loving that we cannot even begin to wrap our minds around who He is, which means that perichoresis is the ultimate meaning of the universe. Perichoresis is the ultimate meaning of the universe. If this eternal all-joyous, mutually indwelling, selfless, all-satisfied triune God in the overflow of His love and life and infinite delight birthed this world and all the souls in it, and has now come in the person of Jesus Christ, in loving redemption of this world, and is now preparing a place where all who are saved will one day be in the arms of Jesus forever in connectedness with this triune community of loving Persons, then the triune perichoretic love is what everything is about. It’s what everything is about. (applause) And how different is this from the secular story, where everything exists by time and chance, without purpose or design or meaning, where life is what you make of it, and one day you slip back into the void, and everything you thought mattered doesn’t, because the sun will burn out, and the universe will go cold and dark, and in the end, nothing.
Or this beautiful vision of life? Do you see? Jesus offers us this loving home by means of a loving path to a loving God with a loving power. A loving power. Verse 12: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
See, there’s a logic to this, Friends. Just as Jesus’ union with the Father enables Him to do the works of the Father, so those who are united with Christ will be enabled to do the works of Christ. Do you see the logic? Jesus is united to the Father and therefore the Father works through Him. We are united with Christ; therefore, Christ can work through us. And Jesus says it will be even greater works than what He did. (laughs) What does that mean? “You will do even greater works than I did.” Right? Now, what does He mean by that? Greater works than Jesus? Are you kidding me? We can’t raise the dead. We can’t give sight to the blind. We’re not going to feed 5,000 people, right? Surely Jesus doesn’t mean we’re going to outdo Him. But He does say we’ll do greater things than He did. What does this mean?
Well, I don’t really know for sure. I’m not sure anybody really knows for sure. Jesus says some things that don’t always make immediate sense to us. That’s His prerogative, right? But maybe, three ideas: One possibility is Jesus means that the works we will do will be greater in quantity. Okay, so in other words Jesus is one person. He’s working in space and time, but His church, His people will be doing all kinds of works all over the place for a whole lot more years, right? So maybe it’s a quantitative greatness (greaterness), right?
Secondly, another option is that it’s greater in scope. Greater in scope. So in other words, maybe some of the things that Jesus is talking about are things that we do that will be greater than things He ever did in terms of their scope. So, for example, Billy Graham has spoken to tens of millions of people at one time. Jesus never did that, so it’s possible this is what Jesus has in mind.
The third option is greater in terms of astonishment. Okay? Let me, I really didn’t have a good word for this one, but I’m trying, okay? Astonishment. Here’s what I mean. If a heart surgeon does a highly technical surgery on his backhand because he does that every day of the week, that’s impressive. He trained for it. But if I were to go do a heart surgery, even just a basic one, okay? You would probably be more impressed that I pulled that off than that the heart surgeon did the more specialized surgery because I have no training in it whatsoever. So it’s greater in terms of astonishment that, “Wow! He did a heart surgery and he has no training.” Maybe it could be like that. That we are the followers of Jesus Christ, we’re not the Son of God, but we’re going to do things, and it’s more astonishing because we’re so small and so insignificant compared to Jesus, okay?
So I don’t know what it means, but it could mean those different things. Jesus says the reason we’re going to be able to do these greater things (whatever that means) is because He’s going to the Father. He’s going to the Father. He will die. He will be buried. He will be raised again on the third day. He will ascend and be seated at the right hand of majesty on high where He will intercede on our behalf. And one of the things He will do is, He will answer our prayer requests. This is the only way that we will be able to do the greater works that Jesus describes through His ascended and exalted power as Jesus works in us and works through us.
Verses 13 to 14: Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (chuckles) What staggering promises, huh? “Whatever you ask I’ll do it. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
Now, most of us read a verse like that, and we think, “Well, this has got to be a blank check.” You know? And we see a new car or we see a new house or we see a million bucks, right? But we have to remember the context, right? The whole context is about Jesus who is preparing a place where we might dwell, deeply in love with the triune God forever, and in the meantime, He’s inviting us to live in union with Himself so that His presence and power might flow into us and then through us into the world. So it’s all about relational stuff, right? It’s all about connectedness and relationship. So prayer is not a heavenly complaint department where you bring all your problems, nor is it a heavenly vending machine where you just say E4 and you get what you want, nor is it a genie in a bottle and you get three wishes. No, prayer is an inter-dynamic relational thing with God. It is where we get to know God more intimately. It’s where we get to be lovingly united with Jesus in such a way that we begin to change. We begin to transform so that we are conformed to His image and will. We learn to want what He wants, to desire what He desires, to will what He wills, so that when we ask things in His name, He may answer them.
Let me hit this from another direction. What does it mean to do something “in the name of”? If I say, “I’m here in the name of the law?” What does that mean? It means I’m here to represent the law’s interest, right? I’m here in the interest of all that the law desires and demands, right? If I pray in the name of Jesus, it means I pray representing the interests of Jesus. To pray in Jesus’ name means I am trying to think as He would think. I’m trying to feel as He feels. I want to love what He loves, and want what He wants. In other words, Jesus’ love transforms us so that He can give us all that we want.
Do you see that? Jesus’ aim is to so thoroughly transform us that He can give us whatever it is we ask for. If we are united with Christ, friends, and we are in Him and He is in us, we learn to pray as Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
And so when we have that posture, Jesus can give us everything we ask for because He has made us like Himself. And this is how the Father has been glorified in the Son, and God is glorified in us.
See, Jesus’ departure means more of the love of God, not less. He offers us a loving home by means of this loving path, which is Himself, into a relationship with a loving God, and He gives us a loving power, which transforms us first, and then through us changes the world. This is the vision of Jesus.
So I have three questions, takeaways, as we draw things to a close. I just want to ask these. They’re written in your voice personally, so you can just write these down and reflect on them.
The first question is: “Am I believing in the love of God?” Am I believing in the love of God? Do I believe this vision of what Christ has portrayed here—that the deepest and most real parts of the universe are pointing to this beautiful loving community from before time, till the very end of time, which is at the back of the universe, and that Christ has made a way for us to have a relationship with that triune God? He died in our place and for our sake to pay for all of our sin and shame, and He rose again to make us right with God forever. Do I believe that? Do I trust in that? Am I hoping in that love?
The second question is, “Am I abiding in the love of God?” Am I abiding in the love of God? Am I making my home there? Am I running into the arms of Jesus, or am I secretly trying to find love everywhere else?
We can’t help that our hearts long to be loved because we were made for God. We spend a lot of our time trying to fill that up with all the wrong things, don’t we? Even as Christians, we can have the right answer and hang onto it with thirty-five percent of who we are, and still run around and try to fill the void with the wrong things. I do it all the time.
To abide in the love of God is to sink down our deep longings into who He is and find life in our God.
The third question is, “Am I transforming in the love of God?” Am I transforming in the love of God? Part of the role of the Holy Spirit (we’ll see this next week) and the work of the Word of God and the people of God as Christ uses all of these tools in our lives is to change us, so that what we want starts to change.
The Psalms say, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” So you realize what that means? When I find life and delight and joy in who God is, He will gladly give me what I want, which is Himself, you see. It’s not a promise of a Ferrari. If I just give God what He wants, He’ll give me all the stuff I really want. No. When God becomes your greatest joy and treasure, He will give Himself to you. This is what you are made for, and when that comes and it changes you and what you want, your desires, your affection, nothing can stay the same. Is that happening in you? Is He changing you?
Oh Father, we want to know the world that Jesus knows. We want to have the vision of life, and a hope and beauty that Jesus offers. We want to live into this beautiful life and reality. This is your will, that we would change, that you would give yourself to us, and so we pray this in Jesus’ name, that we would have more of You.
Father, there are all kinds of things that are in the way. Help us to throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles us. Help us to run this race with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We want more of you.
We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.