(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 18, 2001
I am not sure there is anything more comforting than the presence of someone you love. No matter how bad we may feel from sickness, injury or emotional suffering, having someone with us who loves us eases the pain. Often, the loved individual does not even have to be physically present, just the thought of them and of being with them again in the future brings solace. How often that thought has eased the pain of soldiers wounded in battle. They would be going home and would be with their loved ones again. But many soldiers do not come home. For those facing death, comfort can be found in the promise of being with their loved ones again in eternity.
The promise of heaven is an important one. It has brought comfort to multitudes as they have faced death whether it has been on the blood-soaked battlefields of a distant land or lying in bed at home with the family gathered around and the final struggle with old age and disease is lost. The promise of heaven has also brought comfort to those left behind that death is not the final separation. That was the point of Paul’s comments in 1 Thessalonians 4 that those that had already died would not miss the rapture, but at the Lord’s return would actually be caught up before those that were alive and remained and all would then ever be with the Lord. It was this hope that enabled them to not grieve the death of their loved ones as did the pagans.
But with the promise of heaven there must also be truth otherwise the temporal comfort will be shattered by the eternal reality. As much as we want people to be comforted when they are troubled, the comfort of a false hope is cruel. How often I have heard people comment about someone who has died after going through a painful disease that they are “better off” and that now “they are no longer suffering.” I then inquire about the deceased’s faith and find out they were not followers of Jesus Christ. The idea of escaping physical pain may be a comfort for those in the midst of it and those watching the loved one suffer. It is an idea that is fueling the “right to die” movement that advocates assisted suicide as a medical option (Jack Kervorkian, Oregon State and Denmark laws). But people are not animals that you kill in order to end their suffering. People have eternal souls, and if that person does not have faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, then their real suffering begins at death. The suffering of the wicked begins at death. In Luke 17:24 Jesus described the rich man in Hades crying out that Lazarus might be sent to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.”
Could there be a greater tragedy than to stand before God to be judged and only then find out that you have based your life and hopes on lies and are now sentenced to eternal hell? Yet, that is the condition of those who have their hopes based in false religion. You can believe whatever you would like and even be sincere in that belief, but belief is not what makes something true. Truth is that which conforms to reality and the final reality will be the sovereign God judging His creation. Finding physical relief for the present is not nearly as important as finding true comfort for eternity. The truth and promise of Heaven is that comfort.
In John 13 we entered into the dialogue and discourse that Jesus has with His disciples in the Upper Room on the night before He was crucified. The Passover meal has been served. Jesus has given them the example of humble service they are to follow by washing their feet. Jesus has warned them about the betrayal which would soon take place. The identity of the traitor, Judas, has been revealed to John and Judas has left to do his dastardly deed. Jesus has given the remaining eleven disciples His new commandment to love one another as He had loved them, but He has also warned them again that He was about to go away and they could not follow Him. This, of course, is disturbing, and in verse 36, Peter once again speaks up.
36 Simon Peter ^said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you shall follow later.” 37 Peter ^said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” 38 Jesus ^answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a cock shall not crow, until you deny Me three times.
Peter first wants to know where Jesus is going that he could not follow Him. Jesus gives him a somewhat cryptic answer that Peter could not follow now, but would afterward. That did not satisfy Peter. He does seem to understand that Jesus was talking about His death, but he does not understand why he could not follow Jesus even if it meant death. That is why Peter’s response is so strong.
Jesus said that Peter could not follow now – nn / nun – meaning at this point in time. Peter responds and wants to know why he can’t follow Jesus now – rti / arti – meaning “even now” or “right now.” It is emphatic. He then boats that he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus.
Whatever else may be said about Peter, it is clear that he is devoted to Jesus and wants to be with Him. His question and boast is another indicator or Peter’s generally impatient character. And it is also clear that Peter believes is his ready for more than he actually is.
Isn’t it that way with us at times too? We don’t understand things, yet we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We boast of being a strong hero when in reality we are weak and should be fearful. We cannot serve the Lord in our own strength and wisdom. We must come humbly before Him and yield ourselves to His will and serve Him in His power and wisdom.
Paul comments on this in 1 Corinthians 10. After pointing out some of the things that happened to the nation of Israel, Paul says, Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.
We don’t boastfully challenge the future thinking we are ready to handle whatever comes. We approach it with humility actively looking for God’s provision for us, including the way of escape from a temptation. Standing firm in our faith and resisting the devil and his schemes is to be done in the strength of the Lord with the whole armor of God on (Eph. 6:10-18). It also includes fleeing at times because we are weak. We are specifically told to flee from immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22), idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14) and materialism (1 Tim. 6:9-11).
Jesus corrected Peter directly in verse 38. He gently challenged Peter’s boast that he would lay down his life for Him. He also let Peter know what was going to happen that very night, that Peter would deny Jesus even before the morning watch. The reference to the cock crow is both to the particular time period of the third watch from 12 – 3 a.m. as well as to Peter actually hearing a rooster crowing as the reminder of Jesus’ prophetic statement here. Peter would not lay his life down for Jesus, but would instead deny Jesus three times. It would be Jesus who would lay down His life for Peter. As the other gospel accounts indicate, Peter did not believe the Lord at this point and would later make the same boast again (see Matt. 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31).
Obviously, Peter, and the other disciples too, were very disturbed by this. In Chapter 14 Jesus begins to comfort them about what is about to come in the future, both near and far.
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, [there] you may be also. 4 “And you know the way where I am going.”
Jesus starts with a command. The hearts of the disciples were already troubled. The same root word was in John 12:21 – Jesus was troubled in spirit. Their hearts are agitated, disturbed, disquieted. Jesus command here is for them to not let that continue. It means to “Stop being troubled” or “Do not be troubled any longer.” They would have been filled with a mixture of thoughts and emotions. (Remember that the idea of “heart” in the Bible is related to the seat of the mind, not emotions, but what is in the mind certainly affects emotions). There would have been shame due to their earlier selfishness when Jesus washed their feet as well as being corrected again over arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. Perplexity about the prediction that one of them would betray Jesus. Sadness and unbelief at the idea that Jesus was going to die.
The basis of being able to comply with the command is their belief in Jesus, the new knowledge that Jesus would be preparing a place for them, and that Jesus would return for them.
Belief in Jesus
The first source of comfort was their belief in Jesus. Over the years that He has spent with them He had demonstrated over and over again that He was in fact God in human flesh. His origin. How his life fulfilled prophecy. His sinlessness. His many miracles which included having authority over nature, demons, sickness, disease, and death. His authority to forgive sin. His teachings. All these things they had experienced first hand, so they knew that Jesus was in fact God living among them. Peter’s confession in Matt. 16 was on behalf of all of them that they believed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God. They could take comfort that the words of Jesus were as sure as the words of God Himself. The trust they had for God was the same trust they could have for Jesus.
Preparing a Place
The second source of comfort for them was that Jesus’ was preparing a place for them. In this verse we get a brief glimpse of what heaven will be like, but it is not the physical aspect of heaven that is stressed, but of who was preparing it and where it was located. The comfort of the verse is not in having “a mansion just over the hill top” as the old hymn goes, but that this dwelling place was in the Father’s house and that Jesus was making it ready for us.
Certainly there is an aspect to the idea of heaven being a beautiful and rich that is attractive. Jesus’ mention here in John 14 that in His Father’s house are “many dwelling places” is attractive. The KJV translates this as “mansions,” but the word, (monh / mona) means a place to abide or a room. The idea here is not that of a crowded tenement, but that of a huge apartment building with many beautiful apartments that Jesus is preparing for us.
Revelation 21 describes the New Jerusalem coming down. It has the glory of God and its brilliance is like that of a crystal-clear jasper stone (11). It is the glory of God that illumines the city (23). Its walls are walls have twelve foundations stones adorned with every kind of precious stone including jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth and amethyst (19-20). The walls themselves are jasper and the city and its streets are pure gold, like clear glass – whatever that is (18, 21). Its twelve gates are made from one single pearl each (21). It is large, some 1500 miles cubed (16). To give you an idea of how large this is, it would be all of the United States from the Rocky Mountains and east, and it would be 1,500 miles high. It will make all our largest buildings and skyscrapers infinitesimal by comparison. But again, the comfort of Heaven will not be the wonder of its size or the richness of its adornments. It will be the fact that it is the Father’s house and Jesus will have prepared a place there for you and for me.
To strengthen this comfort Jesus makes it clear that if He goes to prepare this place, then He will come again to retrieve us and take us there that where He is we may also be. It is not just that Jesus will come and take us to that place, but that He will be there with us. Isn’t that the comfort of heaven that I talked about initially? It is the idea that I will be with those that love me.
Of what real value is it to have a beautiful place to live if those you love are not there. Several of the Proverbs allude to this. It is better to live in a desert land, Than with a contentious and vexing woman (Proverbs 21:19) In Psalm 55 David laments about the treachery that has been done against him and how he would rather live in the wilderness in peace than to live in his palace in Jerusalem and have to continue to endure the hatred that was there.
The comfort that Paul brought to the grieving Thessalonians concerning those that had already died was that all of them, those who had already “fallen asleep in Jesus” and those which “were alive and remained” would all be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:13-17).
Jesus is preparing a place for you, and in doing so we can be sure that He will come again to take us to that place where we will ever be with him. But, you have to know the way to Jesus.
The Way to Jesus
In verse 4 Jesus reminded His disciples that they knew the way that He was going. This was not a new thing He was telling them, but as in any teaching situation, there are always those that did not understand. In this case, it is Thomas that expresses the confusion.
A Confused Disciple:
5 Thomas ^said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
In every group there is usually one person that will ask the question everyone else is too afraid to ask. In that sense, Thomas is probably expressing the confusion that others of the disciples also had. Remember, Peter had already asked Jesus where He was going (13:36). And in truth, if you don’t know the destination of where a person is going, you cannot know the way to follow them.
Thomas is asking the same question here born out of a heart with the same desire as Peter’s. Thomas is also devoted to Jesus and does not want to be separated from Him. If Jesus is going somewhere else physically, Thomas wants to make sure he knows the directions to take. If Jesus is talking about the departure of His death, then how were they to follow?
Thomas and the other disciples should have understood what Jesus was talking about. Though it is a veiled invitation, it is one that Jesus has talked about before. In 8:19 Jesus declared that “if you knew Me, you would know My Father.” In chapter 10 Jesus talked about His being the good shepherd who was the door into the sheepfold and who would lay down His life for his sheep. Jesus had talked about His coming death in Chapter 12 and in verse 26 stated, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” He added in verse 36, “While you have the light, believe in the light, in order that you may become sons of light.” Jesus went on to say in verses 44-50 that those who believed in Him believed in the Father who had sent Him and that He had come as the light into the world that everyone who believes in Him may not remain in darkness.
Jesus had just been talking about preparing a place in His Father’s house and that He would return to bring them there that they might be with Him. Jesus was going to His Father. They would come later through faith in Him. Jesus now responds with a statement that makes this very clear.
A Clear Statement
6 Jesus ^said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
Jesus makes three statements about Himself and then brings the conclusion based on those facts. Jesus uses the personal pronoun to emphasize Himself and then in each of the statements He uses the article to distinguish Himself from all others. He is not A Way, but THE Way; not A Truth, but THE Truth; not A life, but THE Life. It is based on the exclusiveness of who He is that the conclusion is drawn that there is no other means by which to reach the Father.
Jesus is The Way. The word “way” (odoV / odos) is used for a road or a journey and hence is used metaphorically to represent a manner of life or the means to a destination or goal. That is the sense it is used here. Jesus is the means to a destination.
For the vast majority of the world, Jesus is viewed as “a way,” but not “the way.” People often think of Jesus as a great teacher, or a good example of moral behavior, or even as the founder of a major world religion. But all of these fall short of what it means for Jesus to be “the way.”
Jesus was a teacher, even the Pharisees recognized that about Him. In Mark 12:14 they came to Jesus and said, Teacher, we know that You are truthful, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.” Their thought was that Jesus was one of many teachers that taught the way of God in truth. But Jesus is much more than just a teacher of the way of God.
Jesus was also a guide. In fact, Zacharias’ prophecy concerning Him in Luke 1:79 specifically states that Jesus was given of God “to guide, our feet into the way of peace.” Most people who think of Jesus as a guide also believe there are many paths to heaven. For them, the path that Jesus guides on is just one of many and Jesus only helps a person along the way. He points out the direction and assist in the journey. But that is contrary to Jesus’ claim to be “the way.” Jesus is much more than a guide into the way of peace.
Jesus was also an example. Even in our study of John 13 last week we found that Jesus set Himself up to be an example of the behavior He wanted His disciples to follow. Many people think of Jesus as an example of proper ethical behavior, but for them He is only one of many examples of the proper way to live. But Jesus’ claim here is much more than being an example of how to live.
Jesus is much more than someone who teaches the way, or guides in the way, or shows the way to live. Jesus says that He is The Way. The way to God the Father is not reached through having certain knowledge, or through walking a certain path of life, or by following the manner in which Jesus lived. It is not principle, force or example that brings us to God, but the person of Jesus Christ.
A pupil is educated not by the tools of education, but by the teacher that uses those tools to impart knowledge and wisdom. A guide points out the way so that you can walk to the correct destination, but in this case, the guide had to bring you to life and carry you before you could walk. You were dead in trespasses and sin, but through the work of the Holy Spirit you were made alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:1-6). You were saved by God’s grace and not by your own works (Eph. 2:8,9). Jesus is a great example, but you are incapable of following it to the degree necessary to be able to come into God’s presence. You must be cleansed of your sin first. You must first be given the righteousness of Jesus Christ which comes through faith in Him (Rom. 3:21-26). Jesus is The Way, the only way.
Jesus is The Truth
Much of what has been said about Jesus being the way also fits with Him being the truth. He is not a truth, but THE Truth. Jesus is the final reality. “All things have been made by and for [Jesus].” “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16,17). But in this context, the truth is set against the lie. In this Jesus is the truth because He is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:14), the “radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus is the revelation of God the Father and so is the dependable source of redemptive truth.
We live in an age when people no longer believe they can know the truth. Their creed is that the only absolute is that there are no absolutes. In the post-modern world a person can hold two contradictory points at the same time and not understand the incongruity in it. Truth has become relative in our day, and yet this is nothing new. Pilate asked that question nearly 2,000 years ago – “What is truth?” (John 18:38). The answer is here in John 14:6. Jesus Christ is the truth. It is the truth that sanctifies us, guides us and sets us free (John 8:32, 17:17). That truth is not an it, but the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is The Life
The word “life” here is zwh /z which refers to the principle of life, that which is eternal as opposed to animal life (bioV /bios), the breath (pneuma / pneuma) or the soul (yuch /psuch). Jesus is the life because this life is in Him (John 1:4; 5:26). He is the source and giver of this life to those that believe in Him (John 3:16; 10:28;11:25). Jesus has the light of this life (John 8:12), the words of this life (John 6:68) and came that we might have this life and abundance (John 10:10). In this life there is communion with God (John 17:3).
Jesus is the only way to God, the means to an eternal relationship with Him, because He is the truth and the life. Anything that is not in harmony with Him is a lie. Anything outside of Him is death. I like the way that William Hendriksen describes this dynamic. When Jesus reveals God’s redemptive truth which sets men free from the enslaving power of sin, and when he imparts the seed of life, which produces fellowship with the Father, then and thereby He, as the way (which they themselves, by sovereign grace, have chosen), has brought them to the Father.” Because of these truths, then:
NO ONE comes to the Father except through Jesus.
There is only one way to God the Father and that is through the person of Jesus Christ, God the Son. You cannot be brought to God the Father through the false gods of other religions. You cannot reach God through religious exercises, no matter how diligent and pious you may be in performing them. You cannot come to God through adhering to a creed no matter how good the theology is stated. You come to God the Father only through the person of Jesus Christ.
The world hates true Christianity because of the exclusiveness of this truth. Those that espouse tolerance as one of the highest goods have no tolerance for those who proclaim Jesus Christ. Why? Because if Jesus’ claim is true, then they are wrong and they do not want to submit to Jesus Christ. We must be humble, gracious and loving when we tell the of Jesus’ claim even when persecuted for it, and Jesus has already told us that we would. There is never an excuse for a Christian to be arrogant and obnoxious. We have the truth and we must proclaim Him.
Our Captain sails the good ship Hope across the oceans seeking to rescue all that would be saved. We come along side other vessels and warn them that they are sinking and there only hope is to come aboard with us. Some ignore us. Some curse us and continue with their party. Some warships even fire upon us. But there are always the precious few that heed the call, recognize the danger and climb aboard to join our Captain’s crew. What ship are you on? What will your final destination be? Safe ashore or lost forever?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times Judas is mentioned. Count how many times the word “heaven” is said. 2) Talk with your parents about what Heaven is like and how a person gets there.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Why is the promise of Heaven an important concept? Why is it also important that the promise and its conditions be true? When does true suffering begin for the wicked? What is the context of John 13? In light of Peter’s response in John 13:36,37, what can be said about Peter? What is the danger of boasting about the future? How can you stand firm in your faith and face temptations? What part does “fleeing” play in avoiding sin? How does Jesus deal with Peter’s boasting? What is Jesus’ command in John 14:1? How would their belief in Jesus bring comfort? What is Heaven like according to John 14:2,3? What description is given of it in Revelation 21? What is the attraction of heaven? What is the comfort of going there? Would heaven be a wonderful place for someone that does not love Jesus? Why is Thomas confused? What should he have known already? What does Jesus mean by His statement in John 14:6? How is He the truth? How is He the Way? How is He the Life? How does a person go to God the Father? Any exceptions? Is it arrogant to proclaim this truth?
Heaven: 1 Thess. 4:13-18
Reality of Suffering: The suffering of the wicked begins at _____________ – Luke 17:24
Context : John 13
Belief in Jesus
The trust they had for God was the same trust they could have for Jesus.
Preparing a Place
The word here, (monh / mon), means a place to abide or a room. The idea here is a huge apartment complex with many beautiful apartments that Jesus is preparing for us.
The Way to Jesus
A Confused Disciple
In every group there is usually at least one person that will ask the question everyone else is too afraid to ask.
A Clear Statement
NO ONE comes to the Father except through Jesus