Fifth Sunday of Easter | John 14:1-14 | “I AM The Way, the Truth, and the Life”
This week my family and I attended the Spring Pastors’ Conference.
I went for the educational part, and my family went, especially Lucia,
Because this year’s conference was held at the Great Wolf Lodge;
A huge, indoor waterpark.
On the last day I finally got away from the presentations and went with Caroline and the kids to the pool.
The kiddie pool was fun. The waves were exciting. The water was great.
Lucia loved it, and all was well.
But then came the waterslide.
We climbed the stairs, hand-in-hand, walking together.
But when we reached the top, we had to separate.
At the Great Wolf Lodge, it’s one-at-a-time.
A child can’t go down the slide in her parent’s arms.
She has to go alone.
She wasn’t going to do that.
And I wasn’t going to push her.
So I said something like,
“It’s ok. Trust daddy. The slide is safe.
I’ll go first, and then I’ll catch you.”
I gave her a kiss, and off I went.
Down the slide, over the hump, down a bit more, and splash.
When I turned to look up at her, she still looked afraid.
She heard me promise that it would be ok.
She felt my kiss.
She saw me go away.
And she saw me come out the other side smiling and laughing.
But now, as I called her to me, she still looked anxious and uncertain.
It’s the way I imagine the disciples looked in our text for this morning.
Jesus is going away, and they don’t fully understand what that means.
They can’t go with Him, but He says they will follow Him.
He’s preparing a place for them, but they’re not sure what that place looks like.
They can see the cross, but not beyond it.
They are frustrated, anxious, and afraid.
They’re ashamed, too
In the verses just before this, Jesus said that by loving one another, the whole world would know that they were His disciples.
And then they found out that in unfaith and in fear, they would do everything in their power to make sure they world didn’t know them to be His disciples;
Lest they end up on crosses, too.
On Maundy Thursday we, along with the disciples, heard Jesus’ promise.
On Good Friday we saw Jesus go to the cross.
On Saturday we wept.
And on Easter Sunday we joined them at the tomb, and He was not there, but risen!
Wherever Jesus is going, that is not it!
As it turns out, the Father’s house is not a borrowed tomb in the side of a hill,
And the grave is not the place that Jesus is preparing for them.
That is why St. Stephen can pray peacefully as stones fall upon him;
They are so much smaller than the stone that could not keep His Jesus in the tomb,
And equally powerless.
“Behold,” he said, “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Any Christian wants to live like that and die like that –
Not with the stones, per se, but with the confidence, and the peace, and the joy;
Seeing the heavens opened, and Jesus with His arms opened wide;
With the glowing face, and the forgiving lips…
just falling asleep, whatever the circumstances.
But we don’t live like that.
And so we see very little chance of dying like that.
Instead of giving forgiveness, we hold grudges.
Instead of confessing Christ boldly, we keep our mouths shut.
Instead of confidence we know fear.
We can see the grave, but we cannot see beyond it.
Sin obscures our vision,
And shame paralyzes us.
Suddenly, we forget where Jesus has gone, and so we lose our way, too.
“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. And you know the way to where I am going.”
At the Great Wolf Lodge, you can’t hold children in your arms on the slide.
But the lifeguard is a pimply teenager with a whistle, and I’m 6’2” and 220.
I went ahead of Lucia down the slide, but I came again to take her to myself.
Satan can blow the whistle all He wants, but he is powerless.
Jesus is the stronger Man.
He will play by His own rules.
To cross and grave He has gone ahead of you.
In His Father’s house, He has prepared a place for you.
And where He has gone you will be also.
You know the way.
You’ve been there.
In the font, Jesus has baptized you into His death, but also into His resurrection.
And so you know, that water is fine.
Yes, I know there are still things that frighten you, and shame you.
And if I know, then you can be sure that your own dear Father in Heaven knows.
Part of being children of God is being children.
I am not ashamed of my daughter’s fears.
Jesus is not ashamed of yours.
He has died for all of that, and left it behind in the grave.
The Father’s house does have many rooms,
But it is booked solid.
For sin and shame there is no vacancy.
Whenever my own death comes, I hope to remember the joy of a father wrapping his arms around his daughter, and the peace and security known only to children and martyrs.
Then, by God’s grace, like Stephen, and like you, I will die as both.
Until then, when Christ brings me and you to Him,
He brings Himself to us.
The heavens are opened, as they were for Stephen.
And the Son of Man descends.
Today is a foretaste of the feast to come:
The Easter Banquet.
Today we hear His Living Voice.
And receive His Living Body.
Let not your hearts be troubled;
For He is risen.
And so shall you be.
To Christ be all the glory, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.