John 14:1-6 says, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. And where I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not where thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
Those six verses comprise one of the most familiar texts in all the Bible. Many people learn it as children in Sunday school. I did, and it has always been one of my favorite passages. The central thought in it is Christ's returning to receive us, although other things are also discussed.
A. The Consolation to the Disciples
Every Christian knows that Jesus is coming back. We have always talked about that, but there seems to be a new anticipation in our day. Jesus could well come in this generation because there aren't any more prophecies that have to be fulfilled before He returns. Everything is ready; the stage is set. However, our hope in Jesus Christ is not restricted to awaiting His return. Some people say, "Yes, Jesus is coming back, but can He comfort us now in times of deep tragedy and severe pain? John 14 answers that question. The whole chapter tells of Christ's promise to give us comfort. Not only can we anticipate His return, but we can also know He will provide comfort for us in the present. You could call John 14 "the comfort chapter." It details Christ's promise of His future return and the present comfort He offers to His disciples. He said He would send them the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit.
B. The Consternation of the Disciples
The scene of this passage is the upper room, where the disciples gathered with Jesus the night before He went to Golgotha to die on the cross. Judas has already been dismissed to carry out his betrayal (John 13:27). Jesus has begun His last address to the remaining eleven disciples. In a short while, their world was going to collapse into unbelievable chaos. Their sun was about to set at midday. In chapter 14, they were beginning to experience pain and hurt. They were bewildered and worried in response to the news that their beloved Master, whom they had been willing to die for, was leaving them. In John 11, when Jesus said He was going to Jerusalem, Thomas said, "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (v. 16).
The disciples' hearts were torn when Christ told them He was going away. You may know what it's like to be permanently separated from someone you deeply love. You can imagine the excruciating pain the disciples felt at the news that they would lose the One who loved them with a perfect love. Jesus anticipated their anxiety, and in John 14 gives them comfort upon comfort. That's why it can be called "the comfort chapter." In fact, Martin Luther called it "the best and most comforting sermon preached by Christ while on this earth ... a jewel and a treasure not purchasable with the world's goods" (Luther's Works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, chapters 14--16 [St. Louis: Concordia, 1961], p. 7).
C. The Concern for the Disciples
As we study John 14:1-6, you'll see that these verses not only discuss comfort, but also reveal Christ in all His glory. You can't help but recognize the uniqueness of Jesus. Any other man who knew he would have to die on a cross, bear the sins of every person who ever lived, be forsaken by the Father, and be persecuted would have been so preoccupied with his circumstances that he wouldn't have been able to focus on anyone else's needs. But Jesus did. Even though He knew about the horrible things that would soon happen to Him, He was completely absorbed with the needs of eleven disciples. He wanted to prepare them for the shock they would soon experience. Jesus felt the weight of the sin He would soon bear and knew He was about to taste the bitter cup of death for every man. But He still took a primary interest in the sorrow and fears of His disciples.
Christ's concern for the disciples reminds me of what John 13:1 says: "He loved them unto the end." And as you study John 14:1-6, you will recognize this passage is the foundation for comfort not only for the disciples, but for us as well. If you find you are always anxious and unable to find rest, you'll find John 14:1-6 to be as soothing as a down pillow.
The basis of comfort comes from trusting the Lord. If you are discontent, anxious, or worried, it's because you don't trust Christ. In John 14:1-6, Jesus tried to comfort the disciples by saying, "I want you to trust these three things: My presence, My promises, and My Person. If you really trust Christ, you won't worry. The reason the disciples became anxious when the Lord said He would leave was that they were focusing on their problems instead of trusting Christ. So He told them to trust Him.
I. TRUST IN CHRIST'S PRESENCE (v. 1)
Jesus told the disciples in John 14:1, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me."
A. The Confusion of the Disciples
1. The anticipation
Let's look first at the statement, "Let not your heart be troubled." According to the Greek text, Christ wasn't saying, "Don't let your hearts start becoming troubled"; He was saying, "Stop letting your hearts be troubled." The disciples were already perplexed and filled with a medley of emotions. To them, everything seemed to be falling apart. Their dreams and desires were unraveling. The gloomy prospect of Christ dying and leaving them was terrifying. They were convinced He was the Messiah, but they had envisioned Him as an illustrious conqueror. Their hopes had risen high when Jesus went riding into Jerusalem as everyone placed palm branches in His path and cried, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matt. 21:8-9). But just when their excitement was at fever pitch, Christ began to talk about His death. He said, "Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24). That filled the disciples with sorrow because they really loved Jesus. The thought of losing Him was unbearable. How could they reconcile His death with His messiahship? What kind of a way was that to treat them? They had forsaken all to follow Him, and now He was going to leave them in the midst of enemies who hated Him and them.
2. The anxiety
In addition to all that, the disciples had failed to show their love for Jesus in John 13. While in the upper room, they were so filled with pride and selfishness that they didn't wash one another's feet. It wasn't until Jesus finally did the task Himself that they recognized their self-centeredness. They were also perplexed because Jesus said one of them would betray Him (John 13:21). They didn't know who it was, even when Jesus dismissed Judas. They thought Judas had gone out to buy bread or do an errand. To make things worse, they heard Jesus tell Peter, who appeared to be the strongest disciple of all, that he would deny Him three times (John 13:38)! Everything seemed to be coming to an unbelievable climax. They must have been thinking, "What is going on here?" Yet they still had an undying love for the Lord.
B. The Comfort from the Lord
Jesus could read the disciples' hearts like a billboard. He knew exactly what they were thinking. He was able to feel their infirmities and sorrows. They couldn't feel His pain, but He could feel theirs. There is always room in His heart for the troubles of others. He feels people's griefs as if they were His own. So in John 14, He kindly comforts them. He does that even though He knew they would soon forsake Him and scatter. Isaiah said of Jesus, "In all their affliction he was afflicted" (Isa. 63:9). He also said that Christ was anointed "to bind up the brokenhearted" (61:1). He was given "the tongue of the learned, that [He] should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary" (50:4). Christ was able to feel the pain of the disciples and comfort them. He was the agonized Shepherd facing the cross, yet He comforted the sheep who were going to be scattered. Nineteenth century hymnwriter William Bradbury said this in the hymn "Souls of Men, Why Will Ye Scatter?": "Was there ever kinder shepherd, half so gentle, half so sweet?" I think not.
1. The comfort explained
At the end of John 14:1 Jesus said, "Ye believe in God, believe also in me." Christ was telling the disciples to trust His presence. In that statement, He made Himself equal with God. Now that could be an imperative or an indicative in the Greek. He could be commanding them to believe in God and believe in Him. Or He could be saying factually, "You believe in God; you believe in Me." But the best translation seems to be, "You believe in God (fact); believe also in Me (command)." That puts Him on an equal plane with God. Jesus commanded His disciples to continue to trust Him even though they wouldn't be able to see Him. They believed in God even when they couldn't see Him, and Jesus wanted them to believe in Him likewise.
2. The comfort examined
King David said, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13). In another psalm we read, "Mine eyes are unto thee, O God, the Lord; in thee is my trust" (Psalm 141:8). The Israelites believed in God, including the Pharisees. Christ wanted the disciples to believe in Him like they did in God. In their darkest hour, He told them to trust Him. Just because they wouldn't be able to see Him didn't mean He wouldn't be present.
The kind of belief Jesus talked about in John 14:1 isn't the same as the belief expressed in salvation. He wasn't saying, "Believe in Me and you'll be saved." The disciples were already saved. The word translated "believe" in John 14:1 is in the present tense in the Greek text, which conveys the concept of continual trust. Jesus asked the Twelve to keep on trusting Him even though He wouldn't be visible to them anymore.
The apostles had already recognized Jesus as the Son of God by divine illumination. But their faith was like Thomas's. After the resurrection, Thomas was told Christ was alive, but he doubted the news. He said he wouldn't believe until he saw Christ and put his hand in the nail prints (John 20:25). So that's the basis upon which Jesus appeared to Thomas (John 20:27-29). But when your faith is based on sight, you're operating on the lowest level of faith. Up to now, the disciples had seen Jesus and all that He had done. Soon He would leave them and become invisible to the physical eye. So He told them, "My leaving you shouldn't be a problem. You believe in God even though you don't see Him."
In Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses told the people of Israel, "Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid ... for the Lord thy God, he it is who doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." The Jewish people firmly believed that God was with them. Jesus reminded the disciples of that fact. They believed in God even though they had never seen His form. They trusted in His care without ever seeing a protecting hand. They had full faith in an invisible God! And Jesus wanted them to continue believing in Him when He was no longer visible.
In John 20:29, after Christ showed Thomas His nail prints, He said, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." In Matthew 28:20 He said, "Lo, I am with you always." He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). That's the same promise God gives in Deuteronomy 31:6.
C. The Connection with the Holy Spirit
Jesus promised He would send the Holy Spirit to the disciples. They could have thought Christ was leaving them for good. But notice what the Holy Spirit was to do. Christ said, "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself, but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:13-14).
The Holy Spirit's ministry is to keep reminding us of Christ's presence. He is the guarantee that Christ exists. In John 16:15 Christ said, "All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." The Spirit's ministry is to show us Christ. So when Jesus told the disciples to believe in Him just as they believed in the invisible God, He said He would send the Holy Spirit, who would remind them of His presence. The Spirit's ministry is to point to Christ. That's why any ministry that centers on the Holy Spirit is dangerous because then Christ doesn't get the glory.
The first way Jesus comforted the disciples was by assuring them of His presence. I have never seen Jesus Christ, but there is no one in existence whom I believe in more than Him. He is alive and for real. I know Him; I talk to Him. I sense His presence. No one will ever convince me He's not alive. The Spirit of God witnesses to me continually that Christ lives. Although I can't see Him, I trust Him.Where is Christ?
Jesus wanted the disciples to trust Him even though they couldn't see Him. He said, "Ye believe in God, believe also in me" (John 14:1). The word "also" in John 14:1 is important. It shows the equality between Christ and God. So whatever situation you are in or whatever problem you face, just remember this: The Lord is present. You might think it would be nice if He were visible, but then He wouldn't be able to be everywhere that He is needed. When Christ was a person in the New Testament era, He was able to be in only one place at a time. But now His presence is revealed by the Holy Spirit to all believers at the same time. We may not see Him, but He's there.
II. TRUST IN CHRIST'S PROMISES (vv. 2-3)
A. The Preparation of Heaven (v. 2)
Our Lord said in John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." You can imagine how thrilled the disciples were to hear that Christ was going to the Father to prepare a place for them. That promise gave them a whole new perspective. Christ wasn't going away to leave them; He was going away to get heaven ready for them. What a thought! Jesus said He was going to His Father's house. I love the way He addressed God as Father.
Jesus, who had dwelt eternally in the bosom of the Father, came forth to reveal the Father. Now that His work would soon be done, He was planning to return to full glory with the Father.
1.The location of our future home
What was Christ talking about when He referred to His Father's house? He was speaking about heaven. In the New Testament, heaven is called a country (Heb. 11:16). That tells us of its vastness. It is also called a city (Heb. 11:10) because of the many inhabitants it will have. It is called a kingdom (Matt. 4:17) because of its orderliness, and it is called paradise (Luke 23:43) because of its beauty. But what I like best is when Christ calls heaven "my Father's house." As a child, Whenever I traveled away from home, I always thought the best thing I could possibly do was go back to my father's house. Going to heaven won't be like going into a giant palace where we have to be formal. When we go there, it'll be like going home: you can throw off your coat, kick off your shoes, and get comfortable.
In John 2:16, Jesus called the Temple in Jerusalem His Father's house. When He cleansed the Temple of merchants and moneychangers in Matthew 21:12-13, He said, "Ye have made [My house] a den of thieves" (v. 13). The Temple was the Father's house until Matthew 23:38, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." From then on, heaven became the Father's house.
2. The layout of our future home
Jesus said that in His Father's house "are many dwelling places" (John 14:2; NASB). Some Bible translations use the phrase "many mansions." However, that gives the incorrect idea: We tend to visualize a new real estate development with an agent who shows us a map and says, "Your mansion is two blocks down and four blocks to the left." But heaven won't be like that. The phrase "dwelling places" refers to how the Israelites lived. When a son became married, the father would add a wing to his house. When another son married, another wing was added onto the house. Eventually the original dwelling would become a set of dwellings that enclosed a patio in the middle. All the relatives lived around that patio. So Jesus wasn't talking about a tenement house, but a complete dwelling place surrounding a central patio. We will be in dwellings attached to the Father's house--right in the same house with the Father!
Will there be enough room for those who are going to heaven? Jesus said that in His Father's house are many dwelling places. There's an old hymn entitled, "Plenty Good Room in My Father's House." There will be no overcrowding in heaven; no weary traveler will be turned away. There won't be any "no vacancy" signs. God's house is as wide as His love; there will be plenty of room.
Revelation 21:16 tells us how large the city in heaven will be: "The city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth; and [an angel] measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." That description gives us a cube with equal sides of approximately fifteen hundred miles in every direction. An Australian engineer calculated that would be 2,250,000 square miles. To give you a reference point, London is 140 square miles. At the ratio of population in London, the heavenly city could hold 100 billion people. It could hold even more than thirty times the population of our world right now and still have plenty of room to spare. Now that's many dwelling places!
3. The life-style in our future home
Revelation 21 describes what heaven will be like. In verses 1-4 we read, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea. And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." When we are in the Father's house, the Lord will take care of all the hurts and needs of His children. He will drive away all pain.
We should already feel bound to heaven. Our Father is there, as well as our Savior, our home, our names, our future lives, our affections, our hearts, our inheritances, and our citizenship. And the great promise of John 14:3 is that Christ is in heaven now preparing it for us!
4. The looks of our future home
There has never been and never will be an interior and exterior decorator like Jesus. Revelation 21:18 says, "The building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass." Have you ever seen pure gold as clear as glass? It doesn't exist, but the Lord will make it. The passage continues, "The foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was of one pearl; and I saw no temple in it; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did light it, and the Lamb is the lamp of it" (vv. 19-23). Can't you just imagine the glory of God lighting that city and glittering through all the jewels that stud the walls?
The gates of the city will never be shut (v. 25). Verse 27 says, "There shall in no way enter into it anything that defileth, neither he that worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, but they who are written in the Lamb's book of life."
What a city it will be! It will have transparent gold walls studded with jewels that sparkle from the Lamb's glory. There will be no defilement there. And Jesus is getting it ready for us.
Nothing But the Truth
In John 14:2 Jesus told the disciples, "If it were not so, I would have told you." He was saying, "Trust Me! I've always told you the truth. I'm not saying this just to try to make you feel good." In John 18:37, we read Jesus saying to Pilate, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I unto the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." Christ always speaks the truth.
B. The Plan to Receive Us (v. 3)
Christ comforted the disciples with these words in John 14:3: "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also."
1. The Lord's promise
Not only is Christ preparing heaven for us, but He will also come back and take us there. The Lord isn't going to send someone else to get us. He will take us home personally. That tells us how precious we are to Him.
My dad used to tell a story about a father who dropped off his little boy at a street corner, and told him he would be back in twenty minutes after taking care of some business. The father's car broke down, and he wasn't able to get back to his son for four or five hours. The son waited on the corner by a store that whole time, and the panicky father had no way of phoning him. He didn't get back until eleven o'clock at night, and the boy was rocking back and forth on the sidewalk whistling a tune. The father pulled up to the curb, hugged his son, and said he was very sorry. The boy replied, "What are you sorry about? You said you were coming."
That's the kind of trust we can put in the Lord. He said He was coming back. It may look like it's becoming dark around us and that He may have forgotten, but we can still trust His promise to return. He is getting heaven ready for us, and He is coming to get us.
2. The Lord's desire
It's exciting to know that Jesus is just as anxious to come get us as we are to go to heaven. In John 17:24 He prayed, "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." Jesus wants us in heaven with Him. When He was here on earth, He told His disciples He wouldn't forsake them, and He says so again in John 14:3.
III. TRUST IN CHRIST'S PERSON (vv. 4-6)
Jesus told the disciples, "Where I go ye know, and the way ye know" (John 14:4). In John 7:33 He told them He would return to the Father.
A. The Inquiry
Thomas, speaking for all the disciples, said, "Lord, we know not where thou goest; and how can we know the way?" (v. 5). Jesus said He was going to the Father, and Thomas essentially responded, "We don't know what happens to us after death. We don't have any maps on how to get to the Father. How will we understand anything after death?" Thomas had a legitimate concern.
B. The Instruction
Jesus answered in verse 6 by saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." We don't need to know how to get to heaven; Jesus is coming to get us. We are to trust Him. He is the way. When the right time comes, He will take us by the hand and lead us right to the Father's house.
If you were to go into a strange town and ask for directions, it would be better if someone told you to follow him instead of having him explain how to get to your destination. That's what Jesus is going to do. Instead of giving us directions, He will take us to the Father's house. Don't worry about what will happen at death or the Rapture. Jesus will come back for you.
C. The Insurance
Eighteenth century pastor Augustus Toplady, who died at the age of 38 in London, was the author of these immortal words in the hymn "Rock of Ages":
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
When Toplady was near death, he rejoiced and said, "It is my dying avowal that these great and glorious truths, which the Lord in rich mercy has given me to believe and enabled me to preach, are now brought into practical and heartfelt experience. They are the very joy and support of my soul. The consulations flowing from them carry me far above the things of time and sense." Then he said, "Had I wings like a dove, then would I fly away to the bosom of God and be at rest forever." About an hour before he died, he awoke from a gentle slumber and said, "Oh, what delights! Who can fathom the joys of ... Heaven.... I know it cannot be long now till my Saviour will come for me." He then burst into tears and said, "All is light, light, light--the brightness of His own glory! O come, Lord Jesus, come; come quickly!" and he closed his eyes."
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He is the way to the Father. He is life that is eternal, and He is everything anyone ever needs. Everything that was lost in Adam is regained in Christ. Trust His presence, His promises, and His person. No matter how bad things may become, we have comfort because we can trust Him.
Focusing on the Facts
1. What is the basic theme of John 14?
2. In John 14, what emotional state were the disciples in? Why?
3. What makes Christ stand out as unique among men in John 14?
4. What does the basis of comfort come from? Why did the disciples become anxious when the Lord said He would leave them?
5. What did Isaiah say about our Lord's ability to comfort us?
6. Explain what Jesus was saying when He said, "Ye believe in God, believe also in me" (John 14:1).
7. What Scriptures in the New Testament assure us of Christ's continual presence in our lives?
8. In John 16:13-14, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to us. How does the Spirit minister to us?
9. What promise did Christ give the disciples in 14:2?
10. Where is the Father's house? What are some other scriptural names for the location of our future home, and what is their significance?
11. How will our dwelling places in the Father's house be laid out?
12. What does Revelation 21:1-4 tell us about life in heaven?
13. What promise is given by Christ in John 14:3?
14. What desire did Christ express in John 17:24?
15. In John 14:5 Thomas said the disciples didn't know how to get to heaven after they died. What assurance did Christ give in verse 6?
Pondering the Principles
1. The disciples initially viewed Christ's death as a tragic event. They didn't see the good that would come from it. Many people today think Christ died as a martyr, and fail to recognize the purpose of His death. According to Romans 3:25-26 and 2 Corinthians 5:21, what did Christ's death accomplish for us? What did Christ achieve victory over (Heb. 2:14)? What can we receive as a result of Christ's death (John 16:7, 13; 1 Pet. 1:3-4)? God's master plan for the salvation and glorification of man required a perfect sacrifice. That sacrifice was Christ. What appears to be a tragic event in history, then, is actually the greatest victory for all mankind. Praise the Lord for this great victory on our behalf.
2. It's easy for us to be preoccupied with the problems and issues of the moment and forget about the wondrous joys that await us in eternity. Take a few minutes now to meditate on Revelation 21:1-- 22:5. What are some things you have to look forward to in your new home? How will life be different from what it is now? Thinking about your future home frequently will give you an eternal and refreshing perspective that results in giving thanks and praise to God.