Now keep in mind, from Peter’s perspective, such an idea of Jesus going someplace he wasn’t willing to follow was simply beyond the pale. In John 13:36 “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.’ Peter said, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’”
I mentioned this last Sunday, but it bears repeating… Regrettably, I think Peter gets a bad wrap for this exchange when he really doesn’t deserve one. His question, “Why can I not follow You now” was birthed from the correct desire to be with Jesus. Even if this journey resulted in death Peter boldly declares to his Lord, “I will lay down my life for Your sake!”
The problem with Peter’s zeal is that it centered upon things he simply doesn’t know. The path before Jesus was one He had to walk alone. Only Jesus could atone for sin. Only Jesus possessed resurrection power to conquer death and the grave. Peter simply had no right nor the ability to traverse the path set before Jesus!
In Peter’s mind he thought he could extrapolate out the worst case scenario, but he couldn’t. Peter had no idea what was coming that night and he wasn’t ready for it. Peter was confident in his will and self-sufficiency, but Jesus tells him he would actually “deny Him” three times before the rooster crowed at daybreak. Major lessons are headed Peter’s direction.
Let’s read on because there were no chapter breaks… John 14:1-4, “Let not your heart be troubled; you 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
As we unpack this statement, don’t forget the context… Jesus had just said to the Eleven that He would be leaving them and more specifically to Peter that he’d deny Him three times that very evening. Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled” because their hearts were “troubled!” Every man in this room was distraught by the things Jesus had just said to them.
In the Greek this phrase “let not your heart be troubled” was a directive. In a way Jesus is looking around at these anxious disciples and He says, “Stop being troubled! Guys, chill out!”
And yet, notice Jesus’ prescription for their troubled hearts… He commanded that since they “believe in God” they should continue to “believe also in Him.” David Guzik observes, “This was a radical call to trust in Jesus just as one would trust in God the Father, and a radical promise that doing so would bring comfort and peace to a troubled heart.”
For a complete context to what Jesus is telling these men, remember John is writing his Gospel with the assumption you’re already familiar with the other three Gospel narratives.
The truth of the matter is that Jesus has been crystal clear how this trip to Jerusalem was going to end. On three separate occasions He’s told these very men that He was going to be betrayed, killed, but then would rise from the dead after spending three days in the grave. The grand challenge was whether or not they’d “believe” in what He had said!
These men are deeply troubled by the things they don’t know. So to combat this uneasiness Jesus is encouraging them to place their faith in Him and the promises He’s made to them. In their trouble and uncertainty Jesus is asking them to place their trust in Him.
Notice two particular promises Jesus gives these disciples to tamper down their anxiety: First, He says, “I go to prepare a place for you.” In a way Jesus is making sure they knew His leaving had a purpose. There was an overarching reason for all the things that were about to take place. He was leaving so that He could “prepare a place” for them in heaven!
This statement “in My Father’s house are many mansions (or better translated “dwelling places”); if it were not so, I would have told you” is fascinating because of the surety and confidence by which Jesus makes it. Jesus doesn’t speculate as to what heaven might be like or seek to imagine its infinite possibilities. Instead, Jesus speaks like it’s home!
Secondly, Jesus promises He would “come again and receive them to Himself.” Not only would this separation be intentional, but it would be temporary. Sure, Jesus was leaving, but they were to find great encouragement knowing He would also be returning!
In the Jewish concept of the Messiah all of this was foreign. The Messiah was supposed to establish a Kingdom on earth. You see the idea of Jesus going to “prepare a place” only to then “come again” at a later date and “receive them to Himself” was a totally new revelation.
Though it’s true this “coming again” could be a reference to the future Rapture of the Church or for that matter the gathering of the nations after His Second Coming, I believe it has a more immediate application. Notice the point of His “coming” and the result of this “receiving” was so “that where He was there they might also be.” I’m of the opinion the promise has a more specific implication the moment our mortal bodies give up the ghost.
To this point in 2 Corinthians 5:4-9 the Apostle Paul wrote, “For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.”
While for some this promise may very well find its fulfillment when (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) “the Lord Himself descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…”
Either way, how encouraging it is to know the very moment you breathe your last in this life you will be immediately met by Jesus who will “come again and receive you to Himself.” Jesus has crossed the great divide and will not leave you to make this journey on your own.
This phrase “that where I am, there you may also be” gives us a profound insight into the essence of heaven itself. Heaven is heaven for one reason — Jesus is there! This is what makes the assumption of the unbeliever that they even want to go to heaven so silly. Why would someone who’s rejected Jesus in this life want to spend eternity with Him in the next?
Before we move on I must say that I have found — in the place of my own troubles and fears — the same two promises given by Jesus to these men provide me incredible comfort.
Not only is it true that the existence of my eternal home in heaven places any and all temporal hardships into an appropriate context — that there is a place Jesus is preparing for me, but the fact when I finally pass from this life into the next Jesus will “come again” and “receive me to Himself” also yields amazing solace.
Jesus closes this section saying, “Where I go you know, and the way you know.” Well, it’s in response to this statement that… John 14:5-6, “Thomas said to Jesus, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
Jesus has just told these men “where” He was going as well as “the way” to get there they should have known. Since Thomas wasn’t so sure, to his credit he asks Jesus to specify. What results is one of the most radicle and controversial of all of Jesus’ “I am” declarations.
First, to this question of “where” Jesus was going, His statement, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” intended to remove all doubt. Jesus is clear He was going to depart from this earth in order to return to the presence of His Father in heaven.
Pertaining to “the way” they might also get to the Father, Jesus answers by definitively saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” In the Greek the structure of this statement is more than being emphatic. The verse could be literally translated as, “I alone am the way, the truth, and the life in counter distinction to all others who make such claims or promises.”
Again David Guzik correctly observes in his commentary that “Jesus didn’t say that He would show us a way; He said that He is the way. He didn’t promise to teach us a truth; He said that He is the truth. Jesus didn’t offer us the secrets to life; He said that He is the life.”
If Jesus could have been any more direct in His response, He then adds that “except through Him” it’s impossible for anyone to “come to the Father.” Again, there is no mistaking the fact Jesus is issuing an inescapable claim of exclusivity. He’s not claiming to be a way to God — as if there were many. He’s saying He alone is “the way” and there isn’t any other!
You see according to Jesus “the way” to eternal “life” after our physical death can only be attained “through Him.” Friend, your eternal destiny will be determined by a present relationship… Do you know Jesus and more importantly — does Jesus know you?
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus articulated a difficult truth. He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"
Undoubtedly, such an exclusive statement stands in direct opposition to our pluralistic culture that frowns upon making such claims of absolutes. Pluralism posits that no one religion has a monopoly on truth and to claim as such is both arrogant and bigoted. The irony of this is that if everything is true then nothing is true and life is therefore void of all meaning.
Those who hold to such positions will argue saying, “How dare you say Jesus is the only way to heaven to the exclusion of devout Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, or for that matter good moral people who are sincerely following their own path to God.”
Don’t get me wrong I don’t doubt their sincerity, but a reality of life is that it’s possible to be sincerely wrong! For example… The 19 men who hijacked 3 planes on September 11, 2001 sincerely believed their martyrdom would result in an eternal paradise. The irony is the moment they completed their jihad they awoke to a much different reality.
If you happen to be such a person with a “COEXIST” bumpersticker on your Subaru, I would advise that you to take up such a complaint with Jesus who claimed to be the only way. You see it’s not Christians who say Jesus is the only way to heaven — Jesus is the one who said it! If fact, if there are indeed other ways to God, it would be to the exclusion of Jesus!
While most of the other major world religious also have similar claims of exclusivity, have you ever noticed it seems only Christians are accused in our culture of being intolerant? Tolerance is extended to everyone but Bible-believing Christians.
The reason this is the case is that in addition to being “the way” Jesus also claimed to be “the truth” making everything else a falsehood. You see an absolute truth like the claim Jesus made is by its very definition exclusive and intolerant because it brands everything else as being a lie. Think of it like this… While lies can be very tolerant of other lies, by definition truth must stand alone. You can say, “We’re all beautiful” until one lady receives the crown and title of Miss Universe.
Again, if you fall into this pluralistic perspective of thinking all truths are equal, let me ask you a simple question… Are you absolutely sure? I disagree with you so how are we both right?
Getting beyond these philosophical arguments and in considering the crux of what Jesus is saying, Pastor Joe Focht remarked that what Jesus says here is an “intolerant statement filled with great hope.” You see, the more relevant question is not why is there only one way? Instead, the more apt question is why is there anyway?
Friend, the very fact God provided anyway for a sinner to be reconciled with a holy God is beyond the pale. So instead of being upset there is only one way, be glad Jesus was willing to die on the cross to provide a way you might have everlasting life. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Please understand, your acceptance or rejection of Jesus’ claim to be “the way” and “the truth” is of critical importance. In fact, since Jesus also claimed to be “the life” your determination is a matter of life and death. As you seek to decide on who to believe among religious systems that all make claims of exclusivity, consider who’s still alive!
Jesus continues… John 14:7-11, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.”
Philip’s question to Jesus reveals a hang up we should hardly blame these disciples for having. On numerous occasions during this Last Supper Dialogue Jesus spoke about His “Father” and referred to Himself as the Son. With this in mind, what Philip now wants is for Jesus to reveal His Father. To this point, Philip asks, “Lord, show us the Father.”
What these men failed to understand — and again one can hardly blame them — was that, while completely separate, Jesus and His Father were also one in the same. They wanted to see the Father, but Jesus responds “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.”
John 14:12, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
Instead of diving deeper into the complexities of the triune nature of God, Jesus get’s back to the benefits of His coming departure. Not only has He told them He was leaving in order “to prepare a place for them” and they need not worry as He would “come again to receive them,” but now Jesus explains the ministry benefits of His departure to heaven.
Jesus say those “who believe in Him” will do “the works that I do” — only to then proceed to describe them as being “greater works” then even the ones He performed! How incredible! In the Greek this word “greater” doesn’t mean more spectacular or sensational in nature. Instead, this word implies “greater” in magnitude, scope, or reach.
“Because Jesus went to His Father” and then commissioned the church to go out into the world with the Gospel, there is no question the scope and reach of the work itself far exceed what Jesus was able to accomplish in the limitations of His own physical manifestation.
In order to explain how these “greater works” would even be possible Jesus continues… John 14:13-14, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
Admittedly, we find here one of the most twisted passages in maybe all of Scripture. There is a group within Christianity who take this exhortation and have morphed it into a what we call the “name it and claim it” heresy or the Word of Faith / Prosperity Gospel movement.
The Word of Faith movement was started in the early 1900s by E.W. Kenyon, but really rose to prominence in the 1960s by Kenneth Hagin. Those included in this large Protestant movement are Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Oral Roberts, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Paul and Jan Crouch, and probably the most popular name — Joel Osteen.
Word of Faith theology teaches that if one believes the Word of God and confesses its promises verbally than the believer shall receive whatever they confess. They will justify this position by pointing out that Jesus said, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it!”
Along the same lines as E.W. Kenyon famous quote, “What I confess, I possess” Joel Osteen once wrote, “You can cancel out God’s plan by speaking negative words. God works by laws... You’ve got to speak it out. Your words have creative power. One of the primary ways we release our faith is through our words. There is a divine connection between you declaring God’s favor and seeing God’s favor manifested in your life... Some of you are doing your best to please the Lord. You are living a holy consecrated life, but you’re not really experiencing God’s supernatural favor... because you’re not declaring it. You’ve got to give life to your faith by speaking it out.”
In 1998, at the age of 77, John Osteen — founding pastor of Lakewood Church — started suffering from liver failure. His condition quickly deteriorated by the end of the year which led his son Joel to take to the pulpit on January 19, 1999. In his message He encouraged the members to pray for their pastor using the power of positive confession:
“God has promised him that he will be preaching into his early 90’s... God gave him a vision for ‘Seven Years of Harvest’ and we are just beginning our 6th year of this special thrust for world evangelism. God has promised our staff that He will bring our pastor’s kidneys on a platter of praise. The God who began this universe as a mighty Creator is creating what our Pastor needs in his body.” 6 days later on January 25 John Osteen died of a heart attack.
While it’s true Jesus is promising to hear and answer our prayers, the problem with such a broad interpretation that God will give you “anything you ask in His name” is that it fails to consider two qualifications Jesus specifically tied to the request itself.
First, notice that Jesus begins by saying, “Whatever you ask in My name.” Understand, to pray in the name of Jesus means you are making your request based upon the merits of His completed work and in accordance with His perfect will. You see the first qualification for an answered prayer is that you’re to pray for the things Jesus would pray for!
The other qualification is that the answered prayer should itself yield “the Father being glorified in the Son.” Not only are you to seek what Jesus would seek in a particular situation, but you need to also consider whether or not the answer brings glory to the Father! In a sense you should ask what would result if God indeed answered your prayer.
When presenting His disciples an example for how they should pray in Luke 11:2 Jesus said to them “when you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Always remember the purpose of prayer is twofold: (1) To align your heart with His, and (2) To see His will accomplished on earth.
Jesus continues… John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
In the original language the tense presented here is active. In fact, the verse would be better translated as, “If you love me, you will continue to keep My commandments.” There is no question obedience is the tangible evidence a person really does love Jesus. If fact, since our love is a reciprocation to His love, obedience is simply a natural manifestation.
We live in a culture where the word love has been neutered of its true meaning. Sadly, most relegate love to the experiential. In this dynamic love ends up being nothing more than an emotional experience produced through a surge of serotonin flooding the brain.
We’re in love with someone as long as we feel the effects of love. Then once the “feeling” of love dissipates we’re off to another novelty in order to yield the desired high we crave. In a sense love has become nothing more than a drug many people are addicted too.
What’s worthy of pointing out is that love is presented in Scripture as a verb — an action. Love is a decision of the will much more than simply being a chemical reaction in the brain. Love is active and therefore designed to be independent of the fickleness of our emotions.
You might say you love your wife, but if you aren’t doing anything tangibly to demonstrate that love the question begs — Do you really love her? In fact, you might be self-deceived!
In Christianity this warped perspective of love has had terrible repercussions. Many people today claim to love Jesus when there’s no actions backing up their claim. For example, how can you honestly claim to love Jesus when your current lifestyle stands in direct contradiction to what His Word has to say? Again, it is Jesus who provides the litmus test when He said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” Are you?
Aside from these things there is no doubt the context of this specific “commandment” in reference intends to take us back to John 13:34 when Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
As we noted last Sunday what makes Jesus’ “commandment new” wasn’t the exhortation we “love one another,” but the fact we’re to love one another just “as Jesus has loved us!”
How can you love like Jesus? Well the answer is simple… Allow Jesus to love through you! It’s the only way! In and of yourself such a manifestation of love is impossible. Selfless love demands as little of self as possible. The very essence of our love should stand out in this world, because it’s otherworldly! This idea sets the stage for what Jesus now says…
John 14:16-18, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
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