A Sermon on John 14:1-12 by Joe Ellis on May 10, 2020
I’d like to start by unpacking what Jesus means when He talks about His Father’s House. For that, we need to turn to another passage in John that is really helpful in understanding what Jesus is talking about when he says, “My Father’s house.” In John chapter 2 Jesus kicks the money changers out of the temple “because they were trying to make money off those who were coming to worship God. Jesus storms into the temple, makes a whip out of some cords, and starts driving out all the animals they were selling; cattle, the sheep and the doves. As Jesus was driving them out, he calls out: “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market.”’ That’s the same phrase that Jesus uses here — my Father’s house. Notice in John 2, that when Jesus says, “my Father’s house, “he’s talking about the temple.”
There is one more thing in John 2 that is helpful in there to understand our passage in John 14. Right after Jesus has run everyone out of His Father’s house, the temple, Jesus says something really important: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” People laughed at him, because the temple building took 40 years to build. But John tells us that Jesus wasn’t talking about the temple made of bricks and stone. Jesus was talking about the temple of His body. Jesus calls the temple his Father’s house. Jesus also calls the temple his body. Both make sense because what makes the temple of God the temple of God is the fact that it is filled with the presence of God. If God is not there, its not His temple. God’s presence is what makes a temple a temple The temple building was seen as the most Sacred Place on Earth, the place where God’s presence was most manifest. That is of course why Jesus calls the temple His Father’s house. That’s also why Jesus describes the Temple as His body. In Jesus, the fullness of God lives.
This passage about the Father’s House having many rooms is often read in funerals. Understandably and rightfully so. In this passage Jesus is inviting us to think of His Father’s House as a luxurious Greco-Roman villas, filled with terraces, with an abundance of breathtaking places to live, placed among shady gardens, fruit bearing trees, and streams of living water. A picture of God’s abundant, overflowing hospitality. But let’s not get too focused on the Father’s house as a building — Jesus’ image points to something even more splendid. If the Father’s House is another name for His temple — listen to way John talks about what the Temple will be like in the New Creation. In Revelation 21, John describes the dawn of a New Era when the Heavenly City comes to Earth and God’s presence will be fill everything like the water covers the sea. John says, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light.”
Notice that in Revelation John says something very similar to what we picked up on in John’s Gospel. The temple of God is where God’s presence lives. In the New Creation there will be no temple building because God’s presence will be throughout the land. God Himself is His temple. The Father’s House will be the Father. Revelation 21 starts with saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples and God himself will be with them.” What makes the Father’s house the Father’s house is the presence of the Father. When Jesus promises to take us into the Father’s house, He is promising to take us into His Father’s presence. That is our only true Home. There is no better place to live. Jesus says that His Father’s house has many rooms, a literal translation of the word room is — abiding place. Later in John 15, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I will abide in you.” All this is not only about the life to come. As followers of Jesus, we live in the temple of are and now — as Jesus says, “I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I in you.” If Jesus has drawn you to love Him, to place your faith in Him, to call Him friend and Lord — you have begun to live in the Father’s House. They have made their home in you.
Yet Thomas asks the question that’s on all of our hearts. “Lord, we do not know the way to 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 know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen Him.”
Thomas wants in the House. Thomas wants directions on how to get there. So, Jesus gives Him the direction. Jesus says take the road that is me. “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” Thomas asks how to get into the Father’s House, and Jesus says, “I Am the Way… No one can come to the Father except through me. If you know me, you know my Father too”
There is only one way into His Father’s House — through Him. I am the way the truth the life. The pathway into God’s presence is a person — it is Jesus. Knowing Jesus is the only way to enter and live in the Father’s House. I’ve sometimes wished for a fail-proof, one-size fits all plan for discipleship. Do this, this and this and you’ll get closer to God. It would be easier if the Way Jesus talked about was a program, not a person. It would be easier if there was a simple set of directions to follow, check off and know you are getting closer to God. I’m personally motivated by checking things off. Yet the Way is not a program, the path is a person and requires relationship. Programs and books, and sermons can all be helpful in teaching about how to enter relationship with Jesus. People can share wisdom about the Way they’ve grown deeper with Jesus, but all of these are helpful insofar as we can set them aside and get to know Jesus firsthand. Its no good to read about the road to the Father’s House. We must travel it, and the only way is to walk with the one in whom the Father dwells.
Notice that here we have two complementary, perhaps contradictory, images of the Christian walk — home and journey. Jesus has come and made for us a home in God. Jesus has brought us into God’s presence. Jesus has made God our home. Yet Jesus is also the Way — the Road — the lifelong Journey towards our home.
Home and Journey — Jesus is both. Which do you resonate with most wright now?