John 14:1-6

As we come to John 14, we come to one of the most beloved chapters in the Bible. Right up there with Psalm 23, Luke 15, and Romans 8, many Christians say that their favorite chapter in all of the scriptures is the one we are going to be contemplating over the next several weeks.

The reason for this becomes obvious as we read the headings that various translations of the Bible precede this chapter with: “Jesus Comforts His Disciples,” “Comfort for Troubled Hearts,” and “Hope for Troubled Hearts.” It’s obvious that these captions come from the first verse of the chapter: “Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled” (John 14:1).

Now, it’s no wonder their hearts are troubled. To fully appreciate why, we need to take a peek at the preceding chapter where Jesus is speaking:

Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” [Peter isn’t interested in talking about loving one another, he’s more interested in Jesus going away, so] Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me (John 13:33-38).

All of them, to be sure, Peter the most, but all of them are befuddled and bewildered and suffering from what psychologists would call today ‘separation anxiety;’ that is being separated from someone you have come to love. They have all left their lives in Galilee to be with the most amazing and marvelous person they have ever encountered. Now He says, “I am going away, and sorry but you guys can’t come along.”

Peter speaks for them all as he expresses his desire to remain with Jesus: “Why can’t I go? I’ll do anything if you’ll let me come with You. Can’t you see that I am so devoted to You, totally sold out that I am ready to give my life for You and Your cause.”

“Oh yeah, Peter, will you really lay down your life for me? The truth is, in less than 12 hours you will deny you even know Me.”

Talk about troubled hearts. They are all troubled because although they want to remain with Jesus they are told they aren’t invited along to wherever He’s going. And to add insult to injury, when Peter says he will do anything to be with Him, it’s as if Jesus tells him not to bother, that he’s not even worthy.

Those first-century disciples have troubled hearts.

First-century disciples aren’t the only ones with ‘troubled hearts.’

You know, that wise old 19th-century preacher Joseph Parker was right when he said, “There’s a broken heart in every pew.”

For the most part, I don’t know what’s causing your heart to be troubled. It could be, like the disciples, you are suffering from separation anxiety as someone you love has gone where you could not follow. Or because you know it may not be long until you are going somewhere where they can’t follow you. Or it could be that your heart is troubled for any number of lesser reasons.

I don’t know what you are facing right now but there comes a time in a person’s life when we must trust that which we cannot prove, accept what we cannot understand. If in our darkest hours, we believe that somehow there is purpose in life and that that purpose is bound up with the love of God through Jesus Christ, then even the unbearable becomes bearable.

I recall when I was a little boy, with my mother and two younger brothers, taking our first train ride to Lima, Ohio to visit my grandparents. And I can remember looking out the side windows of the train trying to see ahead. And seeing for the first time a river rapidly approaching and becoming quite alarmed as I couldn’t see any way we were going to be able to avoid going down into that water. However, a miracle took place; the train on which we were riding became a magic carpet ride as we sailed above the water below. I couldn’t see or even imagine how that happened. “Mom, why didn’t we fall in the water?”

“Because, you knucklehead, we were on a bridge across the water.”
I didn’t have to wait too long before the whole scene played again. And after the experience repeated a few more times, I was finally able to lean back and relax with a long breath of relief and confidence. “Somebody has built bridges for us all the way to Lima!”

That is sometimes like life. So many troubles look dark ahead, so many difficulties seem insurmountable as they loom before us. The ultimate hope for troubled hearts is found in the Biblical certainty that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, and as we learn to trust Him, now we discover, to our great delight, that God has built bridges for us all the way to heaven.

“Let not your hearts be troubled; trust in God, trust also in Me.

And since the verbs are in the present imperative we can say, “Keep trusting in God, keep trusting in Jesus!” The more we develop our trust, the more hope will crowd trouble out of our hearts.

Trust you for what Jesus? Trust that I am going to prepare a place for you.

But please note, Jesus is not going away to ‘prepare’ or build the heavenly rooms in His Father’s house for verse 2 makes it clear that there is already an ample number of rooms. He is going to leave them for a time in order to prepare the way to those rooms! And that way is the way of the cross!

In the gospel of John, the cross is the heart and soul of the book! His death upon the cross is not viewed as a tragedy being orchestrated by either the Pharisees or the Romans whose goal is to snuff Him out. Neither is it being arranged by Satan, who thinks by using Judas he is spoiling God’s plan. Rather, the death of Jesus on the cross and His subsequent resurrection is referred to throughout John’s gospel as the glorification of Jesus.

For John, the cross is the crown jewel that holds preeminent position above all else because the cross not only empowers Jesus to return to His place in heaven but also empowers you and me to someday go home too.

There’s an old hymn that was written by an Ohio gal named Jessie Pounds in 1906 titled The Way of the Cross Leads Home. Most agree that Jessie was inspired to write it by a popular story that came out of London, centered on the geographical heart of London, which is known as Charing Cross or simply “the cross”. The story is about a London police officer who came upon a lost child who was unable to tell him where he lived. Finally, amid sobs and tears, the child simply said, “If you will take me to the Cross, I think I can find my way home from there.”

From that story Jessie wrote:

“I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this;
I shall ne’er get sight of the gates of light,
If the way of the cross I miss.
The way of the cross leads home,
The way of the cross leads home;
It is sweet to know as I onward go,
The way of cross leads home. 1

We need to trust that there is room for all who wish to come by way of the cross!

Our homes only have room for so many occupants. This past summer, I had 5 of my grandchildren for an overnight and it seemed the house was full. By code, this sanctuary can only accommodate 215 people. Even hotels at times fill up and have to display a ‘no vacancy’ sign.

But there will be no such signs in heaven! Heaven is as wide as God’s love and there is room for all who would come. There is room for all who will. The door is open, the light is on, the pillows are fluffed and the covers are turned down waiting for the weary and sometimes hopeless travelers of this sometimes confusing and tumultuous earth.

But make no mistake about it . . . it’s the way of the cross that leads home! I am the way (road), the truth and the life. He is the way, and that’s the truth that leads to life.

And then we can trust that Jesus is going to take us to a place we can call ‘home.’

Home because He is going to be there. And when we discover the delight of seeing Him and being with Him, we will be filled with an uncontainable joy in the knowledge that we have finally made it home.

And we need to trust that our heavenly home will far exceed any kind of home we have ever experienced on this planet.

In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg writes:

Our first two children were girls. When they were very young, they were quite sure they wanted to live in our home forever. Leaving sounded awful. They would ask, “When I grow up, can I still live here with you and Mommy?” It was no use trying to tell them that the day would certainly come when they would want to leave. Not that home isn’t wonderful, but the day would come when they would be grown-up. Perhaps they would fall in love and want to have their own home and family. It wasn’t any use telling them such things, because they simply could not believe that there would ever be a man in their life whom they would think of as bigger or smarter or more handsome or whom they could love as much as they loved their daddy. They just couldn’t believe it. And frankly, it sounded a little far-fetched to me.

In spite of that, I knew that the day would come – not today, not tomorrow, but someday – when they would be all grown-up. Somewhere, somehow, the day would come when they would see … him. Then they would understand. What they saw “through a glass, darkly,” they would then see “face to face.” And my little girl would come to me and say in the way grownup girls do, “Daddy, he is my destiny; I was meant for him. And I must be with him. I can’t imagine life without him.”

Being a very wise daddy, then, if the man is good enough and kind enough, and if my daughter is old enough (say, forty-five), I would say, “This is the moment! This is the union about which I prayed since before you were born. Enter into life, love, and joy.”

The Bible says that the kingdom of heaven is the story of a groom who awaits his bride. Right now you may not want to leave this place. But the day will come – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but the day will come – when we will be fully-grown. And we will see him. And then we will understand. 2

Finally, heaven will be home because our Heavenly Father will be there but heaven will also be home because we will see once again some other very special people.

Many of us have had the experience of living far from home as our work takes us to distant places and after looking forward to it for a long time making that journey home.

My mother was born and raised in Lima, Ohio. After she and my dad were married moved to Mogadore. Back when I was a kid, it was a four-hour journey by car. And because my dad worked as a Pharmacist, he didn’t get a lot of time off. So it was only once maybe twice a year when we would make the trip so that my mother could see her folks.

In between, my mom would long to go home again to be with parents especially since her dad had a bad heart. Letters and phone calls made poor substitutes. Then mom and dad would plan to make the long trek. And we would eagerly look forward to the day of departure, and count the days, hours, then the miles that separated us from our destination.

I will never forget the thrill of passing Schoonover’s pool, crossing over the B&O tracks, turning right on Murphy Street, passing Doc Whistler’s Drug Store, making a left on Ewing Avenue and my dad nuzzling up to the curb at 654 in front of that old two-story house.

And seeing Nana and Papa who were anxiously waiting on their front porch swing come down those steps and hurry over to open the car doors and greet us before we could even get out of the car. What a joyous reunion would take place as my mother’s family was reunited again.

Death may be regarded as a journey of a similar nature. Those we love have gone on and we are separated. Finally, the call comes to us as well, and we make that long journey into eternity. There at our destination, we find the warm smiles and welcoming hugs of those we have loved.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:1-6).

1 Diana Leagh Matthews. Behind the Hymn: The Way of the Cross.

2 Ortberg, John. Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003, p. 231-233.