Heaven or UFO?: The Liberating Words of Jesus

(John 14:1-15)

By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.

Eagle Rock Lutheran Church

Los Angeles, CA

May 18, 2014 (5th Sunday of Easter)

 

Introduction

Our passage is part of Jesus’ discourse before his disciples when they were eating their Passover meal or let’s say during the Passover when he was about to suffer on the cross. Imagine he was about to suffer and die, but still he was the one who comforted his disciples.

I. Words of Consolation

Jesus told the disciples…

1.1. Have Peace (v.1) “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Another way of saying “have peace” or “peace be with you.” They knew what would happen to Jesus, and to them since Jesus was telling them ahead of time in his discourses. The word of peace is very comforting to them since they heard it from the one from whom they cling their faith.

Again, Jesus said,keep-calm-and-believe-in-jesus

1.2. Believe Me (v.1) “You believe in God, believe also in me.” Here Jesus was encouraging his disciples to believe what he was saying to them. That phrase is an introduction of his words of assurance.

1.3. Got Reservation? (vv.2-4) “There are many rooms in my Father’s house. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going away to prepare a place for you? And if I am going away to prepare a place for you, I will come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going, and you know the way.”

In other words, Jesus is going away to get reservation for his disciples. He will come back again, and he will give you your key!

1.3.1. Is it Heaven or UFO? Some Christians interpret this phrase as heaven—mansion with many rooms! Jesus is our advance party so that when we go there we will have a place to live in. Later, Jesus will come back for us, and he will “take us to himself.” Jesus said, “I will come back again, and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going, and you know the way.”

The words of Jesus picture a moving mansion traveling with Jesus, and fetching his disciples. Do you think this is a picture of UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) or a spaceship? You tell me!

Let me give you another interpretation of this text. New Interpreter’s Bible emphasizes that it’s a relationship that Jesus was talking about.ufo1

1.3.2. Relationship with God. “My Father’s house” is not to be taken as a synonym for heaven.  Throughout John’s gospel, location has consistently been a symbol of relationship. For example, John 1:18 is a description of his physical location (in the bosom of the father) communicates the intimacy of Jesus’ relationship with the father.

John 8:35-36 confirms that “God’s house is about relationship, and not exclusively about location” (New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. ix, p.740).

For sure in the words of Jesus, we can get these lessons: have peace—be happy, believe Jesus’ words and have a firm relationship with God.

II. Words of Truth

2.1. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (v.6). In Greek, we can read like this: Ἐγώ  εἰμι  ἡ  ὁδὸς  καὶ  ἡ  ἀλήθεια  καὶ  ἡ  ζωή (Ego eimi he hodos, kai he aletheia kai he zoe). It can be translated like this: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

I tried to look for this very phrase scientifically doubting that the English translation is incorrect, blindly hoping that the correct translation is the following: “I am a way, a truth and a life.”

Now it is clear, the English translation is correct! We know that articles “a” and “the” will bear different meaning when they are used to a word or noun like our phrase. Articles are used to differentiate between things or ideas – usually expressed by nouns. The speaker/writer may be referring to a specific thing or idea, or a general one.way-truth-life1

When we use “a” it refers a general one, and when we use “the” we are referring to specific thing or idea. Our text it says, “the way, the truth, and the life” and not “a way, a truth and a life.”

I want to use an analogy of the long bridge here, that bridge is positioned in two valleys. No one can go to another valley without using that bridge. If we are going to relate this to our text, Jesus is that bridge.

My question here for you is, are you now walking on that bridge? Are we walking in truth for Jesus?

2.2. Jesus is the Reflection of the Father (vv.7-11). Jesus said, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (v.11). This is a partial pronouncement of the Son of God’s part in the Holy Trinity. For the Jews, this is a big scandal and blasphemy. But in Jesus’ words, he is the reflection of the Father. He says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me [?] The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own. It is the Father who dwells in me and who carries out his work” (v.10).

Jesus mentioned this to strengthen his position as sent by the Father for a noble mission. This mission is now giving to his disciples, to us as a church with a mission or should I say we exist because of Jesus’ mission.

III. Words of Challenge.

3.1. Do Jesus’ Mission (v.12). Jesus said, “The one who believes in me will also do what I am doing” (v.12). Jesus is talking about his mission here. If we believe Jesus as Savior, as Messiah, we have mission to do. To share the good news that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior of mankind. This mission is not only for the pastors, church leaders, and evangelists. This mission is for all. If you claim to be a Christian, therefore you have a mission to bear!

3.2. Do Ask Anything in Jesus’ Name (vv.13-14). In our mission, Jesus will not leave us alone. Matthew 28:20 says, “I am with you each and every day until the end of the age” (ISV).  I am with you all the days until the completion of the age” (LITV). “I am with you all the days until the end of the world” (MKJV). “Ako’y sumasa inyong palagi, hanggang sa katapusan ng sanglibutan” (TAB).

If Jesus is with us in “every moment,” “each and every day,” “all the days,” “palagi,” “until the end of world,” we can ask anything in his name, and he will give us our murmurings, prayer requests and appeals. Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name” (v.13). That’s the reason why in the ending of our prayers we say, “in the name of Jesus.”

It’s like this, somebody comes to Bro. Richard, and saying “Brother, Kuya Raul needs your guitar for our Bible study on Friday. By using Kuya Raul’s name he might give it to him.

In our prayers, the name of Jesus has power!iamwithyoualways1

3.3. Do Keep Jesus’ Commandments (v.15). Part of Jesus’ challenge to us is in verse 15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” There is relationship between love and obedience. Obedience is producing love, and love is suggesting obedience, and supplying it with motive (The Pulpit commentary). Robertson says, “Continued love prevents disobedience” (Robertson’s Word Pictures).

Thomas a Kampis once said, “Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from Grace” (sermonillustrations.com).

Do you love Jesus? How do you obey Jesus? How do you follow Jesus? Do you follow him only at your convenience? If you just get a chance? Do you follow him with urgency?

 Conclusion

Arabian horses go through rigorous training in the deserts of the Middle East. The trainers require absolute obedience from the horses, and test them to see if they are completely trained.

The final test is almost beyond the endurance of any living thing. The trainers force the horses to do without water for many days. Then he turns them loose and of course they start running toward the water, but just as they get to the edge, ready to plunge in and drink, the trainer blows his whistle.

The horses who have been completely trained and who have learned perfect obedience, stop. They turn around and come pacing back to the trainer. They stand there quivering, wanting water, but they wait in perfect obedience. When the trainer is sure that he has their obedience he gives them a signal to go back to drink.

The horses can be trained to be obedient to their master. Can we train ourselves to be obedient to Christ? Indeed, the words of Jesus are liberating since they liberate us from loneliness, and they do comfort us. They give us peace, assurance and are encouraging us to love him more, and to obey him more for his mission.

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