Studies in the Gospel of John
Lesson 39: “Going home”
Probably every one of us has experienced at one time or another, the “last days” of a certain time period. The last couple of weeks of a school year, the last day of a vacation, or, for many of us the last few days of hours of the life of a loved one. Those “first days” may be happy (as in the case of the end of a school year) or sad ( as in the end of a life) but they are always fraught with mixed emotions.
And that is the case with as we come to the last section of the gospel of John. Chapters 13 through 21 of John’s gospel deal with the closing week of Jesus’ life on earth. And they basically consist of one last, long conversation with His disciples, and the story of the crucifixion and burial of Christ. And in the course of these two scenes we learn some of the greatest lessons of the entire book.
The chapter falls into 4 parts:
The Announcement of the Departure – verses 1- 4
The Agitation Over the Departure – verses 5 through 5 through 11, and,
The Advantages of the Departure – verses 12 through 26
The Admonitions About the Departure – verses 27 through 31
So let’s begin our study by looking at the announcement of the departure that Jesus made in verses 1 through 4. In His grace and love, Jesus first gives them a brief preface to the announcement in verse 1
Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God believe in me
I have a friend who, whenever he gets ready to give his wife bad news says, “muster all your grace . . . ” That is what Jesus is saying here, except that it is much more tender and loving – and realistic. Notice that He gives them a command – “let not your heart be troubled” but then He also reminds them of the way in which they can obey the command – “you believe in God, believe also in me.” Think how realistic this is: There was no question that they believed in God – He was the backbone of their upbringing and national history. But now Jesus reminds them that He, too. Is God. They had seen enough by now to believe that; they just needed to be reminded. If they really believed in the power of God and if they really that Jesus was the Son of God, it would be an easy matter to “let not hour hearts be troubled,” And that is good advice for us too – and it is amazing how easy it is to forget in the face of an alarming situation or bad news, isn’t it?
Well, having made preparation for the announcement of His departure, in verse 2 He gives them the point of the announcement.
“In my Father’s house there are many mansions; if it were not true I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you
The bombshell of the announcement is in two little words in the middle of verse 2: “I go” But graciously, He tells them why He is going – and it is all for their good – to prepare a place for them in His father’s house. And then it gets even better than that – verse 3
And if I go, I will come back and get you.”
The news that Jesus is going away must have been a shattering blow to the disciples (even though He had been hinting at it for weeks now. Think of the thrills they had had in the past 3 years! But now, all of that is about to come to a screeching halt. Think how dull life without Jesus would seem now! But wait a minute! Maybe it won’t be so bad after all – He is talking about taking them with Him and living in mansions in heaven! The word “mansions” is the translation of a Greek word that actually means “dwelling places” or “rooms” which were added to the palaces of oriental potentate for his children to live in. Probably the King James Version translators used the word “mansions” to try to convey the majestic setting of the “rooms” Jesus had mentioned. But the picture is one of living in the very presence of the king himself, in his own palace. If Jesus Christ could create all of the majestic beauties of the earth, think how beautiful His own palace must be! And we will have “rooms” in it – rooms that have been especially for us.
Even though the disciples now understand “the purpose of the departure, Jesus goes still further in verses 3 and 4 and gives them some pacification about the announcement.
And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am there you may be also. (4) And where I go you know, and the way you know.
If they could believe that He was going away to “get things ready” for them, they could just as readily believe that He would come back. Within six weeks they would see Him physically rise into the clouds so it must have become even easier to believe that He would come back. And notice how personal that return will be: “I will come again and receive you to myself”. . .” I think we could all agree that if we could just be personally with Jesus it wouldn’t really matter where we were would it? And that is exactly what He is saying here! But in addition to that, it will be in heaven. This personal “return” of Jesus happens every time a believer dies. When Jesus told the story (not parable) of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke chapter 16, He said that “angels came and can carried him to Abraham’s bosom.” But this passage seems to indicate that Jesus Himself also comes for us.
Now all of this taken together tells us what death is: it is that time when Jesus has our “room”
ready in heaven.” And the over-all context of the New Testament indicates that during the time that He is getting our place in heaven ready He is also getting us ready for it. But at the very least this tells us that God’s timing is a key element in death – whether we can understand it or not(too soon or to late.) And all of this has a tremendous bearing on the whole concept of euthanasia that is staring us in the face.
In addition to that personal return for us at death, Paul tells us in First Thessalonians 4:13 through 18 the He will return for a whole group of living believers at some point and usher them into heaven together. When you think about it, this concept of the Lord returning for us is what gives life its true meaning. And it is not just a passing mention – one out of every twenty verses of the New Testament refers in some way to the return of Christ. Because of these promises the only thing that ought to trouble the believer is personal sin. And even that He will forgive, and someday will even deliver us from it. This is what Paul refers to in Ephesians 1:18 as “the hope of our calling.” In addition,” Second Corinthians 5:10 And Romans 14:10 say that when we get to heaven we will face a judgment that will reveal everything we have ever done for Christ’s honor and glory. This is what motivates us to keep going even when no one around us understands what we are doing or why.
Second Thessalonians 1:5 through 9 says that there will also be a judgment of the unsaved and wicked dead when “God will take vengeance on them” and “these shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. This is the answer to all of the cruelty and wickedness that soften seems to go unpunished in our world. Those kinds of things should be punished as harshly as possible in human courts (and they get worse when they aren’t.) But take comfort in the fact that every evil deed will be punished by the very power of God at the last judgment!
Throughout the gospels Jesus exhorted the disciples to live by this promise as though expecting Him to come any day (see Matthew 24:36-51; 25:13; Luke 12:13 -58; 1922) And when enough Christians decide to live on the basis of this hope we will experience the same kind of power and testimony that the first Christians experienced.