Acts 7:51 to end, Psalm 31:1-5,15-16, John 14:1-14, 5th Sunday of Easter. May 10th, 2020.
Jesus gives navigation instructions to his Disciples.
John 14:1-14 has to be understood in the context of the final verses of Chapter 13 of St Johns Gospel.
So, things were not looking good. Jesus only had 12 disciples and now one, the team treasurer had betrayed him. Read John 13:30:
“ So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he (Judas Iscariot) immediately went out and it was night”
And then to cap it all Peter his no 1 disciple, well… it all went wrong, and Jesus had to speak to him in an ‘in your face, blunt manner’ and tell him that he Simon Peter would deny Jesus three times before the Cock crowed. All in all, it was hardly a great start to the last and final chapter of Jesus’s life and ministry here on earth.
And so, we reach John 14:1:
“Let not your hearts be troubled ,believe in God believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms if it were not so I would have told you and go to prepare a place for you”
It is true to say that the Church grows quickest not at times of prosperity, but at times of need. O Hallesby, a Norwegian Pastor said in a book on Prayer that ‘helplessness is the key to prayer’, and this is the key to understanding what Jesus did on the Cross. Without Jesus we do not have a hope, Man especially Western man, finds it difficult to come to God as it were naked, helpless, as the hymn said, ‘in my hand nothing I bring’. (Rock of Ages)
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.
I have been watching some of Billy Graham’s campaign videos they are amazing, do watch them. In one Billy Graham speaks about the heart. “The human heart is amazing it pumps blood around our body very efficiently, but when it goes wrong it can be devastating. Over 7 million people die each year in the world from heart disease” Remember in Ezekiel God promises to do a heart transplant: Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26 and St Paul gives a promise about the heart in Philippians.
"I shall give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit in them a heart of flesh" Ez 11.19 RSV
I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you, I shall remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh" Ez 36:26 RSV
and St Paul in Philippians " Then the peace of God which is beyond all understanding shall guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus" Phil 4:7 RSV
Therefore ,when we speak about the heart, we talk about the seat of man’s emotions; it is from the heart that we worry, or love, we hate, or get anxious from the heart. Many people according to the news are anxious in Britain. Over half of us are anxious about the Coronavirus, what it is doing to people and lives and the economy.
As we approach with Jesus in John 14 his passion ,his arrest and torture and death on the Cross Jesus (as it were) has nothing he can give his disciples and they have nothing they can give him…. Save this… Jesus can give them his very life, the life of the Triune God and with the disciples we can put aside what we have and simply believe that Jesus has everything that is the key the recognition of our need.
Jesus goes straight to the point, as Billy Graham said what is Man’s big problem? it is heart disease. It is the heart, the very centre of our being where we rejoice or worry, where we believe or doubt. Let not, says Jesus, let not your hearts be troubled.
But how could his disciples fail to be troubled ? Jesus himself was troubled in Spirit. Look at John 13:21 He was troubled by the presence of treachery in his company of happy disciples, but we note when a Man of God is troubled its then that his true nature is revealed.
Martin Luther King Jr said:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”
And of course, the paradox is that when the enemy of our souls thinks he has won a victory, in God bigger picture often a time that is the moment in fact of his defeat.
In the Psalm that Ginnie read to us (Psalm 31:1-5 and 15-16) the Psalmist cries out
“In thee O Lord do I put my trust, let me never be ashamed, deliver me in thy righteousness. vs 1
and vs 5, Into thine hand I commit my Spirit thou hast redeemed me O lord God of truth” (KJV)
John Knox the great Scottish preacher at the time of the Reformation wrote:
“If Satan fumes and roars against you, whether it be against your body by persecution or words put in your conscience by a spiritual battle, do not be discouraged – I have good hope and my prayer likewise is that you may be strengthened, that the world and Satan may understand and perceive that God is fighting your battle”
Well in John 14 Jesus, the great Commander in Chief gives a command, you remember in the book of Joshua that the Commander of the Army of The Lord appears before Joshua to encourage and strengthen him (Joshua 5) and Joshua takes off his sandals as he is on holy ground, “Art thou for us or against us” asks Joshua
And he says “Nay ; but as captain of the host of the Lord I am now come” (KJV)
Well now in John 14 Jesus one greater than Joshua has come and as commander in chief he gives a command and its clear:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled”
So, Jesus says Set your heart right
Set your mind right and believe.
Just as Joshua said to the Israelites one side of the Jordan be strong and of good courage (See Joshua 1:6 and 7 and 9 and 18) now a greater Joshua is about to cross a deeper Jordan to open a way to God through Christ his only Son, the pioneer of our faith.
Thomas ever the spokesman of what we would say if we had the courage asks.
“We don’t know the where you are going. How can we know the way?”
The way is through the Curtain.
It is through the flesh of Jesus see Hebrews 10:20
The concreate humanity of this Jesus who was born, lived,and died and rose again this IS the way.
It is not saying as Bishop Leslie Newbiggin said that he teaches about the way teaches about the truth, or the life, but that above all he is all these things
Death could not exist in his presence, the dead were raised to life, the grateful Jairus and his 12 year old daughter, the grateful widow of Nain and her Son, and the grateful Lazarus and his sisters were testimony and witnesses to this.
And they would learn very soon that death could not hold the beautiful, unique, one and only beloved Jesus of Nazareth.
He is the truth.
He told his disciples in John 4:32 The hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.
In John 8.31 Jesus said if you abide in my word you are my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
This way that Jesus speaks of is in John 14:6 the true and living way because Jesus is both truth and life. All of Gods truth is in him and put into effect. All Gods promises are fulfilled in Jesus as we heard last week about Jesus being the Gate and as was preached a couple of weeks ago where Jesus is the one who at the Cross has won a mighty victory over Satan and all the forces of darkness. In Jesus is life! for the very life of the triune God lives in him. To see Jesus is to see all the fulness of God.
as Gregory of Nazianzus (5th Century) said:
"We have one God, because there is a single Godhead.Though there are three objects of belief, they derive from the single whole and have reference to it.. They are not surrendered in will or divided in power.You cannot find there any properties inherent in things divisible.. the Godhead exists undivided in things divided.It is as if there were a single intermingling of light,which existed in three mutually connected suns "
When the Blind man opened his eyes for the first time the first human face, he saw was Jesus.
When the Woman who was caught in adultery and condemned by a howling crowd of men, she sunk to the ground ready to be stoned to death by the men.
But when all her accusers had gone, she looked up and maybe for the first time the first compassionate face she saw was the face of Jesus.
Jacob wrestled with a mighty angel of the Lord and caught a glimpse of the face of God and called the place Peniel.
Moses asked to see Gods face but had to be content with seeing his back, but he did says Jesus see God face to face.
But in the Gospels men and women and children see Jesus face to face, Wow! and dont you look forward to that moment when we can see him face to face? (Revelation 21) well you can know that moment now.
If you don’t have an intimate face to face relationship with Jesus, in the middle of this awful Covid 19 pandemic pause, and ask God to give you a glimpse of Jesus and meet his compassionate eyes now before he comes again as Saviour but also as Judge .
St Paul put it this way in Colossians
Colossians 1:18-20 New International Version (NIV)
18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
This is the very centre of the Christian faith revealed in Holy Scripture, the astounding truth that when we look at Jesus we see the Father, seeing Jesus we see all we need to of God (even though in Scripture through Acts# more is revealed of God as the disciples begin to really trust him and do what John 14:12 says)
To Jesus’s words Philip now demands, then ‘Show us the Father’ please.
‘Don’t you know me Philip’? responds Jesus, whoever has seen me has seen the Father. This is one of the boldest statements of Trinitarian theology in the New Testament.
I do not speak in my own authority says Jesus but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
Believe me that I am in the father and the Father is in me:
The feeding of the 5,000
The turning of the water into wine
The raising of Lazarus all recorded by St John and in the synoptic Gospels numerous healings; the blind seeing, demons cast out, unclean spirts coming out of people, a paralytic walking, an old woman bent over now straitened, a demoniac bound by chains ,now clothed, healed and with a new life. and people freed, the deaf hearing, the dumb speaking, the ill being healed, Lepers healed, men freed of fear; all these works speak of the Father at work through Jesus.
When we see Jesus set people free as he did and forgive the woman caught in adultery when he healed the Leper, when he made a blind man see we see the Father at work. And now says Jesus the going of Christ to the Cross and the coming of the Spirit will set in motion a new movement that what I have done will be multiplied across the world as miracles are done in my name the Gospel is preached and men, women, and boys and girls are rescued from sin, set free and healed. Wow! This is the heritage of every child of God. The Church only forgets this when it becomes sophisticated and trusts in its own wisdom, and experience. When suffering comes it cries out again as I believe people are doing now.
What is the key? is what I mentioned at the beginning of the Sermon; Prayer, Our helplessness and 100pct reliance on Jesus. Whatever you ask in my name this I wil do that the Father may be glorified in the Son, if you ask anything in my name, I will do it. Jesus will expand on this in the wonderful John chapter 17 but for now this is first time he mentions praying in his name .Its so simple and we easily forget it, It’s not a formula, it is utter and compete reliance in Jesus and believing that His name if the name that God will honour so go seek God and pray in Jesus name.
Tudor V Roberts 10.05.2020
Let us pray
God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love defend you on every side and guide you in truth and peace: and the Blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you an remain with you always. Amen.
# In our Acts reading for today Acts 7:51 to the end The Apostle Stephen being martyred is, records Luke at that very moment (Acts 7:55) full of the Holy Spirit and he looks up to heaven and sees the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.Stephen saw God and he saw Jesus at his right hand in victory.May that vision be an encouragement to us.Maybe like Stephen we are going through turmoil as many are through the Covid 19 pandemic, but Jesus is standing, the position of authority at the right hand of God. Hebrews 10:19-25 is a call to perseverance in the light that our Great High Priest Jesus is over the House of God and he has opened for each of us who trust in him a new way to God.Praise be to his name.