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04.19.20 John 14.1-12, 27 The House of the Lord Sermon Summary

by on April 21, 2020

Jesus would have known Psalm 122, one of the “psalms of ascent,” from however many trips to Jerusalem he took for the festival celebrations. He would have sung about Jerusalem’s glory, about the joy of worship together, and about the promise of justice for all. And Jesus would have prayed for Jerusalem as Psalm 122 ends.

Jerusalem was the symbol of all these—glory, worship, justice. But by his last trip to Jerusalem Jesus would have realized without a doubt what is true of all symbols, even the symbol of Jerusalem. The power of symbols is in their ability to refer. Symbols possess meaning and they are possessed by meaning.

Take the U.S. flag, for example. It is a symbol. But no matter how powerful a symbol it is, it is not the U.S. Symbols are powerful but they are still symbols. And so with Jerusalem. Jesus knew that Jerusalem was a faulty symbol. He had discovered the path to glory, worship, and justice. It included Jerusalem but it was also beyond Jerusalem.

Jesus’ path to the glory, worship, and justice of Psalm 122 would go through Jerusalem, pause at the Cross and the tomb for three days, then continue in resurrection. Jesus’ path to glory, worship, and justice didn’t end in Jerusalem. He would die there, but his path would not end there.

As part of Jesus’ departing words, this passage in John shows how supremely confident Jesus was that his path leads to God, that it goes beyond Jerusalem to God’s very presence. This confidence is why Jesus could say, “you know the way,” and “I am the way,” and “You have seen me AND the Father.”

“You know me,” Jesus says. “You’ve seen my works. Therefore you know God and you’ve seen God’s works. Jerusalem may be the symbol of glory, worship, and justice. It may look pretty bad now, and it’s gonna look really bad tomorrow, but our hope of glory, worship and justice does not end in Jerusalem,” Jesus teaches. “Our hope rests in my path, my way.”

This is a message for Jesus’ disciples; a message for us. We don’t “know” Jesus by knowing the Bible, or by saying a prayer, or through a particular church. We “know” Jesus, and therefore God, by following Jesus, by following his path, by following in his way, by imitating him in our own lives.

This is good news for the church, especially through hard times in our own Jerusalems. When what is supposed to work doesn’t work, this is good news. When doing the right thing is ridiculed, when honesty costs more than dishonesty, when industry doesn’t reward, and when prayers don’t bring peace.

Jesus is saying to us his disciples, “Don’t give up! Keep walking the way. Keep following in faith. Look beyond the promises to the Promiser, for even death cannot stop the Promiser from fulfilling the promise.”

“In the Father’s house are many residences,” Jesus tells his disciples. “I go to prepare a place for you. And I will come and take you to me.” Some imagine we’ll each have a mansion when we die, but in reality what we have is more like an apartment in the house of the Lord.

After a week in Jerusalem, and three days in the tomb, Jesus proved that his way leads beyond the symbol of Jerusalem to God. And Jesus’s resurrection proved that God is the Lord of life. Now we who walk in Jesus’ way will walk through disappointments in Jerusalem. We will even walk through death. But we will experience glory, worship, and justice in our own resurrection; just like Jesus.

But that’s not all Jesus is saying here. He is talking not just the nature of discipleship—following Jesus on the way—and the destination of discipleship—the resurrected life with God. Jesus is revealing something about God.

God created us with the desires of Psalm 122, with the desires for glory, worship, and justice. And God gave us the symbol of Jerusalem and promised our desires would be satisfied there. And God is faithful to God’s promises. God delivers us to the Jerusalem beyond Jerusalem, to the life beyond this life, to the fulfilment of our God-given desires for glory, worship, and justice.

These are promises not just for Jesus’ disciples. These are not just for the people of Israel. These are promises made by God to all God’s creatures: “All flesh shall see it together” says Isaiah; “One man’s act of righteousness leads to justification for all” says Paul; “In Christ God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things” says Colossians; “Christ suffered for sins once for all” says 1 Peter; “Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sin” says Hebrews.

We who know Jesus have an assurance and a hope. It is unique to those who know Jesus. It is the hope and assurance that Jerusalem is the destiny of all God’s creatures. It is a truth that is contradicted in death, obscured in grief, and shrouded in mystery. But it is a truth that is promised by God and proven by Christ.

We do not grieve death as those who have no hope; we have hope—and not just for ourselves but for all creation. In the house of the Father of Jesus there are many residences, and Jesus has gone ahead to prepare them. A place to reside for all God’s children, and for all God’s creation.

This is the truth that Jesus reveals. The Father of Jesus is a God who saves, a God who redeems, a God who overcomes death. And we are God’s people; a people who hope, a people who rejoice, a people who look beyond Jerusalem, who look beyond death.

So what can you do as a believer in this God? As a person of hope? You can light a candle of remembrance. You can see in the windows of God’s heavenly apartment the faces of your beloved departed. You can rejoice in God’s victory over sin and death in the resurrection of Christ.

You can rest in the assurance of the Celtic prayer that applies not only to you but to all: “May God and may Jesus give aid unto me, May God and may Jesus defending me be; May God and may Jesus everlastingly Seek for me and find me and save me wholly.” (Celtic Spiritual Verse, no. 523)

“I was glad when they said to me let us go to the house of the Lord.” How could I not be glad? For in that house there is a residence for me. And in that house there is a residence for all whose deaths I mourn. And the same is true for you.

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