Video - Fifth Sunday of Easter
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
John 14:1-14
May 10, 2020

Because He Goes to the Father

Our Gospel reading today from the first 14 verses of John 14 begins with Jesus words, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God and believe in Me” (John 14:1).

What were they troubled about? If we look in the surrounding context in John’s Gospel, we may find some answers. We begin to see that Jesus was telling them that He was going away.

 Jesus spoke about this in John 13, just before our Gospel reading today: “Yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’” (John 13:33 ESV). In response to this, Peter said, “Lord, where are you going?” (John 13:36 ESV). He did not understand.

In our text this morning, Jesus says to them, “You know the way where I am going” (John 14:4). Thomas responded to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5). You can almost hear the distress in Thomas’s voice.

Later in John 14 just after our reading for today, Jesus says to them, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (John 14:19 ESV). One of Jesus’s disciples was named Judas. He is not the same Judas that betrayed Jesus. He responded to Jesus: “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22 ESV). You can almost hear the bewilderment in his voice.

In John 16, Jesus says to them, “But now I am going to him who sent me. . . . But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” But then Jesus says that it is to their advantage that He goes away to the Father (John 16:5, 6, 7).

Now part of what Jesus meant by His going away referred to His impending death on the cross. In regard to that going away, Jesus said “Yet a little while the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (John 14:19 ESV). He said you will weep and mourn but the world will rejoice. But then your sorrow will be turned into joy (John 16:20). He will die on the cross and the disciples will not see Him as He lays in the grave. But then they will see Him when takes life again and shows Himself to them in a joyful reunion.

But Jesus has something more in mind with His going away. He also speaks of His going to the Father. At some point after the resurrection, He will go to the Father and He will no longer be visibly present with His disciples. And so He is not visibly present with us.

This seemed to trouble the disciples. Does it trouble us? Maybe in this time which we are going through we want to ask with Judas: “How is that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world” (John 14:22 ESV). Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus would manifest Himself to the world. Then the world would be put in its place, and our lives on this earth would be put right. How much easier it would be to believe and how much easier life would be if Jesus just showed Himself, one might think.

Is that really true though? The disciples had Jesus in their sight. They could hear Him speak with His own voice. They ate with Him, and traveled with Him. They could shake His hand and embrace Him as brothers and sisters do.

But look at the questions they had? The most distressing question comes from Philipp. Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us (John 14:8). You can hear the longing in Jesus’s voice and a hint of pain when He responds back: Have I been with you all this time Philipp and you still do not know Me? He who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9).

What we need is a change of heart, of faith, of conviction. What we need is Jesus in our souls not in our eyes. He is the way the truth and the life. But we need Him this way in our hearts, our minds, our wills, our convictions. We need Him this way by the Spirit of truth whom the Father sends to us in Jesus’s Name.

And so He promises that when He goes to the Father, He will send the Spirit. He actually does not go away. He just changes the mode of His presence with us. And the mode of His presence with us gets into our souls and innermost being.

So if we view the situation from the standpoint of Jesus’s visible presence, we live in an in-between time. Jesus was visibly present then. He promises that He will come back and take us to Himself at some point in the future in the Father’s timing (John 14:3; Matthew 24:36). So we live in-between as far as being able to see is concerned.

But still, if Jesus was visibly present, wouldn’t He be able to do great things? Jesus speaks to this in our Gospel reading at v. 12. But first we need to back up and look at v. 11 (John 14:11). After Philipps’s question about showing the Father to them, Jesus says “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves” (John 14:11 ESV). The works He accomplished demonstrated who He was.

Now in v. 12, He appears to make an abrupt transition in thought from His works, when He says: “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12 ESV). Jesus says that the believer in Him will do greater works than He did because He goes to the Father. That is a truly amazing thing for Jesus to say.

Now I have heard this interpreted before in such a way that Jesus is talking about Christians performing stupendous miracles. Jesus did miracles, so we will do even more miracles. But it doesn’t have to be understood that way. In fact, it doesn’t really work out that way for the most part, and if that was Jesus meaning, then it would exclude most Christians. It would certainly exclude me.

Here is what this indicates. If Jesus were here visibly, like He was then, then He would be doing all the work. It would be His mind doing the thinking, His heart having the compassion, His true humility in action, His voice speaking, His hands doing the good, and His feet doing the walking in the way.

But now He speaks of something else, because He goes to the Father; because He is not with us here visibly. Our minds now do the thinking; our hearts now have the compassion; humility from us will be put in action; our voices do the speaking; our hands doing the good; our feet walking the way.

Now indeed, it is not as if our minds, our hearts, our wills, our voices, our hands, our feet are doing all this independent of Jesus and His word. No. He has given us His word. He is living in our minds and our hearts, directing our wills, inspiring our voices, and directing our hands and our feet. But still, He is engaging us for the doing.

The longer I live contemplating these words of Jesus the more I am dumbfounded and sort of awestruck by them. He means to do His work through us, through you, through me.

O Jesus, we may pray, do something about our current situation. But do we pray this in the vein of Jesus not using our minds, our hearts, our wills, our convictions, our voice, our hands, our feet? Indeed, things are happening that are so much greater than we are, than I am. And it seems so impossible. For sure, He wants us to pray. In fact, the very next verse He says: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14 ESV). But He talks to us about asking, precisely because He goes to the Father, just as He talks to us about greater works His people will do. He talks to us about asking precisely because He talks to us about His using our minds, hearts, wills, voices, hands, feet.

This is a truly amazing thing. I don’t know whether to cry and despair over this or give thanks and rejoice. In some moments it breaks me, which I think it should, because I know my own weakness and sin and fear. In other moments it lights a fire within me, which I think it should, because faith is real and the Spirit’s work is real. But then it is not necessarily clear what to do, but there He says to ask. And He promises to show the way.

Let not your hearts be troubled because Jesus has gone to the Father. He has come to you by His Spirit to dwell in your inner being. You have the outward signs of this in His Word and in His Sacraments. And these things inspire and direct your faith. But through His Spirit He is there as the one Himself who is the way, the truth, and the life.

And just how will He use you today to bring His goodness, truth, life, freedom, and genuine fairness into a dark world, where you live and work, at church and with your neighbor? Part of the adventure is founding out.

Jesus has died for our sins. He lives for our justification. He has overcome the world, though the world does not act like it and does not yet know it, but it will on a Day in His timing. He has gone to the Father, but He dwells in you and among us in a much more profound and effective way, though it is the way where His power is made perfect through our weakness.

Let us continue to be connected to His word and Sacrament. Let us seek Him and how He can put us to use in accordance with His prophetic and apostolic word. But let us also be at peace in our hearts. He has prepared a place for us in the house of our Father, whatever happens to us here. This is certain. As we hold fast to Him in His word by faith, He will show us the way, because He is the way.

Amen.



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