Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Fifth Sunday of Easter (A)
April 20, 2008
Text: John 14:1-14

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

Thomas and Philip ask some disappointing questions in our Gospel lesson this morning. How is it that they don’t know the answers? How is it that they don’t know when they’ve been with Jesus for three years now, following Him as His disciples, walking with Him, talking with Him, eating with Him, sitting at His feet as He teaches, witnessing the spectacular miracles? How is it that Thomas doesn’t know the way to the place Jesus has prepared? How is it that Philip doesn’t know He’s already seen the Father in the person of the Son, that Father and Son are of one divine essence, one eternal God-head with the Holy Spirit, that the Son is the perfect revelation of the Father and His loving will toward us? We’re embarrassed for Thomas and Philip whenever we read or hear this text. We’re embarrassed because they should know better!

When we consider the context of the questions posed by Thomas and Philip, we find ourselves in the upper room with the disciples and Jesus for their Passover meal on Maundy Thursday. This is the same upper room, the same meal, in which Jesus institutes the Holy Supper of His body and blood. But there is a certain sorrow in the air. Jesus has just finished telling the disciples that one of them would betray Him, and that one is identified as Judas Iscariot, who departs into the outer darkness (John 13:30). Furthermore, all the disciples would desert Jesus in His time of great need, including Peter, who would deny Him three times in spite of his boasting. Jesus has told His disciples many times that these things must take place, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, to the chief priests and teachers of the Law, and be crucified, and after three days rise again. So the disciples are sorrowful. That is why Jesus spends so much time speaking His Word of comfort to them in the upper room, and why He there institutes the meal that would strengthen Christians, including you and me, both in times of joy and sorrow, for centuries to come.

So here is the thing about Thomas’ and Philip’s questions… They probably do know the answers. But they are overcome by sorrow. Thus they forget what Jesus has taught them. Now, think about this for just a minute. Isn’t it true that we also tend to forget the Word of Jesus when we are sorrowful? Isn’t it true that when times get tough, we find ourselves easily forgetting the teachings of Jesus? Or else why would we despair? If we really know and believe what Jesus tells us in the Scriptures, how He loves us and has fulfilled the Law for us, how He died for us and rose again for our forgiveness and salvation, how He has made peace with God for us so that we have a loving Father, how we can ask Him anything in His Name, according to His will, for His glory, and He will do it… If we really know and believe this, how can we despair? How can we be discouraged? Because if these things are true (and of course, they are), what can harm us? What can take away our joy? The very worst that can happen to us is that our souls are separated from our bodies for a short time, a time our souls spend in heaven with Jesus while our bodies rest in the grave, only to be reunited again in the resurrection. There really is no such thing as a sad ending for the Christian. For those who are in Christ there is only a happy ending, the happiness of eternal life with God.

But as long as we have the old Adam wrapped around our necks, as long as we still have to struggle with the old sinful flesh, we sorrow and we worry and we doubt and we become forgetful when it comes to Jesus’ Word. While Thomas and Philip ask embarrassing questions in our text this morning, you and I have to admit that we’ve asked similar questions, and maybe even the same questions. There is some wisdom in the old joke that the answer to every Sunday School question is Jesus. Have you ever said to yourself, “I just need five minutes of peace”? It’s a sentiment likely born of frustration in a world that offers no real peace, and certainly no lasting peace. But what if I told you that you can have an eternity of peace, real peace, starting now, even in the midst of war and violence and broken relationships and diseased bodies and even death? You might say, probably with no small amount of sarcasm, “How can I get such peace?” The answer is Jesus! How do I find comfort in my sorrow? The answer is Jesus! How do I find a place to belong? The answer is Jesus! How do I know I have a loving Father who cares about me and only provides the best for me? The answer is Jesus!

To the disciples and to us Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1; ESV). “I will give you peace. I will give you comfort. I will assuage your doubt, your worry, your fear. I will give you a loving Father and a place to belong, namely, in His house.” “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (vv. 2-3). Jesus even tells the disciples, and us (!), “you know the way” (v. 4). And we do, even though we forget sometimes. Thomas knew the way. The way is Jesus. He is the way, and the truth, and the life. Jesus also says to His disciples and to us, “I’ve been with you long enough that surely you know that in me you see the Father. The Father has revealed His loving and gracious will for you in me, that He should give His only begotten Son into the flesh, even into death, that whoever believes in me should not perish but have eternal life. In fact,” says Jesus, “the words I speak are the very words of the Father.” “Do you not believe that 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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (v. 10). “And all of you who are in me are also in the Father, so that you have direct access to the Father, can ask Him anything in my Name, and He will hear you and answer you.”

Let not your hearts be troubled. You know the way. Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life (v. 6). Tragically, some do not know the way, and this is totally politically incorrect to say, a stumbling block for many people, but those who do not know the way, refuse the way, reject the truth, prefer their own life to the life offered by Jesus, will perish eternally in hell. Such were the Jews who stoned Stephen on account of his confession of Christ (Acts 7:54-60). St. Peter quotes Psalm 118 and Isaiah 8 when he writes, “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’” (1 Peter 2:7-8; cf. Ps. 118:22 and Is. 8:14). If any of you in the congregation this morning are one of these people who reject Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life, be warned that the path you are on leads to eternal damnation. Because despite what Oprah preaches and what the devil, the world, and even your own sinful flesh would have you believe, there are not many ways to God. There is one way. “No one comes to the Father except through me,” says Jesus (v. 6). There is one truth. Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), while the truth of God stood before him in the flesh. There is only one life that is eternal, and the only alternative is eternal death in hell. Jesus has come to save us from eternal death and bestow His life upon us. Last Sunday we heard Jesus tell us, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

In Jesus we do have life. In Jesus we have the truth, which not even the father of lies, Satan, can rob from us. In Jesus we have the perfect picture of our heavenly Father. Jesus is the way to the Father. He has prepared an eternal place for us in His Father’s house. So there is true comfort for us, even in great sorrow. Our Lord is patient with us. He doesn’t force Thomas and Philip to leave the upper room when they ask questions for which they should have known the answers. He knows that their flesh is weak. He knows they have forgotten because of sorrow. So He reminds them again. He reminds them of His Word and His works. So also He knows your flesh is weak. So He reminds you. And He bestows His life giving promises. From now on you do know the Father (John 14:7). From now on, you also do the work of the Father (v. 12). From now on, Jesus will do whatever you ask in His Name, for your good, according to His will, “that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (v. 13). From now on you know the way, for Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

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