Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Sermon -- Lenten Vespers (March 2, 2016)

JOHN 14:1-6

“How Can We Know The Way?”

In the name + of Jesus.

     When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter confessed correctly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mathew 16:16)  Immediately after that, Jesus began to teach his disciples what it meant that he was the Christ.  He began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21)  The Gospels record at least three times when Jesus pointedly and specifically told his disciples what was in store for him.  He would go to Jerusalem.  He would go to the cross and then to the grave.  Finally, he would rise from the dead.
     At last, Jesus and his disciples had arrived at Jerusalem.  His hour was finally at hand.  In the upper room, Jesus' announced once again that he was going away.  This time, when Jesus told his disciples that he was about to go, the destination was neither Jerusalem nor the cross.  He was going to his Father's house.  Jesus told them, “You know the way to where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?” (John 14:4-5)
     In one respect, Thomas was correct.  We can't find our way to the Father's house, no matter how much we would like to try.  When we speak of the Father's house, we usually use a term like eternal peace.  The Father's house is Paradise in which all things are pure and perfect and permanent.  Philosophers have dreamed of a place like it.  Politicians might promise you such a place.  But every effort that men have put forth to establish heaven on earth or even peace in our time have been spectacular failures.
     Jesus urged his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)  But our hearts are easily unsettled.  We have labored to make our own peace on earth.  And our efforts also result in spectacular failures.  We do everything we can to keep the peace in our homes, to get along at work, and to play nice in our neighborhoods and towns.  But we still prove ourselves to be sinners.  So guilt destroys our peace.  We try to control our environment to maintain peace, but circumstances are beyond our control.  They are constantly changing and constantly reminding us that we are helpless.  So worries disrupt our peace.  We live in a world that is broken and perishing.  Any news report will remind you of that.  Fear unravels our peace.  So when Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1), he almost seems to be mocking us.  But our hearts are troubled because we put our trust in the wrong things.  We trust in ourselves, our powers, and our world.  This is idolatry, and there is no peace for anyone who is an idolater.  Repent!
     Jesus told his disciples, “In my Father's house are many rooms.  ...I go and prepare a place for you.  You know the way to where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, can we know the way?” (John 14:2-5)  Thomas was still unsettled that Jesus was going.  Who could blame Thomas for his concern?  Jesus is the one who healed sickness and diseases.  Jesus calmed the storm and fed the thousands.  Jesus drove out demons and protected his disciples from the evil one.  When Thomas heard Jesus say he was going to his Father's house, he felt like Jesus was abandoning them.  The fact is, we remain here in a world where we endure sickness and diseases.  Even if we are fed, we still worry if we will have enough money to pay bills or to retire.  The Evil One still tempts us to do evil and taunts us over the evils we have done.
     Jesus assures you that his departure is a good thing.  He says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.  In my Father's house are many rooms.  ...I go and prepare a place for you.  You know the way to where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, can we know the way?” (John 14:1-5)  To Thomas and to us and to all whose hearts are troubled and shaken, Jesus declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  Jesus is the one who brings us to the Father.
     Jesus tells you not to let your hearts be troubled, but it was Jesus who earlier was troubled.  Just a few days before he was in the upper room, Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled.  And what shall I say?  Father, save from this hour?  But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” (John 12:27)  Jesus was filled with sorrow, knowing the pain, torment, and agony he would have to endure.  Jesus does not merely have sympathy for us in our difficulties.  He takes up all our guilt and sorrows in order to deliver us from them all.  And he takes upon himself all of our troubles and pains, our punishment and our curse.  For this purpose, Jesus came to the hour of his torturous death.  “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked,”(Isaiah 48:22), and so Jesus delivers us from all wickedness by his death.  At the cross, Jesus finds a merciless God who pours out hellish pain and relentless wrath.  This is the cost for sin.  This is the price that was paid.
     But Jesus paid the price in full.  And that is why he can say to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)  Jesus takes away all that truly troubles you.  Guilt cannot destroy your peace; for your sins are forgiven.  Circumstances may change and maybe not for the better, but God's promises do not change.  You are a redeemed child of God—whether it is a good day or a bad day.  And even though the world is broken and perishing, you are set apart from this world and set apart for a place in the Father's house.  You know the way to the place where Jesus has gone.  Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
     Jesus is the way to the Father's house.  He has prepared all things for you.  He has done the work at the cross where he shed the holy blood which pays for sins.  He has washed you in that precious blood in your baptism, and he continues to sustain and sanctify you with that blood which he gives you in the holy supper.  As he continues to strengthen and keep you in the one true faith, he prepares a place for you in his Father's house where there are no troubles, no squabbles, and no fears.  Jesus has earned that place for you.  His resurrection to glory means your resurrection to glory and life everlasting.  Therefore, he will return at last to come for you and to take you to that place.
     How can we know the way through this world of sorrows to the joys of the Father's house?  Jesus Christ is the way.  He is the source of God's forgiveness.  His promises remain constant as your circumstances constantly change.  He is the way through death, and he is the resurrection.  Since Jesus has accomplished all things for your salvation, and since Jesus lives and reigns over all things for your good, and since Jesus prepares your place in the Father's house, and since Jesus will come back to take you there, your heart has no need to be troubled.  All things rest in Jesus' hands, including you.  Therefore, your heart can rest, your fears can subside, and you can depart in peace.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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