This is the sermon I preached Sunday at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The Gospel was John 14:1-14.
In this passage, there are several revelations or unveilings of the character of God. The first is the Comforter, the second is the way, truth, and life, the one who satisfies, and finally, the Enabler to do greater works than Jesus.us. Dang, that’s a lot.
Right out of the gate, we see Jesus’ concern for his followers, the unveiling of the comforting aspect of God. This is the night of Jesus’ arrest, to be followed by his crucifixion. He knew the needs of his disciples; that they still did not understand what was going to happen to him. And yet, doesn’t it seem that they should be the ones comforting him? Instead, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (v. 1). “…it was Jesus, whose stomach surely was in knots over what the next day would bring, who was about to be mocked, tortured, and executed, and even feel abandoned by his own Father, he was the one offering comfort to his friends” (Lisa Cressman, back-storypreaching.mn.co).
In a time of doubt and uncertainty, Jesus speaks words of comfort to [his followers]: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The word for “troubled” means “stir up, unsettle, throw into confusion.” To put it another way, Do not let your hearts be stirred up, unsettled, thrown into confusion. Trust in God. Trust also in me. (Jared E. Alcántara, christiancentury.org).
Jesus explains that he has prepared a place for the disciples in order to comfort them and help them understand.
I love the way Jesus sets up the next part of the passage, the conversation with Thomas: “And you know the way to the place where I am going” (v. 45). Seriously? Poor Thomas was clueless about where Jesus was going. Then, Jesus answers him, not with the location as such—Bethlehem, Galilee or Jerusalem. No, Jesus tells him the way to go is in him. “I am…” Their present and their future would be in Jesus. Jesus declares himself to be the way, truth and life. The words “truth and life” further describe the meaning of “way,” rather than introducing two more characteristics of God.
The next unveiling is the One who satisfies. Philip tells Jesus that the disciples will be satisfied if Jesus simply shows them the Father. What? The disciples still don’t get it. “What they want — … is the religion of the GPS, the five point plan, the twelve steps, the ten commandments. 'Do A, B, and C, and you will unerringly arrive at Destination D'” (Debbie Thomas, journeywithJesus.net). Isn’t that what we want too? We like things to be black and white, either/or…definitely not both/and, now/not yet.
In the final unveiling, Jesus enables his followers to do greater works than he had. It’s been suggested by some that by virtue of the sheer number of Christians in the world, greater works, in terms of number, would necessarily happen. There are other, unsatisfying explanations as well. However, I like the way commentator, Richard N. Boyce, explains this puzzling statement of Jesus:
What we human beings most yearn for is knowledge of and a relationship with God and God’s people. Ask after these things “in Jesus’ name” (v. 14), and the Father will be glorified and we will be satisfied, no matter what else does or does not come our way. (Richard N. Boyce, Feasting on the Gospels: John, Volume 2)
How can we do greater works—redouble our efforts with 5 Loaves and 2 Fish Ministry, volunteer at the St. Susan Center? We could exhaust ourselves around the clock, trying in our own strength to do greater works than Jesus. But remember, this passage is all about unveiling God. There are many ways to embody this.
Everything Jesus talked about in this passage boils down to relationship. Jesus manifested his relationship with the Father. If people saw Jesus, they saw God. The disciples then and we as disciples now are charged with embodying God’s love and grace for the world to experience. Discipleship must show grace, just as grace was shown in Jesus (Karoline M. Lewis, Fortress Preaching Commentaries: John). If they see us, they see God in us.
Jesus is the great unveiler. All we need in life: direction, satisfaction, comfort are all found in him. In the midst of the horrors of this life, we find what we require in Christ and the family of God. He is our way, who leads and carries us through this life and the next.
Our worship continues today outdoors. We will join together for another kind of unveiling—of our new sign. We will also remember those who have gone before us, who have modeled the life of Christ for us here, at St. Timothy. With our new sign, we hope to better meet the needs of our neighbors, as we become more visible in our community.