We live in a time of acute uncertainty, and that is creating all kinds of questions and confusion in us. In John chapters 13-17, Jesus speaks to people in a similar situation, folks whose future is completely up in the air. His disciples have been with him virtually twenty-four hours a day for three years receiving on-the-job-training. Over the course of those years Jesus has taught them many truths. He will now teach them one last time before his arrest and crucifixion, and his focus is the welfare of his wavering and lightly-tested apprentices. He knows that after he is gone, wolves will attack his flock.
Jesus’s first lesson on that last evening is about “greatness,” and he uses a towel and a basin of water to demonstrate how the greatest among them will be the servant to all. Then he moves into the discussion of his soon departure by saying that one of the twelve will betray him. This totally confuses his apprentices. How could betrayal be in God’s plan? How could one who had lived and worked side by side with Jesus for three years be an unbeliever?
Like many of us,
Judas Iscariot respected Jesus,
but when it came to the important stuff,
Judas only trusted himself.
Deep fears churn in the hearts of the eleven apostles. Peter is the first to express their worry: “Lord, where are you going?” (John 13:36). It sounds like Jesus is saying he is about to leave them on their own, and the men are filled with questions they are afraid to even ask.
Jesus knows their fears, and his first words address their insecurity. He assures them that he is not going to abandon them. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 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” (John 14:1-3).
What is Jesus referring to?
- Some believe Jesus is explaining how he will go to heaven to prepare “rooms” (KJV, “mansions”) for his followers to live in with him. Jesus’s promise to “come again” is understood by many to be the rapture and Second Coming of Christ.
- Others who read Jesus’s words don’t understand him to be discussing real estate, but relationships. That when Jesus said he would bring them to the “Father’s house,” he is talking about bringing them into a more intimate relationship with God, not simply providing them with eternal lodging.
Which of these messages did Jesus have in mind when he promised his followers that he would not abandon them? People debate that and come to different conclusions, but one thing I hope all of us see is that the entire passage (John 13-17) emphasizes a relationship that God wants to develop with each of us, a relationship that will forever end our aloneness and fear.
Next: Jesus describes what this relationship looks like in the life of his followers.