Sermon for Fifth Sunday of Easter

Sermon for Fifth Sunday of Easter

(Transcribed by machine 04/15/2024)

Christ is risen. He has risen indeed. Hallelujah.
I am the way, the truth, and the life, says Jesus.
No one comes to the Father except by me. You may be seated.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Dear Saints, this is an absolutely beautiful text. Wonderful words from our Lord Jesus.
And I think, as I was thinking about it this week, that this might be the text that I’ve preached on
the most because I’ve preached on it at so many funerals. It’s such a beautiful
text of comfort where Jesus says, look, I’m going to prepare a place for you so
that where I am, you can be there also. And it gives us this great
comfort in life and in death. But I have to tell you that the last few
times I’ve preached it, Carrie, who listens carefully to the sermons and
and we’ll sometimes give them reviews afterwards said to me
Brian you’re going to need to explain that one a little bit more
so I’m going to attempt to do that today but we have to do it last because there’s so many good
things in the text that we want to look at it so really so four short things and then
and then a little extended meditation on what it means that Jesus prepares a place for us
and I in fact if you’re looking at the text I’m going to work from the end up
from the bottom to the top because this text has so many beautiful promises and
so much wisdom from us that we just need to take a little time just to think
through a couple of the things. The first one is that Jesus, we end the
lesson with Jesus telling us to ask whatever we want in his name. Pray in his
name. If you ask anything, if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. And so
we need to consider this, what it means to pray in the name of Jesus. A lot of
people take that as, and you hear this I think a lot in prayers, is that people will be praying
for whatever and then they’ll end by simply saying, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
And that is an attempt to keep this text that Jesus says, and it’s fine, it’s a fine way
to end our prayers, but that is not really what Jesus is saying.
He’s not giving us a formula for prayer, He’s giving us a way to pray.
To pray in Jesus’ name is not to pray by simply saying the words in the name of Jesus, but
to pray in the name of Jesus means to pray according to his will and most
especially according to his promises. Now there’s a there’s a tightrope that
I am gonna attempt to walk here for you as we think about this and I’m sure to
fall off on one side or another because there’s there’s kind of two dangers when
we’re talking about this but so okay so here’s the one thing is that when we’re
praying it’s not like Jesus is saying whatever you can come up with whatever
Whatever you can imagine, whatever’s on your bucket list, whatever sort of things
that pop into your mind that you want, you can ask me for those things and I’ll give
them to you.
That’s not the prayer that Jesus is giving.
When He’s teaching us to pray in His name, He’s teaching us to ask for the things
that He wants to give.
In fact, to pray in Jesus’ name is to pray as Jesus prays, and remember the way that
He teaches us to pray in the garden where He says, Father, if it’s possible, let this
cup pass from me, but not my will, but your will be done.”
To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray not for what we want, but for what God wants.
It’s to pray that prayer, Thy will be done.
When we pray in Jesus’ name then, we’re asking Him to keep the promises that He’s
given.
Now, that is true.
But here’s the danger.
The danger is that we start to think, well, because I prayed for something and I didn’t
get it, it must not have been the right prayer.
Or if I think, well, look, if you want to get something from God, if you want Him to
answer your prayers, then you have to be asking for the right thing and it starts to constrain
our prayers.
Do you remember how when you were in middle school and you were supposed to write an essay
say, and you would write your first draft, and then you were supposed to write a second
draft, and then a third draft, and you would edit it, and you’d take it to your mom who
would correct the spelling, and then turn it back in, and then you’d turn it in, and
you would, after it goes through all these revisions, and then you’d turn it in.
Jesus does not want you to pray like that.
He does not want you to sit back and say, well, I’m not sure if I should ask for this
thing, or I’m not sure if this is the right thing, I need to run it through the list and
make sure.
No, in other words, when we know that we pray in the name of Jesus, it means to pray for
the things that God has promised, but I don’t want that to stifle your prayers or to limit
your prayers or to somehow put a cap on your prayers.
Look, Jesus says, you need something, you ask for it.
And maybe it’s not the right thing, but the Holy Spirit is working in our hearts to teach
us those right things to pray.
So even though we know that praying in the name of Jesus means praying for God to keep
His own promises for us, that should not slow you down when you go to pray.
It should not stop you.
It should not make your voice hesitant or faltering.
You should come before the Lord as a dear child asks their dear Heavenly Father, knowing
that He loves to hear your prayers.
He loves to answer your prayers.
He loves to hear you pray to Him and to know what you need.
So the Holy Spirit sets us to pray in Jesus’ name, and the best way, I think, to do that,
To know that what we’re praying for is the right thing is to pray the Lord’s prayer.
This is a prayer in Jesus’ name.
Or this, and I hope that we can, the Lord can cultivate this habit in all of us, is
we pray the Scriptures.
When you’re reading the Bible in your daily devotions, you’re not just learning them,
but you’re taking those words and you’re turning them into prayers.
Lord, here’s what you teach me, help me to learn it.
Lord, here’s what you promise me, please deliver that promise.
Here’s what you warn me about, please give me repentance and care.
here.
And so we take the Scriptures and we turn them into our prayers, and that’s to pray
in Jesus’ name, and then we have this promise, ask of me anything in my name, and I will
do it.
Right above that, point two, Jesus says this astonishing thing that we need to spend a
little time thinking about, truly, truly I say to you, this is verse 12, whoever believes
in me will also do works that I do, wow, already that’s a pretty bold thing, but then Jesus
Jesus goes on to say, and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the
Father.
Jesus says to you, to me, that we will not only do His works, but we will do even greater
works.
What does this mean?
How could we possibly do greater works than what our Lord Jesus has done?
The one who walked on water, the one who fed the five thousand, the one who raised the
dead?
Is this what it’s talking about?
Jesus is here prophesying that the church will work wonders through the preaching of
the Word and through the administration of the sacraments so that His kingdom would
continue to come on the earth.
I was reading Christopher Wordsworth’s commentary on this text this week, and he makes this
It’s a pretty astonishing but kind of comforting statement.
He says this, justification is a greater work than creation.
If I was to say what’s the greatest work that the Lord has done, I think you would…
I mean, at least for me, I think, well, hanging the stars in the sky is pretty good, and
creating the universe and everything in it, that’s pretty impressive.
I can’t think of a greater work than creating the world.
world, but here Wordsworth says that the work of justification, the work of redemption is
in fact a greater work than the work of creation, and why?
He goes on to say, heaven and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord, that will
endure forever.
The word of forgiveness lasts forever, and when the Lord Jesus puts His word of forgiveness
on you, then you also last forever.
forever. So the work that the Lord does in this little font and on this table and in
the words that are read and the words that are preached, this is a work that endures
forever past the judgment day, past the dissolving of the sun and the moon, past all of that
into eternity. The Word of the Lord endures forever. So Jesus says, greater works will
be done than even I do.
The third point, moving to the paragraph above, and we just have to make this point, is that
Jesus is unfolding for us in these words.
Remember how it was with Philip.
Philip says, Jesus says, I’ll show you the Father, and Philip says, well, why don’t you
then do it?
Why don’t you show us the Father?
And Jesus says to Philip, ah, Philip, how long have we been learning this lesson, Philip?
How long have I been with you?
If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father?
Father, this is Jesus unfolding this great mystery of the Christian faith, the doctrine
of the Holy Trinity, that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons in one God
of majesty co-equal, co-eternal, consubstantial, that God the Father and God the Son are God,
that they are all eternal, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all majestic, Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit all together, whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
So Jesus says, look, no one comes to the Father but through me.
He also said, no one comes to me unless the Father has drawn him.
So that the Father brings us to Christ and Christ brings us to the Father.
And then Jesus says this, we want to just underline it and pay careful attention to
it.
In verse 10 he says, do you not believe that I am in the Father?
Okay we got it, right?
And the Son is in the Father, okay?
And then Jesus says, and the Father is in Me.
So the Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Son.
You can’t miss it because Jesus is saying that we are one, we are equal.
So we confess this, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three eternal, three majestic,
three almighty, all three persons of the Holy Trinity for us.
One more point before we get to the mansions.
All through the Gospel of John, Jesus is making these statements, I am.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
I am the good shepherd, I am the door, I am the resurrection.
But here he piles a bunch of I am’s right on top of one another with this most wonderful
verse.
It’s one that we should all have written in gold on our hearts.
I am the way, and the truth, and the life, and then this, no one comes to the Father
but by me.”
That word is such a beautiful, wonderful word of promise and comfort for us Christians,
but here’s the astonishing thing, that for those who are not Christian, those who are
not in the church, that’s a word of deep consternation.
It’s a word of incredible offense.
And I’ve been trying to figure this out.
In fact, I’ve been thinking about this for probably four or five years now, trying to
figure this out.
But how can the same verse be so full of joy and life for one group of people, and so full
of vitriol and animosity for another?
How can Christians look at one word and rejoice in it, and the unbeliever look at that same
word and despise it?
We look at this and say, look, there’s a way to the Father, and we’ve found that way, or
maybe even better, that way has found us, it’s Jesus, and He’s the one who’s given us
eternal life, but the unbeliever says, well, that’s too narrow. It’s too exclusive.
How can Jesus say He’s the way? Wouldn’t it be better if He said, I am a way, a truth,
a life? A lot of people come to the Father apart from me. It seems like we need a broader
road to get in there. And the exclusiveness of the Christian gospel is offensive to the
world.
Now, we just got to know this, I got to know this as a preacher, you got to know this as
a Christian, that the world hates this, this maybe above all else, this exclusivity of
the gospel.
It wants there to be a lot of ways to get into heaven.
So can you imagine it this way?
Can you imagine that we’re all, all of us and everyone in the whole world is wandering
around in the wilderness and we come to a city, a beautiful city, it’s got walls all
the way around, it’s a problem. But that is a city where we want to be in, and it’s
full of gardens and barbecue joints. I think, in fact, barbecue joints and wine shops. That’s
how Isaiah describes the new heaven and new earth, where the hills drip with fat and the
rivers run with wine. We want to be in that city, but the problem is there’s this big
wall that goes all the way around the city, and we’re looking and we’re like, oh man,
and I don’t know if you can get in there.
I don’t know if there’s a way from here to there.
And we’re walking around and we’re looking
and then all of a sudden you see it.
There is in the wall, this huge, big, tall, massive wall,
there is a door and it’s opened.
And we say, look, there’s a way.
There’s a way into the city.
There’s a door there, ha ha.
We’ve found it, it’s found us.
We can go in now, we can eat and feast and live forever.
The door is there, let’s go in the door.
And then there’s a bunch of people that say,
well I wanna go in that way.
I wanna go in over here.
I wanna go in on the other side.
Well there’s no way in over there.
I said, well I’m just gonna walk into the wall
and hope it disappears or something.
You see the difference there?
There is a way, but there is one way, Jesus, is that way.
And that is, dear saints, don’t forget,
That is good news.
To all those who want a different way to eternal life, there is no other way.
There is no other name in heaven or on earth by which we must be saved, the name of Jesus
and that name alone.
But there is a way for sinners to come before the Lord and live forever with Him.
Which brings us to this great promise that Jesus gives, verse 2, 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.” Now I don’t know how you imagine that text but here’s how I used
to imagine it. I used to think that the Father’s house was like a medium-sized
mansion and then Jesus comes down to earth and he dies for the people and he
looks at the crowds of all the Christians and he says,
uh-oh we’re gonna need more space. So when he ascends up into heaven he starts
building a wing onto the house, right, an extra room so everybody could fit.
This is how I used to think about it.
I go to prepare a place for you so that where I am you can be there also.
This is a wrong idea because the problem with heaven is not that there’s not enough space.
In fact, Jesus tells us in the text already that the rooms are built.
In my Father’s house are many rooms.
They exist already.
That’s not the problem. The problem with the Father’s house, and it’s not his
problem, it’s our problem, the problem with the Father’s house is that His
holiness is there. His perfection is there. His glory is there. And that means
that you and I, as sinners, as lawbreakers, as rebels, are not fit for
that place. It’s not a matter of space. It’s a matter of sin and righteousness.
That house is only for the holy. It’s only for the perfect. It’s only for the
saints, which means by yourself, by myself, there is no room in that house for us,
You see?
This is why Jesus says before His crucifixion that I go to prepare a place for you.
It might be understood better this way, I go to prepare you for that place.
I’m going to win your forgiveness.
I’m going to accomplish your salvation.
I’m going to take all of the things that would exclude you from My face, from My holiness,
from My life.
I’m going to take all of those things and I’m going to bear them Myself.
And I’m going to give to you My righteousness and holiness and perfection so that you belong
there.
All your law-breaking, all your sins, all my sins, all of the things you wanted wrongly,
all of the things you’ve spoken wrongly, all of the love that you’ve failed to give, all
of your falling short, all of your iniquity, Jesus takes all of it, He gathers it all up,
all of your guilt and all of your shame, He gathers it all up onto Himself, and then He
He carries it to the cross where He prepares a place for you in the Father’s house, where
He absolves you of all of your sins, where He adopts you as His child, where He cleanses
your conscience so that when you, can you imagine this?
When you die and go to heaven and you show up at the door of this heavenly house, it’s
thrown open by the angels and they welcome you because that’s where, listen
very carefully, that is where you belong. You are part of God’s family now. You are
one of his children. His name is on you. So that you are not a stranger or a
foreigner to God. You’re a son and a daughter. So that Jesus is preparing a
place for you, not in His ascension, although surely He continues the work in His ascension,
but first when He goes to the cross.
When He carves out a place in the heart of God, in the mercy of God, in the kindness
of God, when He carves out a place for you.
And that’s why this promise is true, I will come again, says Jesus, and will take you
myself that where I am you will be also.” That is his promise, and in that promise
we live, we suffer, we pray, we trust, we die, and we rise again to new life.
Jesus has done it. He has won the forgiveness of all of your sins. He has
called you righteous and perfect and His place is now your place. May this be your
comfort and may it be your peace. You know the way to where I am going, says
Jesus. Amen. And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your
hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Hallelujah.