Everybody needs a place to belong and a sense of accomplishment. Sin robs us of both. The consequences of breaking the Ten Commandments has been broken churches, broken families, broken careers, broken commerce and broken nations. Through the forgiveness of sin Jesus offers us a place and a task of greater things.
I want us to see how that Christians live in the most magnificent of all circumstances, a part of the Household of God.
We will examine John 14:1-14 to see where our place is and what greater things we may be involved in.
How Many Rooms in the Church
God’s house has many rooms (John 14:2) but do our churches? How do we understand a God who includes most others in churches which exclude them? Why in even somewhat inclusive churches, are not more included? Why do churches which accept gays not respect the opinions of folks who disagree? Why do churches which accept women pastors force a woman pastor on those congregations which in faith prefer a man, showing them utter contempt? Why do churches which use grape juice for communion disrespectfully force it upon those who prefer wine? Why does Rome call itself Catholic, which means universal when it really is exclusive? Why do churches which accept tongues apply so much peer pressure on non-tongues speakers to conform? Are there no rooms in the Church for those with a slightly different take on our common faith?
After an encounter with God, Jacob dedicated the place as God’s house, the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:15-22) and it is still called Beth El (the house of God) to this day. It was at that spot 30 km (20 mi) north of Jerusalem that Jacob vowed to pay God a tenth for his providence. Later, the tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem were called the house of God. As members of a royal dynasty like the House of Hanover, the people of God have been described as God’s house (1 Corinthians 3:8-10). True believers are also promised a place of eternal abode with God. That is also God’s house and it contains enough room for all who come to him to dwell forever (John 14:2). The road to that house is Jesus, both now and forever.
Royals Don’t Live in Castles
It may come as a surprise, but kings and queens do not usually live in castles, but in apartments within those castles. Castles are often more like grand hotels or ornate boarding houses where royal families, relatives and staff live in separate apartments. Granted, they may have the stateliest of accommodations and control of the whole facility, but their private dwelling is only a part of that castle. In John 14:2 we are promised dwellings in God’s house. Jesus had just spoken to his disciples of his impending suffering, departure and their failure. It’s part of the human condition to fail and feel like we are so far away from God. However, Jesus encouraged his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled. How do we get there where he is? Jesus is the way, the only way there.
The Real Meaning of Mansions
In the “oikia” [house, household] of God are many “monai” [lodgings, dwelling-places, rooms, mansions] (John 14:2). Jesus also called the temple his Father's house (oikos) and that he, the apostles, prophets and church would be the replacement temple. John 14:23 declares that the Father and the Son will come and “remain, abide” with anyone who loves him and obeys him. This refers not just to our eternal future, but abiding with God now. Obedient believers live in a permanent dwelling place, a union with the Father and the Son regardless of physical circumstances. God and Jesus abide with us. This is repeatedly stressed throughout the Gospels. Although images of heavenly mansions are exciting, the real dwelling is in the relationship that we share with our heavenly Father and his Son, a "place" in God's family now and forever.
Good News—a Place for Us
Growing up it is natural for us to seek a place. We look for it in marriage, career, community and nation. We may lose our sense of place as all those things disappoint. Family can hurt us. Careers can go sour and businesses can go bankrupt. Community can disappoint and national attitudes let us down. As we grow older, we can again lose contact with a sense of place as we slowly enter that last great learning experience in preparation for our eternal rest. Until we find Jesus we will always be unsettled because no place in this world is permanent. He offers us a permanent heavenly place with God for eternity (John 14:2-6). Castles of this world can often be breathtakingly beautiful, but they all are like slums in comparison to the heavenly mansions we have in God.
Many claim to have the truth, but perhaps discount the most important ingredient. People get sidetracked on all kinds of issues and miss the truth. They believe that a particular twist of doctrine is the truth, which in reality is mere human understanding. They will insult, denigrate and vilify other people for having a different understanding as believing a lie and not the truth. Yet, all Christians agree on the truth, at least the most important element of the truth, Jesus. After all, Jesus said he is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Whatever disagreements Christians may have — forms of baptism, qualifications for ordination, formal versus informal worship formats, biblical versus traditional liturgical days, contemporary versus traditional music, Roman, Eastern and Protestant authority, tongues, church politics — we agree that what Jesus taught is still the truth.
Jesus made the bold claim that he is the life (John 14:6). How do we understand that comment? Do we allow the natural reading that Jesus is exclusively the life or do we try and rationalize our way into a more inclusive claim? How can people from religions which exclude Jesus be included? That discussion has continued for the past 2,000 years without universal agreement among Christians. In the west, Rome formulated the theory of purgatory to answer the question. In the east, Christians claimed that Latins did not understand the Greek of passages like Acts 3:21 as well as native Greek speakers do. So Eastern Orthodox Christians formulated a milder theory. It seems that some form of reconciliation with humanity from all religions is planned by God. Jesus’ audacious claim was that he is the life.
A Bigger Mission
Jesus said that his disciples would do greater works than he (John 14:12). Does that mean miracles or something different? Andrew founded the church at Constantinople and preached as far as Ukraine, Romania and Russia. Peter and Paul established the church at Antioch and traveled widely. James the Greater seems to have established Spanish Christianity. His brother John became a great Christian leader at Ephesus. Philip preached in Greece and Syria. Bartholomew (Nathaniel) went to India, Ethiopia, Mesopotamia and Armenia. Matthew went to the Caucasus, Macedonia, Persia and Parthia. Thomas went to Parthia and India. James the Less went to Lower Egypt. Judas Thaddeus visited Judea, Samaria, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. Simon the Zealot headed the Jerusalem church and traveled to Africa and Europe. It is quite clear that the Apostles’ mission was greater in territorial scope than Jesus’.
Good News—Greater Things for Us
Jesus performed incredible miracles. He healed people and spoke the wonderful words of life. Yet he said we would do greater things (John 14:12-14). This has been called the greatest promise Jesus ever made. He went to the Father. In Jesus’ death and resurrection salvation was won and he is proclaimed to all nations. Jesus equips us to do this as we pray. Our job is the same as his, to bring glory to the Father and salvation to the world. There are no greater physical miracles than those that Jesus did, reviving a man dead 4 days, healing a woman ill for 38 years, so he must have meant something else. On Pentecost 3,000 were converted in one day and since then billions have been converted and more recently crowds of hundreds of thousands have packed stadiums.
Sin robs us of a place and the ability to do truly great things. Let us get on board with Jesus. He alone is the way to a permanent place and to truly greater things.