There are a host of things which might cause us to feel uneasy. We might list the various things which we fear. One universal fear seems to be that of death. There is another fear that rises to toward the top of the list and that is the fear of loneliness. To a child, the idea of being separated from their parents is a natural fear. Many of us have likely seen small children in tears as the store clerk announces over the PA system, they have a small child who has lost his/her mommy.
Later, as we mature, we may fear losing our parents again as they age and we see that they are approaching the end of their allotted life span. Many of us have weathered that storm and now we face another fear. The fear of losing other close family members. Somehow, we try to cope. I have seen people approaching their end of life feverishly put together things that might make the parting less stressful. Perhaps it’s a packet of money or insurance, it may be personal hand written notes, or other similar things.
Most of what we have covered so far deal with someone’s death. That fear can be distilled to the fear of being abandoned. Death is certainly the ultimate case of abandonment. There are others. We have seen parents and grandparents left alone by families that are too busy to visit. Not all of these parents are in nursing homes. The fear of a severed relationship is universal. It is a real fear and we can all relate to that fear. In each of the situations mentioned thus far, we have focused on families. Families have established a bond based on a life time of interactions and shared events. We have celebrated birthdays, first ball games, first dances, and even shared tears over the various sad times we have shared. We certainly understand and respect the ties of family and when we reflect on the separations that naturally occur, we understand the grief and fears associated with the loss.
I will share a personal experience that may help us to understand something that will be addressed in our scripture this morning. Several years ago (many years), I was sent to a week-long management training school in western Pennsylvania. It was in a very small town and a true “mom and pop” motel. The class of approximately 25 students and the instructor along with 2 other staff people occupied the little motel. The telephones in the rooms did not have a dial so all calls had to go through the switchboard that was only staffed during the hours of our class times.
For four days and nights, we were forced to be together for classes, meals, and fun activities. On the fourth night, we were allowed to go into town for dinner and other diversions. Within those few days, 25 people from 8 states, and three countries, who had never met before, became friends.
I share this story to help illustrate the bond that was forged between twelve men and the carpenter who became their preacher and mentor. They had spent more than three years together and their bond was strong. They had shared many things and seen many things that defied human explanation. They took meals together, traveled together, and become like family in their kinship. So, imagine their feelings when Jesus began to prepare them for the time when Jesus would no longer be with them. Just maybe, we can begin to feel some of the feelings of abandonment that these men felt when they began to hear Jesus speak of leaving them.
The Lectionary has the passage of John 14:23-29 as the scripture from the gospels for this week. However, we will look at the entire 14th chapter so we get the full understanding of what was happening and how Jesus was preparing Hi disciples to survive His absence. The scene is in that same upper room where He had washed their feet and shared the Passover meal with them. The meal was finished and Judas had left the room. Jesus tells the 11 apostles; Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ (John 13:33 NASB)
You may remember that this is where Peter said he would follow and even lay down his life for Jesus and Jesus told him that he would deny Him three time before the rooster greeted the next morning.
Jesus turns from Peter to the whole group and tells them words that give comfort and assurance.
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3 NASB)
The disciples were upset that Jesus was speaking of leaving them. There are questions that beg for answers. There is an uncertainty about what is to happen to the twelve men who had become so close. Jesus speaks with a calm assurance that offers a peak into the future. Jesus is going to prepare a place and then return to receive His disciples and deliver them to the place prepared.
What follows next is the question of where are you going?
And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:4-6 NASB)
The next request comes from Philip to show him the Father.
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. (John 14:8-11 NASB)
Like so many, Philip wanted tangible proof of Jesus’ relationship with the Father. Perhaps, Philip, like some of us, was trying to grasp the concept of the Trinity. Jesus assures Philip and the rest of the disciples that God, the Father is manifested in the words and works of Jesus. Jesus even seals the argument with “If you don’t believe my words, then look at the miracles that you have seen. From those miracles, you should believe the Father is the source.” Jesus then tells His disciples that they will have power from God. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:12-15 NASB)
There are times when I think that we are afraid of these words. The world has so shaped our faith that we don’t believe that God gives us power through our prayers. Also, we have taken the phrase “in Christ’s name” and turned it into a magic incantation. Jesus is really telling us that when we ask for something in His name is really in harmony with His will. There are request that we make that may seem good to us but are not in the will of the Father.
Jesus is preparing His disciples for when He leaves earth. This is not a final meeting to disband the disciples. Rather, it is a call for them to find the power that was in Jesus. Jesus understood the feeling of abandonment that could easily interfere with the divine mission. Here comes the promise.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (John 14:16-20 NASB)
Jesus promises not to abandon us. We are not left alone. Jesus will personally ask God the Father to send a Helper to stay with us. Notice, this Helper will not just be close by, He will be in us. The Helper is called Comforter in some translations and Counselor in others. The Greek word used by Jesus is παράκλητος parakletos which means one who gives counsel or serves as an advocate; an intercessor; helper; aide; or assistant. (Vine’s Compete Expository Dictionary).
It is also noteworthy this Helper will never leave us. Later, Jesus shares more of the work of this Helper (John 16:5-15). Perhaps we will take a deeper look at the Helper (parakletos) at a later date. For today, we know that Jesus is not leaving us alone. We are not abandoned.
Because of the Helper, we now have a unique relationship with God. God live in us and we live in Him. This promise is a limited promise. It is limited to those who love and keep the commandments of God.
He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:21-24 NASB)
The exclusion of those who do not receive Jesus (and thus refuse to receive God) is clearly stated. It may remind us of how John opened his gospel by saying that those who received Jesus were given the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
We are not abandoned by Jesus or God. The one who conquered death offers us the peace that only he can give.
“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace, I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. (John 14:25-29 NASB)
Those who know Jesus should rejoice. Those who do not know Jesus are without help or peace. Are you ready to receive the peace that is beyond human understanding?