Dear disciples of Jesus,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Coronavirus, Murder Hornets, Economic Collapse. “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).
It was a quiet dinner with friends, but there was tension in the room. It was not quite the dinner party that they were used to. Jesus had been talking about being killed and He had just said that one of the party would betray Him and, in front of everyone, said that Peter would deny Him three times. It was all getting rather upsetting, a real downer of an evening, the kind where you start to look for a reason to leave early even before dessert is served. Was there any way to rescue the night and turn the conversation around and keep the whole evening from being a disaster?
That might happen around your supper table from time to time, even in these days when we don't have dinner guests but more than enough disturbing news to discuss. How can you turn the conversation around so that the meal doesn't end with everyone skulking off to their corners of the house to brood in silence? Jesus' message to the disciples on the night when He would be betrayed and handed over for condemnation and death, is also meant for you in times like these.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” Believe that God has saved His people countless times from countless horrors in the past, including plagues and pestilence, hornets and locusts, economic collapse and famine, and every other imaginable evil. The Bible history is full of such accounts for this very reason, that you will believe in God and that acts to save His people.
When on the cusp of very distressing events and in the midst of sombre conversation, Jesus reminded His disciples to believe in the God who saves, He added that they should believe in Him as well. Believing in the God who saves His people means believing in Jesus. The two go together. It is not really one on top of the other, but both at once. For the God who rescued His people so often throughout history is the God who sent Jesus to rescue us all. And Jesus who came to be betrayed and condemned and die, is that God who was present with His people all along to rescue them “from pestilence and famine; from war and bloodshed; from sedition and from rebellion; from lightning and tempest; from all calamity by fire and water; and from everlasting death” (The Litany).
Even in the tragic events that would happen after this fateful dinner party with His disciples, Jesus (God) was present to save His people, all His people, even us, from all evil, every evil. So the comfort that He offered on that occasion continues to be our comfort in every occasion. “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” (14:2-3).
The death and resurrection of Jesus, and His further ascension into heaven are all to prepare a place for us, a place for you, a place that cannot be taken away from you by any of the horrors that we may face in this life, including death. There is a place prepared for you, an eternal home with God your loving heavenly Father, and your loving Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is coming again to take you there Himself. He has fully accomplished it for you. His death and resurrection completed it all.
There is nothing for you to do to prepare it. He has done all the preparations. It is only for you to believe it. It may trouble our hearts when we think that we have not done enough, or done too many of the wrong things. But Jesus says that the preparations were all in His hands and He has gone to prepare it for you. It doesn't depend on you at all. So don't even let your sins trouble your heart. Jesus has taken care of them. He has done the demo work by His death on the cross and the reno work is complete in His glorious resurrection.
The Father's house is ready for you, and He is making you ready for it through each and every miraculous rescue that He provides in all of the distresses that you face in this life. He prepares you by forgiving your sins through His Word and the Holy Sacraments, so that not only is there an eternal dwelling place prepared for you, but you also are prepared for it. So, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” You don't have to believe in yourself, you only need to believe in Him.
Thomas was worried about it, just like you. He was worried that he would not be able to get there. He didn't know the way. He didn't know what he was supposed to do. He didn't know how his sins would ever be forgiven or how he would ever be able to love others the way that he was supposed to. So Jesus reminded Thomas, and all of us that the way is not through what we do, but only through Jesus. “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (14:6).
You don't come to the Father through yourself. If that were the case none of us would ever make it. But Jesus is the way, the only way. That makes Him a sure way. That makes Him the Truth. There is no deception or lie about this. It is the plain truth because He is the truth and does not lie to you. That makes Him the Life, too. He is not just the way to eternal life, but the only source of real life for us now also. There is no illusion or artificiality or death or demise with Him. Jesus is all of these things (Way, Truth, and Life) as nothing else can be, and He is these things for you and for all.
Don't miss that. Jesus is the Way for all, for the whole world, no one excepted. People get mad about this unfathomable grace. They accuse God for be unloving in having only one way of salvation. But if that way is for all, it doesn't exclude anyone. It includes every one. He is the way for everyone to be saved. Jesus came to be the Saviour of the world, no exceptions. He came to take the sins of the world upon Himself and die for them all upon the cross. It was effective for all sin, everywhere by everyone, because Jesus and the Father are one God. The one who died for you is fully and truly God. God's life was given to ransom the world. God's blood was shed. God died to give life to all. He didn't exclude anybody.
Philip cleared this up for us when he asked Jesus to “show us the Father” (14:8). Jesus has shown us the Father by showing us Himself. If you want to know who God the Father is, look at Jesus. They are one God. The Father sent the Son for the same reason that the Son obeyed the Father. They are one God with one love for you and for all. If you want to know what kind of a God you have, you need only to look at Jesus.
You have a God who heals those who come to Him with all manner of diseases. You have a God who calms storms that frighten His followers and feeds the hungry who come to hear His Word. You have a God who forgives women caught in adultery. You have a God who heals foreigners. You have a God who welcomes tax collectors and prostitutes. You have a God who gives sight to the blind and who touches lepers. You have a God who raises sons and daughters and brothers from the dead and restores them to their families. You have a God who praises the poor and cautions the rich. You have a God willing to be betrayed and who knows those who will deny Him. And you have a God who forgives even those who crucified Him. The love that the Father has for you, is the love that Jesus showed in His life, suffering, death, and resurrection.
This is the God who has secured a way for you to come to Him, through plague and pestilence, through famine and poverty, through suffering and death, through grief and pain, through fear and doubt, and even through death. This is the God who has secured the way for you and for all through Jesus.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” Throughout all of these troubles, whatever troubles you in this world, whatever troubles you about your sins, whatever troubles you about your loved ones, believe in Jesus. He is the way to the Father, the only way, and the way for all. He is the way for you and His love for you and for all is unquestionable.
In the disturbing thoughts that come in the evening hours, the awkward silences around the supper table, the troubling worries and fears that come upon you in the night, believe in God; believe in Jesus. Listen to His Words and let Him turn the conversation around. Let Him relieve the tension in the room. Let Him speak peace to calm your soul, to melt away the fear, to cast the worry aside.
Hear what Jesus, your God, says to you and to all. That might mean picking up your bible and actually reading the words of Jesus, the great accounts of God delivering His people throughout history. It might mean picking up your hymnal and singing the words of the faithful who have experienced God's saving work in their lives and noticed how it is His continuing work through Word and Sacrament. It might mean sharing a verse memorized in childhood or recalling what you heard proclaimed at a funeral service.
Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you... I will come again and will take you to Myself... Where I am, you will be also... I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life... Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father... If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.