John: Comfort

Sermon by Derek Thomas on April 6, 2003

John 14:1-14


John 14:1-14
Comfort

Turn with me, if you would, in your Bibles, to the gospel
of John. We are in the upper room, and are following the words and actions of
Jesus in these final hours before He is arrested and taken to be tried and
crucified. He has just, in chapter 13, predicted and prophesied the betrayal of
Judas Iscariot, and the denial of Simon Peter, two of His disciple band. And in
that sense, then, it’s not surprising that His next words are the words of the
first verse of chapter 14, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Let’s hear the
word of God.

Let not 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. 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. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also;
from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. 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. 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.

So far God’s holy, inerrant word, may He add His
blessing to the reading of it. Let’s pray together. Our Father, as we come now
to this extraordinary, well-known portion o Scripture, we pray that by Your
Spirit You would make it meaningful to us. Once again illumine Your word in our
hearts for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

In 1553, Calvin was at the height of his power in
Geneva, but in London, there was a young man, 19 years of age, named William
Hunter. Edward VI had just died; his sister, Mary, Bloody Mary as she is
called, had just come to the throne–staunch Roman Catholic that she was. And
William Hunter had been discovered reading a copy of the English Bible, the
Bible in English. He was arrested and taken to prison and he was to be there
for about 18 months or so. He was given many opportunities to make some kind of
recantation, but on the 26th of March, 1555, the 21 year-old William
Hunter was led to a place in London known as Burntwood, and there he was chained
to a pole to be burnt alive. His father and brother were in attendance. His
brother recorded the event. His father urged him, spoke to him words of
comfort, and the 21 year-old William said to his father, “God be with you, good
father, and be of good comfort, when we shall all meet again and we shall be
merry.” And as the fires were lit, the father urged him to think on the passion
of Jesus, and not to be afraid, and from the flames came the words of a 21
year-old young man, William Hunter, “I am not afraid, I am not afraid.” And
then those words from Acts 7, the words of Stephen, “Lord, receive my spirit.”

Well, these disciples were fearful, and to some
extent, they were fearful of their lives. They knew what was going on in
Jerusalem. They’d heard Jesus predicting His own demise. They’d just heard
words of Jesus predicting the betrayal of one and the denial of another of those
among the disciple band, and they were afraid, understandably afraid. And Jesus
says to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God” or perhaps,
“You do believe in God; keep on believing in Me.”

Now, this portion contains one of the most well known
verses in the New Testament, I suppose. I’ve tried to think of the number of
times I’ve quoted John 14:1 in times of stress or difficulty or trial. “Let not
your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid.” And then again in verse 6, “I am
the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” And
it’s almost impossible to read this narrative without these two verses, as it
were, coming out and focusing themselves upon us.

But I want us to see these verses in the context of
what Jesus is saying here in the upper room, and to find that actually a central
theme emerging here, and that is that the way of comfort for the disciples of
Jesus Christ is to know and realize that our Father in heaven cares for us–that
we have a heavenly Father who cares for us. Now, in these 14 verses there are
11 of them that are the words of Jesus Himself, and on 12 occasions in these 11
verses, Jesus mentions the Father. It is, then, as one theologian has called
this section, “The Father Sermon.” Jesus is speaking to His disciples who are
afraid, who are troubled, who are distressed, and He’s saying to them, “Let not
your hearts be troubled.” This is Jesus’ remedy for serious heart problems.
This is Jesus the spiritual cardiologist, if you like, pointing to heart
trouble, and pointing to how that heart trouble can be alleviated.

There are two questions asked in this section,
though there may have been more, for you get the impression in this discourse
that John has simply selected some of the things that he could remember from the
upper room, and he selects two questions; one by Phillip and one by Thomas,
because they serve the purposes of his gospel. He writes this gospel in order
that we might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that believing
that we might have life in His name. And these two questions, from Phillip and
Thomas, serve that end in a remarkable way.

I. Thomas’ question. We don’t
know the way.
I want us then to look the question of Thomas, and to see what
Jesus is saying by way of response. “Do you see that I am the only way to the
Father?” Jesus has just said, “And you know the way where I am going,” and the
question comes in verse 5, where Thomas says to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know
where You are going.” Thomas is often portrayed, and probably rightly so, as a
pessimist, as someone who is by temperament gloomy and somewhat morose,
perhaps. The kind of man who sees the glass is always half empty. “We do not
know the way,” he says. It’s a lack of faith that brings him to ask these
questions. It’s alright for You to say You’re going to the Father, but we don’t
know the way. We don’t know the way to the Father. And Jesus says, “I am the
way, and the truth, and the life. And no one comes to the Father but by Me.” I
am the way to the Father. I am the truth of the Father. I am the life that the
Father bestows. He is true, in the sense, that the Old Testament, and this is
peculiarly John; John uses this word true in contrast with the Old Testament,
and Moses especially, in which the meaning was shadow, fleeting shadow, just a
picture of the salvation that Jesus is going to bring. He is the true, the
real, the substantial, the fulfillment, all that had been pictured in the Old
Testament has come to fruition and flower now in Jesus Christ. He is the life,
because the life of the Father is constantly present in the ministry and words
of Jesus. He’s enjoyed the Father’s life from all eternity, and He is the only
way to the Father.

You catch, of course, the exclusivity of what Jesus
is saying here. There’s no escaping it. He is the only way to the Father.
There is no other mediator. There is no other way into the presence of the
Father, to know the Father, to have life form the Father. He’s the only way.
Not Mohammed. Not the way of Buddhism. Not the way of Shintoism. Not the way
of all the great sophisticated religions of the world; it’s only through Jesus.
Thomas A’Kempis, the author of the book, The Imitation of Christ, puts it
this way, “Without the way, there is no going; and without the truth there is no
knowing; and without the life there is no living.” So in answer to Thomas’
question, “How can I come to know the Father,” the most important question we
can ask, Jesus points to Himself and says, “It’s only through Me.” Unless you
come through the Son by faith in the Son you cannot come to know the Father.

II. Phillip’s question. Just show us the Father.
But that leads to a second question, this time from Phillip. Not only
is Jesus the way to the Father, but through Him we come to know the Father. Do
you see, He says to Phillip, that I am the revelation of the Father? It’s the
question that Phillip puts in verse 8, and isn’t it a disarming question, “Lord,
show us the father and it is enough for us.” Lord, just show us the Father.
Lord, just part the trappings of heaven and glory and give us a little glimpse
of the Father. That’s all we need. That’s all we ask for. It comes from
Phillip, quiet, deeply spiritual member of the disciple band, and yet Jesus
receives Phillip’s question with a sense of disappointment. “Have you been so
long with Me? Have you been with Me for all this time, Phillip, and yet the
penny hasn’t dropped? Still you don’t understand. He who has seen Me, has seen
the Father. I and My Father are One.” What an extraordinary thing to say.

Look at what He goes on to say in verse 10. “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 work. I am in the Father; the Father is in Me.” Oh, you’ve got to read the
notes for this evening’s sermon. You know, in the bulletin. Extraordinary
doctrine emerging out of the early Church called perichoresis or
circumincessio
— the Son in the Father; the Father in the Son. It’s a
picture of communion and fellowship. It’s like two people in love. Remember
that? Gazing into one another’s eyes and lost, as it were, as they concentrate
all of their energies and beings as they just gaze at each other. That’s the
kind of picture that Jesus is using here. They have eye-to-eye contact — face
to face. No one knows the Father like the Son knows the Father, and no one knows
the Son like the Father knows the Son. Do you remember what John said back in
chapter 1, verse 18? This is how John puts it. “No man has seen God at any
time, the only begotten God. God the one and only who is in the bosom of the
Father. (John uses the word to exegete here.) He has exegeted Him; He has told
us what the Father is like.

You know, parents, children can ask the most
disarming questions. And they will ask you the question, “What is God like?” The
best and most biblical answer you can give to that question is, “God is like
Jesus.” God the Father is like Jesus because Jesus reveals what God is like.
There is nothing that is in Jesus that isn’t in God. How can we know the Father?
Jesus makes Him known.

Now, Jesus spells that out with three simple
statements that confirm the fact that through Him, we come to the Father. He
says in verse 10, “I speak the Father’s words.” It’s interesting that in the
rest of the section Jesus is reminding them of what He’s already said. He’s
reminding them of some of the things He’s said before in His ministry with
them. In John 5, He had spoken of what His relationship with the Father had
been like. “I do the Father’s works, He said. “I speak the Father’s words,” He
said. It’s as though He’s employing the way in which Jesus had grown up with
Joseph in the carpenter’s shop. He had watched the way His earthly stepfather,
Joseph, had worked with all of the tools of the trade, and can you imagine Jesus
going in there and saying to Joseph, “What’s this for? Show Me how to do what it
is that you are doing.” And Jesus is saying, “All the words that I speak, they
are My Father’s words.”

I love that verse in Isaiah 50, when the prophet is
picturing the coming of Jesus as the suffering servant of the Lord. He speaks of
Him in this fashion, “The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue as
one being taught.” As Jesus woke in the morning as a young boy, it’s as though
He’s saying, “My first thought in the morning is, “What is My Father teaching
Me?” He speaks as one who has learned perfectly in the years of apprenticeship.
What He says echoes the Father’s heart. “I speak the Father’s words.”

And not only the Father’s words, but the Father’s
works. The signs in John’s gospel, what are they? They are signs of what the
Father is like. What is the Father’s purpose in this world? To restore one who
was blind so that he may see. To raise one who has died in order that he might
live. To heal one that has been crippled in order that he might walk properly.
It is, if I can borrow a word that has been on our lips and in our ears for the
past two weeks, our Father is in the business of reconstruction–reconstructing a
fallen and broken world. It’s the heart of the heavenly Father that Jesus is
making known. “I speak the Father’s words; I do the Father’s works.”

And in verses 12-14, “I display the Father’s glory.
The essence of who God is. The transcendence of His being what makes Him God, I
display all of that,” Jesus is saying. He said it before in chapter 13, and He’s
repeating it now. He goes on to say something quite extraordinary. And He says
in verse 12, “And greater works than these shall you do because I go to the
Father.” I do these works displaying the Father’s glory, but when I go to the
Father greater things will be revealed. Yes, think of the day of Pentecost when
3,000 souls were converted in one day from all over the known world they had
gathered–Parthians and Medes and Elamites and dwellers in Mesopotamia–think of
it. Apart from when Jesus was a baby, He had never left Israel. He had never
left the land of Judah – Palestine. Yes, it was smaller than Mississippi. He’d
never been to California. He’d never been to Siberia. He’d never been to Iraq or
Syria or Iran or Egypt as an adult. And as He goes to the Father, greater works
of the Father’s heart will be made manifest through His disciples through the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

What Jesus is saying? “I’m telling you what the
Father is like. My whole business is to introduce you to the Father.” Jesus is
saying that when you come to know Jesus Christ, you come to know the Father. He
wants to take us by His hand and lead us and introduce us to His Father in
heaven and say to His Father in heaven, “Let me introduce John to you. Let me
introduce Jane to you. Let me introduce Phillip to you. Let me introduce Mary to
you.”

There’s a wonderful, wonderful picture in the second
volume of Ian Murray’s biography of Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. And Dr. Marjorie
Blackey, who is the physician to the Queen, is introducing Lloyd-Jones, the
preacher, to Her Majesty the Queen, and if you can ever get that second volume
biography just look at that picture and look at the expressions on the Queen’s
face; on Marjorie Blackey’s face; on Lloyd-Jones’ face as he is being introduced
to Her Majesty. And Jesus is saying to Phillip and the rest of the disciples,
“When you come to know Me, I am introducing you to the very heart of My Father
in heaven.”

III. Who is Jesus to you?
Do you know that’s the test of whether you are a Christian or
not, isn’t that so? What does the Father mean to you? When you find yourselves
in trouble, when you find yourselves in distress, when you find yourselves
overtaken by all kinds of trials, do you run to God and say, “My Father in
heaven.” And you know Him and He knows you.

There are two consequences. One, the possibility that
you might miss this. He says to Phillip, “Have I been so long with you and still
you haven’t got it? The possibility that you may be within the precincts of
those who believe and still not know the Father, and Jesus is saying to you,
“Come to Me; believe in Me; and trust in Me. Because I am the way, and the life,
and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” The possibility that you may miss it.
And secondly, and finally, Jesus says to them, “I don’t want you to be troubled.
Let not your hearts be troubled.” It’s fascinating. The same word is used here
as has been used of Jesus’ trouble. Jesus isn’t speaking here of perhaps sinful
trouble–what we do with our trouble may become sinful, but the trouble itself is
part of the lot of living in a fallen world, and Jesus Himself in 11:33, 12:2 7,
13:21, says His own heart, His own Spirit is troubled.

Homer Lee Howie said to me a few weeks ago something
I had entirely missed. Here’s the theologian. Can’t tell you how many
commentaries in John I’d read, but I’d missed it. He said to me, “The reason why
we don’t have to be troubled is because Jesus has been troubled for us.” It was
so simple and I’d missed it. The reason why we don’t have to be troubled is
because He has walked in to the trouble for us. He’s taken that trouble on His
own heart and He’s taken that trouble on His own soul so that we need not be
troubled. And He says that the way out of trouble, whether it’s the trouble of
water and mud that has ruined your home and destroyed some of your most precious
possessions–and you can identify with that now for yourself–that trouble that’s
on your heart and in your soul. Jesus says the way out of that trouble is to
come to know a Father in heaven who cares for you, who cares enough to send
Jesus to die for you, to go the cross for you, to walk into the fires of trouble
for you. “Where I am, there you will be also,” He says. “Because in My Father’s
house are many dwelling places, and where I am, there you will be also.”

Where is Jesus tonight? He’s at God’s right hand
gazing into the loving eyes of His Father. And Jesus says that’s where I’m going
to bring you, to the same point that I am that you may gaze into the Father’s
eyes. And as Augustine says, “I see the depths, but I cannot see the bottom.”
There was a minister in the eighteenth century, a product of the Great Awakening
and the preaching of George Whitfield, one of the so-called Clapham Sect, a man
by the name of Henry Veen, a man important in gospel missions and the
propagation of the gospel throughout the world. He retired and came to live in
Huddersfield near where his son was and he was ill, dying, and it was said of
him when he was told that he was dying that the prospect make him so jubilant
and high spirited that his doctor said that his joy at dying kept him alive for
another two weeks. The joy of dying kept him alive for another two weeks! Isn’t
that an extraordinary thing? And that’s what Jesus is saying. You have no need
to be troubled because I will come again and I will receive you unto Myself that
where I am, there you may be also.” Let’s pray together.

Our Father in heaven, we thank you for Your word,
familiar as it is to us, write it again upon our hearts and give us a blessing
we pray as we gaze into our Father’s eyes. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

********************************************

A Guide to
the Evening Service

Thoughts on Worship
Without submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, there can be no relationship
with the Father and no participation in the covenant. Without the Lord’s
presence through the person of God the Holy Spirit in the hearts of his
submitted people, a service of worship finds no acceptance with God. Worship
must not become enraptured with the worshiper’s ambitions or experience. It must
move beyond mere deism or even theism in its statements about God and praises to
God. It must not be content with sentimentalism that overemphasizes or
misrepresents the fullness of his character. Overall it must see the uniqueness
of Jesus Christ and focus on God through the covenant established in the
Incarnate Word. In this way, worship that is anything less than Christocentric
within the framework of Divine Triunity may be something, but it is certainly
not “Christian.” (Timothy J. Ralston)

The Themes of the Service
Tonight’s passage in the Gospel of John continues in the Upper Room. It focuses
on the words of Jesus in the Upper Room that our hearts not be troubled. The
comforts of Christ to His people will be our focus tonight.

The Psalm, Hymns and Spiritual
Songs
We Come, O Christ, to You

Our opening hymn is one of Margaret Clarkson’s. It speaks of the uniqueness of
Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That no one comes to the
Father but by Jesus Christ.


Beneath the Cross of Jesus

Another hymn, well known to our congregation and written by Elizabeth Cecelia
Douglas Clephane in 1868. It “express the experiences, the hopes and the
longings of a young Christian lately released. Written on the very edge of life,
with the better land fully in view of faith, they seem to us footsteps printed
on the sands of time, where these sands touch the ocean of Eternity. These
footprints of one whom the Good Shepherd led through the wilderness into rest,
may, with God’s blessing, contribute to comfort and direct succeeding
pilgrims.”


From All That Dwell below the Skies (Psalm 117)

“The classic of English doxologies,” a paraphrase of Psalm 117 by Isaac Watts,
is a song that all our children should know. We’ll sing its first stanza before
the children’s devotional tonight.


God Will Take Care of You

The words to this hymn were written 99 years ago (in 1904) on a Sunday afternoon
by a preacher’s wife, Civilla D. Martin. When her husband came home that
evening, he sat down at the organ and composed the tune! It has been a favorite
of many ever since. It seems appropriate to sing it this evening as we consider
the words of comfort and cheer that Jesus speaks to His increasingly frightened
disciples in the Upper Room.

The
Sermon

In the midst of the most sublime reassurance of Jesus’ love
for His own, there is uttered one of the most remarkable statements that Jesus
ever gave: ‘Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?’
(John 14:10 ESV). Jesus is ‘in’ the Father; the Father is ‘in’ the Son! It gave
rise to a doctrine. One of its exponents was John of Damascus (c. 674-749), and
the doctrine is variously known as perichoresis, or circumincessio.
In writing of the way the Son relates to the Father, he spoke of ‘the
perichoresis
of the subsistencies in one another’ (Exposition of the
Orthodox Faith
, 4:xviii). What does it mean? Let’s take the word
perichoresis
first: peri – ‘around’ and choreo – ‘I dwell’.
Crudely imagined, it means that the Son and the Father (the same is true of the
Holy Spirit) occupy the same space. Where One is, the Other is. They co-inhere
in each other. They are constantly moving towards each other, around each other,
through each other. They occupy the same throne. All of this from the words
Jesus expresses here! The point? In the context of John 14 it is this: that we
can trust the Son’s word because He speaks from the most intimate fellowship
with the Father in heaven. No one knows the Father like the Son. His knowledge
of the Father is inexhaustible.

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