May 7, 2023 Fifth Sunday of Easter
Readings: 1st Peter 2:2-10; Acts 7:55-60; John 14:1-14
Becoming (One with Christ)
Over the next three weeks we will be in a series about “Becoming”, Next week is one with each other, and then in two weeks is one in ministry. Today is first and foremost about becoming one with Christ. We hear that term so often becoming one with Christ, what does it really mean to and for you? How do you think it is that we can become one as to speak with Christ? You might be thinking that this passage from the Gospel, we heard it just 5 weeks ago. Yes, you did, however, let me ask you if it has truly changed your life in those 5 weeks? Maybe it bares re-hearing.
Let me set the scene for you. The passage this morning is referred to by scholars as Jesus’ farewell discourse. We hear Jesus giving his final words, his final instructions, his final thoughts and his final words of assurance to the disciples. It comes after the Last Supper, Judas has already left to betray Jesus, even foretelling of Peter’s betrayal. It is also after Jesus has washed each one of the disciple’s feet. The setting here would’ve been around the table, after the meal was done, everything put away, and with everyone gathered around for some friendly conversation. Who knows, there might have been a game of dominoes, Uno or old maid being played. Everyone has their after-meal coffee, sipping it. It would have been in a private home. Where there were no crowds, no enemies, no accusers, or political figures, not even the Sanhedrin priests, just Jesus and his closest friends gathered for personal time. Jesus has just informed the disciples that he must go away, to their utter dismay, and Peter’s interruption wanting to know where Jesus is going.
I want to reread the passage to you. Close your eyes and imagine you’re sitting at the table with Jesus, listening to the other disciples talk with him and then hear his response to all of us. Just put yourself there at the table taking it all in. You are included in this close conversation with Christ. So, as you are hearing all this go on, include your present state of mind. Your Christianity, your beliefs, your disbelief’s, confusion, even your current problems, bring them all to the table because, that is a part of you and where you are at, as you sit before the Christ remember He meets you where you are.
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.4You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.7If you really know me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.12Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Were you able to imagine yourself there? If you so, could you just feel Jesus talking to you and the other disciples? So, when Jesus says to all of you there, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Him. In the Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would He have told you that He go to prepare a place for you. And if He go and prepare a place for you, He will come again and will take you to himself, so that where he is, there you may be also.” Through the words spoken in the passage can you truly hear Jesus speaking to you personally? What does it mean to you when Jesus says those words just to you? What is the ugliness, which is troubling your heart right this very minute? Are you able to trust Jesus enough that whatever he promises to you he will deliver?
As I told you before Lyla likes to watch HGT with those housing improvement shows and the ones that flip houses. There was a craze that was going wild in the country to live in tiny houses. People getting houses that are on wheels with only 400 ft.² of living space because they want to scale down. There are several people in Hope that have are looking to downsize their houses. The American dream was to have a large home with three and four bedrooms, two or more bathrooms and of course acreage. I don’t know whether it’s really a continuing crave but I personally don’t see spending the money they are asking for these tiny houses as opposed to buying a larger conventional house. Yet, we see Jesus talking about mansions and that there is plenty of room for us to live with the father. Some translations express it as there is more room than can ever be imagined. Jesus tells us to take him at his word. Believe in God and believe in Him!
The main thing we hear Jesus say in the passage is about His honesty. What we read here and feel in our hearts is that Jesus is frank, honest, but he is also brutally honest with them. Jesus is calling them, calling us out! He is calling us out on our doubt. It’s not just Thomas that was doubting here, nor just Philip in disbelief and wanting proof. We want proof and we too doubt the power of Jesus. Jesus gives them the glory and the pain that they will encounter if they follow him. We do not see Jesus as a leader who bribes people with promises of an easy path; no as others have put it, he challenges them to greatness. This last election how many promises did we get to hear? Now how many have truly delivered on those promises? What about the new ones being spoken? Let’s just say as your pastor; if I were to tell you that when you donate 15% of your income, I can guarantee that you will be blessed 100-fold of what you receive on a weekly income. If you bring one or two visitors a week and one of them stays, you will be a righteous disciple of Christ, then you will inherit the Kingdom of God. What do those kinds of promises leave you thinking right now? Is that being honest with you? Oh, there are those that would take up that challenge, but why do they take a challenge? Are they taking it to receive the worldly riches, are they believing that this pastor has an in with God? Then there are those that would totally be scared off! He’s just one of those evangelical preachers, oh get me out of here. I’d bet he’s keeping most of that money for himself. There again, is that what it takes to be one with Christ? If not, what does it really take to be one with Christ and can it really and truly be achieved by something we do?
The good news is, it’s nothing that we can do! Being one with Christ does not come with how much money you donate to the church nor is it bringing in more visitors than someone else. Becoming one with Christ is something that God does in us through Christ. To be blunt it’s God’s work. Christ is the one reaching out to us in a personal way. He reaches out to every one of us personally and draws us in to him. He reaches us right where we are. All we must do is make the decision to follow him, to believe in him. Christ unites us with him and God and then to each other.
Another thing I find most promising this morning and a little far-fetched. When Jesus tells us that if we believe in him not only will we do the works that he has done but we will be able to do them greater than Christ himself. Just think about that, we are going to be able to do those things greater than Jesus, because Jesus is going to the father. When you think about it, that is one tremendous promise from Jesus! How can there ever be any greater promises Jesus can make than the two he’s made in this passage alone.
When you stop and think about it, Jesus raised the dead back to life and then the disciples went out and performed all kinds of healing just as Jesus did. Being in the medical field as I am, the healing the doctors and others can do every day now, back then it was impossible and would be looked upon as a miracle. Be quite honest with all the work that was involved in healing discoveries, those people’s sacrifice of their life, their livelihood, to just the simple weak, sick and dying. And that is the spirit of Jesus the Christ, healing the sick.
The second promise Jesus made was that if any prayer was offered in his name, it would be granted. That promise has been so misunderstood throughout history and even abused. Now note that Jesus did not say that all prayers would be answered but that our prayers made in his name would be granted. So, if a prayer is offered in Jesus’ name, you think he would grant prayers of personal revenge, personal ambition or for some unworthy even unchristian topic? Maybe we should ask before we say that prayer; can this prayer be made in the name of Jesus? A prayer that is based on oneself should not be expected to be granted. I’m drawn to the fact that Jesus said when he goes to the father, greater things will be done in his name.
Maybe a way to more easily understand that statement is to draw from a popular movie “Star Wars episode VI Return of the Jedi”. Obi Won Kenobi and Darth Vader are battling one another on the death Star. Darth Vader insults Obi Won by saying that he is getting old and weak. Obi Won retorts with “you cannot win Vader, you can strike me down, but I will become more powerful than you can ever imagine”. Then we see Obi Won allow himself to be killed to save the others and allow them to escape. Yet all through the remaining movies we see Obi Won return as we would call spiritually to help Luke in the struggle with himself and the Empire. All because he has broken the physical whelm and entered the spiritual. Hollywood used what Christ said and did so long ago to make that movie so many people love.
You see Jesus had to die, for him to be more powerful than anyone could imagine and to be with us individually, as a people, in spirit to do such wonderful things. In the death of Christ, he became more powerful than death itself and by doing so enabled us to fight the evil that is in our galaxy, which would be Satan. Accepting that Jesus died for us, yearns to be with us, allows us to be One with Christ.