Read John 14:1-14
I love this scripture. It begins with such words of comfort but ends with words that every preacher knows not to teach in a children’s sermon.
Ask anything in my name…
But I asked for a pony once. Yeah, I wanted a pony too. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we wanted a pony. My sister got to ride a pony once but we never got one from God.
Before you know it you are being overrun by a band of horses that were never delivered. You just as well give out the candy and start over next Sunday.
Before we get to that scripture, I want to go on a brisk journey through the preceding parts of John’s gospel that gets us to this point. This account is unique among the four gospels.
What a journey John’s Gospel has given us to this point—from the very first chapter John gives us a unique look at the ministry of Jesus.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
John next tells of the coming Messiah and why he was coming.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Then it was on to a wedding in Cana and water turned into wine.
And of course the most memorable conversation in all of history—one that took place between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus.
Then it was through Samaria for an encounter with a woman at a well in Sychar that would not only lead to a discussion of living water but a follow on discussion with the disciples where Jesus told them that his food was to do the will of his Father.
There were, of course, the words, “The day will come and in fact has come when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.”
Jesus healed a paralyzed man who though waiting by the Pool of Bethesda, had given up hope of every getting to the pool in time to receive its purported healing powers.
This was done on the Sabbath and some discussion of what authority Jesus had to do the things that he did simmered among the Jewish leaders.
By the sixth chapter, Jesus fed over 5,000, walked on water, and told the people that he was the bread of life. Jesus started teaching and some of the teaching was too meaty for some of his followers. They deserted.
Jesus turned to the twelve and asked them if they wanted to throw in the towel as well.
Peter answered: “Where would we go? You have the words to eternal life.”
By the seventh chapter, Jesus has stirred up full blown controversy at all levels. His own brothers don’t believe him. The Jewish leaders are in conflict with him. Even many of the ordinary people of the day are asking questions.
But he didn’t.
In a very non-confrontational manner, Jesus voted to uphold the law. That is, he voted for the stoning: yet knew it would never take place, for he said: “Let the person who has no sin throw the first stone.”
From the oldest to the youngest, the men dropped their stones and left. Only Jesus and the woman remained. Jesus asked her who was left to condemn her.
She said there was no one.
Jesus said, “And neither do I condemn you. Now, go and sin no more.”
Jesus then defined who was for and who was against his Father. Many ended up on the wrong side of this demarcation line and were not happy about their classification.
Jesus told them how to be his disciples, saying: “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
He then challenged those who put all of their stock not in serving God but in the fact that Abraham was their father by saying, “before Abraham was, I Am.”
That stirred up the Jews to the point that they wanted to stone Jesus.
And then Jesus and the disciples came upon a man who had been blind all of his life. The disciples wondered if it was the man or his parents who had sinned and made the man blind. Jesus explained it was so God’s glory could be displayed at that very point in time.
With a little mud and a little washing, the man could see.
The Pharisees tried to manipulate the situation only to have it all thrown back in their faces by the man who was born blind. He said, “I don’t know who he is but I know that I was blind and now I see.”
This man who had just regained his sight squared off with the religious leaders saying that you guys might not know who he is or where he comes from—well, that’s on you. Only a man from God could have done this. Later, he discovered who Jesus was, fell to his knees, and worshiped him.
Jesus kicked it up a notch with the Pharisee as well. He began to pick on these so called shepherds of Israel with his teachings.
First he called them blind.
Then he accused them of being terrible shepherds.
Then he told everyone what a good shepherd was like. The Pharisees sure didn’t meet that standard.
Then Jesus told us that he came so that we could live abundantly, fully, completely. Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
The Jewish leaders again mobilized to stone Jesus, so he retreated to the area of the Jordan where John had been baptizing. People still came to believe in Jesus.
While at the Jordan, news came to Jesus that his friend Lazarus was dying. Jesus stayed where he was until Lazarus was dead and then led his disciples back to the same area where people had wanted to stone him a short time earlier.
Jesus met the two sisters of Lazarus outside of Bethany and gave them and gives us the unforgettable words, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
His friend was dead four days and yet Jesus called him out of the tomb and back to life. This miracle was so that many would come to believe, but some only reported these things to the Pharisees.
These leaders plotted to kill Jesus and the evidence of this incredible miracle, a living Lazarus.
Jesus was anointed at Bethany, rode into Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna, and confirmed to his followers that his death was near and that it was necessary.
He told his followers that he did not come to judge. Judgment belongs to the Father. He came to bring light to the world. He was doing the will of the Father.
For all that the disciples had been through with Jesus, what happened next surely threw them all for a loop. Jesus took on the role of a servant and washed the feet of his disciples.
He then told his followers that this is how they love and serve their God by serving one another.
Jesus made loving one another our ultimate command. As Jesus loved us, so we should love one another. This is how people will know we follow Jesus.
This is still the command that energizes and invigorates today’s Christians to go into a dark and sinful world and to love the unloveable.
Jesus told the disciples that it was time for his departure. Peter wanted to know where he was going.
And so we come to this distinctive 14th chapter. Jesus speaks and the disciples wrestle with being troubled or comforted, to believe and trust or to doubt, to know where Jesus is going or not to know.
They struggle with distance and intimacy. Jesus says to them:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And 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 where I go you know, and the way you know.”
John 14:1-4 NKJV
Do not let your hearts be troubled. These should have been words of comfort and assurance, but they stumped the disciples. They missed the words of providential care and only tuned in to those concerning the next destination.
Previously, he had told many that he was going away, but nobody understood at that time either.
Where could Jesus be going and how would they find the way? Thomas asked the question, but surely all were wondering.
Jesus then gave those who already believed in him and certainly followed him and surely trusted him these unforgettable words.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.
John 14:6-7 NIV
You do know him and have seen him.
Jesus said that which was not possible—to see God—is not only possible, but you have done it.
The disciples did not understand. Phillip asked Jesus to show them the Father. They were yet to realize just how unique the path these three years had been, but now Jesus was preparing the disciples to continue what he began after he was gone.
The Spirit would come later and later on in this farewell discourse, Jesus would explain that very thing to his followers, but until the Spirit did come upon them, they just didn’t understand.
The words were clear but the understanding was elusive.
They would understand later but the time for sharing was now. Jesus continued with some bold promises: that these disciples—yes, these disciples that couldn’t figure which way was up—these would go on to do greater things than Jesus did.
Jesus would take away the sin of the world, but these few men would take the good news of this salvation far beyond Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. They would take salvation to the world.
In the eyes of the Father, we wonder which would be greater: To walk on water or to bring eternal life to someone who had never known God much less the love he gave us in his Son?
Jesus told these disciples that because he would be with the Father, they could ask anything in his name and he would do it.
These few men have long since departed this earth, but we carry on their work. We live in the same promises made to them.
We know Jesus to be the way, the truth, and the life.
We know the Father by knowing the Son.
We have never walked this earth following Jesus as the disciples did and so we never had to let go like they did. We can’t really understand their emotion and even their blindness to some straightforward talk that didn’t sink in at the time.
We began our experience with God with the Spirit of God leading us to profess Jesus as Lord and Savior, and in this confession we came to know the one true God—a holy and merciful God.
We have come to know a God who has poured out his favor upon us.
But we end up in the same place as these disciples who were witness to so much and who were the recipients of so much first hand instruction. We end up at the same place.
Discipleship—responding to the love we know in Jesus.
A very few people stuck with Jesus for these three special years.
A few hundred witnessed a resurrected Jesus before he ascended into heaven.
Millions have come to believe based upon the testimony of the scriptures and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
All begin their discipleship at the same place.
We believe. We have been given both mission and commission. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father ready to receive our requests.
Where do we go from here?
Will we shrink away into insignificance or do great things?
Will we boldly ask for those things that we need to follow Jesus and do his work in this world?
Are we afraid to ask for these things because we might just get them? We might just find ourselves empowered to deliver light and love to a hurting world.
Instead, maybe we will just ask for a pony?
We ask for something that gratifies our selfish desires that we know is not essential to accomplishing our work as disciples.
We ask for something we don’t expect to get because we are afraid to ask for the things God desires to give us.
What would happen if we believed the words Jesus gave us?
We will do greater things and we may ask anything in his name and he will give it to us.
In a nation where we take so many luxuries for granted, we have become very good at complaining about what we don’t have. We have so much but we complain about what we don’t have.
We always need one more thing before we are ready to do the work the Lord gave us to do.
What if we set aside our selfish desires for one day and did the work of the Lord? What would that change?
What if for a single week we set aside our personal goals in favor of the work our Lord has given us to do?
What if we stopped looking at our own qualifications and accepted the authority of the scriptures.
We will do greater things than our Master did in his earthly ministry.
We may ask anything in the name of Jesus and he will grant it.
Are we ready to stop asking for ponies and instead take the good news to the world?
Are we ready to stop praying for a pay raise and instead ask that none of these children in our community be lost?
Are we ready to ask with assurance that our prayer is heard by Jesus in the presence of the Father and ask that the forces of evil that seem to operate so freely among so many families be expelled from the heartland of America?
Are we ready to let God change our hearts?
Are we ready to seek God’s Kingdom and his righteousness before anything else?
Are we ready to go from giving out bracelets and gospels—good first step measures for sure—to really letting our light reach farther into the darkness?
The disciples had a wonderful—a unique and nearly exclusive experience—as they followed Jesus through all of the regions of Judea, Galilee, Samaria, and up and down the Jordan. They had first hand experiences that we will not have.
We have the fuller story. We have four canonized gospels. We have the answers to so many questions that the disciples asked but were not ready to comprehend.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
We are empowered to take this truth to the world. We are told if we believe in Jesus then we will accomplish fantastic things in his name.
If we need support in this mission, all we need do is ask.
Let’s stop asking for ponies, or new cars, or bigger televisions. When we give ourselves to God, we end up getting so much of the stuff that the world lives for anyway.
Let us set upon the work that our Master has given us, expect to do great things in his name, and stop being afraid to boldly ask for what we need to accomplish the mission.
Let us set our sights on doing great things in the name of the Lord and being fully equipped for the task.
Great things and answered prayers.
That is what is in store for us when we commit to following Jesus—to being his disciples and taking his light and love into the world.
We could say, “Show us the Father,” or “Just give me one more sign,” or we could believe that we have seen him in the love we know in Christ Jesus.
We were not there but we know so much more of the story now. Let us not say, “Show us the Father.”
Instead, let us set our sights on:
Great things and answered prayers.
Great things and answered prayers.
Great things and answered prayers.