Following Jesus #3 - In the Way of Hope
Dr. Kurt Bjorklund looks at the hope Jesus offers to those with troubled hearts through words of comfort and clarity within the text of John 14.
Well this fall, we are working our way through John 13 through 17 talking about following Jesus in the way that Jesus defined it. And so we saw in chapter 13 following Jesus in the way of humility and following Jesus as a way of life really all together. And today we're going to talk about following Jesus in the way of hope.
And so I want to begin with a question. And the question is a good question, whether you're here in Wexford in the Strip District, Butler County, in the chapel. And the question is what troubles you today? See, Jesus said, don't let your hearts be troubled. It's the same word that was used in chapter 13 when it says that Jesus was troubled and it's a word that connotes kind of the idea of being agitated or or almost despondent or in a place of feeling almost without the ability to act.
And so the question is, what troubles you today? Our hope in this series is that what will happen is that if you are a long-time follower of Jesus, you would be encouraged and pushed deeper into your relationship with Jesus. And if you're somebody who says, I'm not really sure where I'm at, I'm not sure if I believe this, that you would be able to strip away some of the cultural ideas of what it means and begin to hear Jesus in his own words. And here's what I know is true about you. And that is you either have been through trouble, are in trouble, or one day will be in trouble because that's part of our world.
And here's the most natural thing to do. And it's a good thing to do. And that is to say, how can I hedge my life against trouble? How can I navigate trouble when I'm in it? And how can I do my best to mitigate trouble throughout my life? And what that is is it's a focus on our circumstances saying, how can I change my circumstances? And I say it's good because obviously if you can keep your life from experiencing some kind of difficulty, that's better than going through difficulty.
And actually, next week we'll look at the passage in John chapter 14 verses 12 through 14 that deals with really getting power or praying and asking God to change something, A bold promise that says, whatever you ask in my name, I will do it. We'll look at that. But today what we see is we see how Jesus, after saying these very simple words, don't let your hearts be troubled, how he addresses hope and really what he is doing in this situation is he's saying, I can give you hope.
And what I believe is true is that the more we understand and relate to Jesus, the more Jesus we have in our lives in a sense, the more hope we'll have. Now you may say, okay, how does that work? And so what I'd like to do is, is look at these verses together. And I think we see how Jesus gives hope in words. He gives words of hope, first in giving words of comfort and then words of clarity.
So, first words of comfort, and this is in these very simple words in John 14 where he says, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me." And you might hear that and your first assumption might be to say, well, okay, so Jesus says, don't worry, be happy. And it feels a little bit like it, like some Christian nonsense in a sense.
Because if you're in real trouble, if you got a diagnosis, if you're in financial trouble, if your marriage is going the wrong way, if one of your kids is using, if you're in a place where you can't seem to make ends meet, you start saying, "Okay, so believe in Jesus and that's my answer?"
And at least, on one sense when you say that it seems too simplistic, but here's something that I believe is true and I believe is what Jesus is driving at when he says, "Believe in me," is he's trying to raise us, our sights to see the future and to live our present in light of the future. And here's something that I believe is true and Jesus says, believe in me in the midst of your trouble, and that is if you don't know Jesus or don't believe in Jesus, then this earth is as close to heaven as you will ever get. What you're experiencing right now is as close to heaven as you will ever get, but if you know Jesus, if you experience Jesus, then this earth is as close to hell as you will ever get, what you're experiencing right now.
And here's why that has some significance. Because if you go through life, if I go through life trying to change my circumstances, trying to make everything better all the time, which is a good thing, and I succeed, I can be duped into thinking that this world has everything that I need and if I don't succeed and sooner or later you won't because sooner or later we all get sick, sooner or later, we'll all die. Sooner or later something will happen that then we live with another kind of reality of saying this world is no good. But Jesus's hope of saying, believe in me is saying, I want you to know that this world and the trouble you go through, it doesn't have to define everything for you. And then he says this, he says, "In my father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you."
In fact, the old King James version used to say that there's many mansions. This is where the idea of the mansions comes from maybe you've heard, maybe you've heard like the old joke about the quarterbacks who die and go to heaven. We'll just choose two current ones. Yes, this is a bad setup at this point. But you know Tom Brady, this is how you know this is apocryphal. Tom Brady dies and goes to heaven and that's a joke. Come on, work with me a little bit.
And when he's there is taken to his mansion and so it's an okay size home and it has a Patriot fag out front. And he says, okay, this looks all right. And then he looks down and he sees a huge place with Steeler gear everywhere. And he says, "Why does Roethlisberger get that? I mean, I won more Super Bowls. I didn't get in as much trouble. I mean, why?"
And he says, "Well, that's not Ben's house. That's mine."
Now, that's an old bad joke. And it comes from the King James version where it says there are many mansions, but the actual translation is rooms. And that's a better translation in the original language. And there are different ways that people have understood this. The main way is that it was just a room in a house, that this was another extension of community of family. There's a picture here, and this is an encampment of Israel. Some people would call even all these tents, the Monai, which was the Greek word for the the room. That's probably not the dominant interpretation, but some people would say it just shows the expansiveness of this, but here's what's going on and why this is such a significant image is because the image here is of a life in which you have a room in a house that's a big house, that's a welcoming house.
Here's how one commentator wrote about it. He said, "An earthly house becomes overcrowded. An earthly inn must sometimes turn away the weary traveler because its accommodation is exhausted. It is not so with our Father's house, for heaven is as wide as the heart of God and there is room for all."
In other words, it's never a limited space. And then AW Panka, a writer from another generation put it this way, "Home used to mean and still means to a few, a place where we are loved for our own sakes, the place where we are always welcome. it's the place whether we can retire from strife of the world and enjoy rest and peace, the place where loved ones are together. Such will heaven be. Believers are now in a strange country, yea in the enemies land. In the life to come, they will be home."
There's a song that we do in our kids ministry at Kids Fest, our summer camp that reaches a lot of the community. It's called Big, Big House and the the line in the song says it's a big, big house with lots of lots of room. There's a big, big table with lots and lots of food. There's a big, big yard where we can play football in my father's house, and if you've ever been to our Kids Fest and watched the kids sing it, there's just a joy and a simplicity of saying this is what we have to look forward to and here's what Jesus is doing. He's saying, I don't want you to be troubled. I don't want you to be in despair because you have something, if you believe in me, to look forward to, you have something that is a home and a place that gives you room.
Now, there are several images in the New Testament for heaven and so let me just walk you through a few of these for a moment. The first that we just referenced is a house with many rooms, John 14 1-3. This speaks of permanence of a home that's established. It speaks of relationship and it speaks of family.
There's another picture and it's that of a country and we see this in Luke 19, verse 12 and also in Hebrews 11, verse 16. Here's what Luke 19:12 says, "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then return," and it's a story. It's a parable, but here, what's happening is Jesus is saying that that eternity or heaven is like a country and this speaks really of its vastness of protection. It speaks of stability.
There's also an image of a city. Hebrews 11, verse 10 gives us this image. Here's what Hebrews 11:10 says, "For he was looking forward to his city with foundations whose architect and builder was God." In other words, what he's talking about here is this picture of of heaven being like a city.
Revelation 21 gives us the same picture and this speaks of people who are together, unified. It speaks of people living together who are diverse or diversity. It speaks of support that we find inside our city structures and so it's talking about all the good things that are here.
We also see a kingdom being referenced. 2 Peter 11, verse one gives us this picture and it says, "And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ." In other words, that you'll have a kingdom where you'll experience rule and order. You'll experience things as they should be.
And then we get the picture of paradise again in Luke chapter 23 verse 43 where Jesus says, "Today you will be with me in paradise." Revelation 2:7 speaks of comforts and pleasures.
And what all of this is pointing to is this idea that that there is something that if you are in Christ you can look forward to and say, I have genuine hope.
Randy Alcorn wrote a book years ago on heaven and one of his central tenants of that book is that often we think of heaven as kind of this ethereal, detached from earth thing. At one point he says this, "Nearly every description of heaven includes references to earthly things." He's talking about in the Bible, eating music, animals, water, trees, fruit and city with gates and streets.
And the point that he goes on to make is that when the Bible talks about a new heaven and a new earth, it's not talking about something that's vastly different, but it's talking about something that is actually superior to what we experience now.
In other words, if you know Jesus Christ, then the closest that your life will ever be to hell is what it is today, because all of your longings, all of the good things that you desire, that you experience are just a taste of what you will experience forever in eternity.
But at the same time, if you don't know Jesus Christ, then all of those things, those longings, those good things, that's as close to heaven as you will ever be. In other words, all you're getting today is your best taste of what you could have in eternity. And so there's a difference in whether or not you say, I believe in Jesus or I don't, per what Jesus is saying here. And so those are Jesus's words of comfort. Don't let your hearts be troubled, in my father's house are many rooms believe in me and you will know of it, but there's a second portion of comfort and this goes to what I'm going to call words of clarity and the reason that I say words of clarity is because what we see in John 14 is we see two questions that are asked.
There's actually three different questions asked by different people, but only two in the section we're looking at today. In verse five Thomas says, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Basically, show us the way is what he's saying and then a few verses later Phillip, in verse eight says, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." And what he's in essence doing is he's asking a question and he's saying.
Now, if you would just show us, make it clear to us, then we would know. Now, the reason that I say clarity's important or that the words of clarity provide hope is because a lot of people in our world for various reasons, have a hope that they say, one day I'll have whatever eternity is, whatever God is like, I'll experience that. But what we want to understand and see is that Jesus actually gives very good clarity.
There was a video, I think you can see this on YouTube, that supposedly when Google Assistant and Siri and those first came out, that when asked about Jesus, they would give kind of a nondescript answer. Take a look for a second.
So I'm testing out Google. Hey Google, who is Allah?
According to Wikipedia in Islamic theology, God is the all powerful and all knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer and judge of everything in existence.
Hey, Google, who is Buddha?
According to Wikipedia, Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, Shakyamuni Buddha, or simply the Buddha after the title of Buddha was an ascetic and sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.
Okay. Hey, Google, who is Jesus Christ?
Sorry, I don't know how to help with that yet.
Okay. Hey, Google. Who is Jesus?
Sorry. I'm not sure how to help.
Alrighty. Well, let's try this. Hey, Google, who is new age?
According to Wikipedia, new age is a term applied to a range of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices that developed in Western nations during the 1970s.
Okay. Let's try it. Oh wait, what about this one? Hey, Google, who is Brahman?
On the website bbc.co.uk, they say Hindus believe that there is one true God, the supreme spirit called Brahman. Brahman has many forms, pervades the whole universe and is symbolized by the sacred syllable ohm. Most Hindus believe that Brahman is present in every person as the eternal spirit or soul called the amin.
Let me try this again. Hey, Google, who is Jesus Christ?
My apologies. I don't understand.
Hey, Google. Who is Jesus?
Sorry. I don't know how to help with that yet.
Hmm. We probably need to call the programmers. Okay. That was interesting. What are your thoughts?
Now, I don't know that that is 100% verified because there's some debate if you Google this and try to search it up. Supposedly when Google was confronted with this, what they said is it wasn't to show a lack of respect for Jesus, but rather out of respect for Jesus that we wanted to not try to define him as our world defines. And now if you say to Google Assistant, this is what you get.
Hey Google, who is Jesus Christ?
According to Wikipedia, 80 30 30 thirds, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus Christ was a first century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God, the son and the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.
Why do I take the time just to show you that? Here's why. Because here is the thinking that is prominent in our world and that is religion is all good, you have your own way to God, do whatever you want, but Jesus, Jesus becomes offensive to people because of probably the verse that is right here in this passage.
So Thomas says, show us the way, if there are many rooms, if there's all this comfort, all this hope for our troubled hearts, show us the way. And Jesus says this, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Now, here's what Jesus is doing very simply and I believe he's saying in essence, my way, the way of the kingdom is wide. Anybody can come through me. A lot of times we focus on the narrowness of this and think of it in terms of being restrictive.
No one can come, and that's true, that you have to come through Jesus to get to God. But it's also wide, because he's saying it isn't about your performance. It isn't about what you've done. It isn't about what you haven't done. It's about what Jesus has done on people's behalf. And so he says, I am the way, I am the truth. I am the life and you can't get to God except through me. That's what Jesus says here. And really what Jesus is is, is a foreigner. There's a cool verse in Hebrews, chapter six verse 20. It says this, it says, "Where our forerunner, Jesus has entered on our behalf. He has become our high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek," and that word for forerunner that's used right here is a word in the original language that's only used here in the New Testament.
It's perdramas and and what it had a connotation of is somebody who had been a reconnaissance troop who would basically go out and make sure that it was safe for everyone else to come, or a pilot boat that was used for leading other people to safety.
In other words, Jesus is saying, here's what I am doing. I am the way I am your pilot boat. I am your reconnaissance troop. I've gone to eternity and I have prepared a place for you if you will believe. But again, we live in an age that says, well, that's nice but can't people come in all kinds of ways?
Here's what religioustolerance.org says at one point, and the things I Google for, you know these things, but here's what it says. It says, "We do believe that systems of truth in the field of morals, ethics and religious beliefs are not absolute. They vary by culture, religion, and region over time."
In other words, what they're saying, this is Religious Tolerance and this is the, this is prominent in our world again today, is that if you want to be tolerant, then you can't say that there's any absolute truth or any distinct way. What you have to say is morals change from place to place, from time to time.
So let me just dive into this for a moment. So, in the news in the last few months has been a man named Jeffrey Epstein. I got a email from a friend that had an article, a link to an article, and it said Jeffrey Epstein was right and I was hooked. So I clicked on it and I read the article. If you're not familiar with the case, Jeffrey Epstein supposedly hung himself in jail. How that all happened isn't clear, because he was facing trial for having had sex with underage girls repeatedly, using his vast wealth to purchase sex with underage girls.
And what Jeffrey Epstein said, according to the New York Times at one point, was that he was in the majority of people throughout history who didn't think that having sex with under age girls was wrong, but that he was somebody who was simply acting in accordance with people all through history.
Now our culture says, oh, that's horrible. And the article that I'm referencing said, well, he was right in the sense that all through history, people have not seen that as being a problem. In fact, people who were poor would often sell their underage children, underage by our definition, into prostitution to help pay for their life and wouldn't think twice of it, and people who had money and power could buy those things from others. Now you might say, okay, where is this going?
Well, right here. Here's what's inconsistent in our culture is that our culture has come to a point of saying that's wrong. Rightly so, but do you know what that's based on? It's based on the Christian ideal, that marriage, precedes sexuality, that the monogamous relationship between a man and a woman of birthing age is what God intends for the thriving of humanity.
And what happens is in in a culture that says, well, we don't want to believe that ideal, we don't want to practice that ideal, but we're going to selectively take this one moral and say this doesn't work. What we're doing is we're saying we're selective and in that sense, what Jeffrey Epstein said was right. He's saying, look, this has been historically acceptable. This is just now a cultural thing and why is it cultural in the West and not in all places in the East? Why is it historical to our moment? In part because of the Christian influence in our world.
And here's my point. When you say Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. It's not just a decision to say, oh, I choose some truth that I like. It's Jesus saying, I have given you a way that is wide but also narrow for human thriving. That's what he says.
And then there's the question that Phillip asks in verse 11 where he says, show me the way and what Jesus does here very simply is he says, I have, more or less. When Phillip, says in verse eight actually, and then it goes through verse 11, Lord show us the way, he says, "Don't you know me, Philip? After all I've been with you a long time. Anyone who's seen me has seen the Father." So what he says, he says, I have shown you the way, but you're choosing not to see it.
You see, sometimes what happens is we end up in a place where we don't want clarity. You ever been here? If you have kids or you've been a kid, you know how this works. Your mom or dad says something about what you should do and you say, I didn't understand.
Or you're at work and your boss says, hey, here's something that's important to us. And if you play I didn't get it card, you get off the hook a little bit. Well here, what's being communicated is this idea of Jesus saying, I've already made it clear. In other words, if you don't want to know who Jesus is now, then you will not know him later and if you don't see him now, you will not see him later.
See, sometimes it isn't that we're looking for clarity when we ask those questions, we don't actually want the clarity and Jesus is making it very clear here where he's saying saying, if you don't know the way to God is because you have turned away from me, from Jesus, from what I've done.
You see, Jesus says, believe in me because in my father's house are many rooms and here's why I say this is wide and why this is actually good news, because some people hear this and they think, well, Christianity is restrictive. No, Christianity is expansive because what Christianity says is it's not up to your behavior, your morals, your goodness, to somehow earn your way to be good enough that one day God would say you get the bigger house. Instead, it's all about what Jesus Christ has done, that Jesus went to the cross, that Jesus lived the sinless and perfect life, that Jesus rose from the dead and that because of his work your and my work is consumed under his name, under his work, and if you believe, if you believe, then you come into a place where you can say, now I know that that's what's waiting for me.
And that's the comfort because then you can say that if I know Jesus Christ, then this life is as close to hell as I'll ever be, and if you don't know Jesus Christ in this life is as close to heaven as you will ever be.
There's a story of an old pastor who had some people come and see him and they were concerned because their daughter had decided that she was going to drop out of medical school and graduate school and go be a missionary. And so they brought their daughter in and they wanted their daughter to talk to the pastor so the pastor could convince the daughter that she needed to finish school and get some security and manage her life a little better. And here's what this pastor said at the time. He said, "Let me get this straight. Every one of us is on a little ball of rock called earth. This little ball of rock is spinning through space at a zillion miles an hour and even if it doesn't ever run into anything someday from under every single one of us, a little trap door is going to open and everybody here is going to fall off. Underneath, there will be the everlasting arms of God or nothing at all. Maybe you can get some security by getting your master's degree. And that's what you want me to tell your daughter. Have I got this straight?"
See our hope ultimately can't be in the things that we secure for ourselves, the circumstances we change. Because even if we succeed one day, the trap door will open and when it does, the only thing that will ultimately matter at that point is have we had a relationship with Jesus Christ?
You know, I don't know what kind of trouble you're in here today, what things are causing you to be agitated or concerned, but Jesus' words aren't just, "Don't worry about it. It'll all work out." His words are are, "Even if you're in trouble, there's something so much better, if you believe in me," and it's open and to all and it's clear the way that you can get it. Now, that doesn't mean that we don't try to change our circumstances, but it means whatever our circumstances are that we can live with hope, fear.
If you're a person of faith who's here, maybe a person of faith for a long time and you find yourself living without hope or without comfort. Maybe for you, the issue is just saying, I need to keep spending time worshiping and in the word of God so that my hope is shaped by something eternal.
And if you're here and you say, I don't really have that kind of hope. If I don't get into that school, if I don't get that job, if I don't marry that person, if we don't have a child, if our kids don't ever leave home, I mean, whatever it is you might say, I have to get that or my life doesn't work. Then what you're seeing here is that when we talk about following Jesus in the way of hope, that there's actually a greater hope that lets you enjoy the things that you have here and now as a taste of all the good things that will be and that, that gives real hope in this life and you can have that hope today by simply coming to Jesus and that that all of your efforts aren't enough, that you need with Jesus Christ has done on your behalf.
When you do that, then according to John 14 and other scriptures, then what waits for you is this great promise of a house with many rooms, a country, a city, a kingdom, a paradise, all waits to say, this is what you have in front of you.
Father, we pray that you would help each one of us just to live with hope, not a false hope, not a trumped up hope that that makes us feel good, but a genuine hope about what you have promised through Jesus Christ and God, I pray that we would have clarity about who Jesus is, what he's done for us, and we pray this in Jesus's name. Amen.