Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, September 21, 2018
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Many Rooms In My Father's House

Acts 7:55-60 and John 14:1-11

 There’s a story I heard one time at a funeral.  Almost certainly, it’s one of those stories that’s “apocryphal;” it never really happened, or at least it’s been embellished, but it makes the point.  The story goes that a man went to the doctor and received a terminal diagnosis.  He confessed to the doctor that he was afraid to die.  At that point, the doctor opened the door to the office, which was in his home, and called for his dog.  The dog obediently came to him.

 The doctor then proceeded to tell the man that the dog had never been in the office before.  He wasn’t allowed in there, since it was supposed to be a sterile environment and such.  But even though he had never been allowed in that room before, he wasn’t afraid to go in.  “He doesn’t know what’s in here, but he knows that his master is here, and that’s enough.  We don’t know what is on the other side of the door we call ‘death,’ but we know our Master is there, and that’s enough.”  

 I don’t think the story is real in the sense that it actually happened, but it is real in the sense that it is true.  It speaks to the same reality that Jesus does.  “What is heaven like?” we might wonder.  The fact of the matter is that we aren’t given a whole lot of information in the Bible about what heaven or the new creation or eternal life will be like.  But we are told that it is where Jesus is.  And that should be enough to ease our anxieties.  

 John 14 is part of the “New Passover” in John’s Gospel.  We usually call it the Last Supper, but it was the Passover meal.  And just as the old Passover was eaten in remembrance of God’s deliverance out of slavery in Egypt, the New Passover celebrates the new exodus out of our slavery to sin and death.  One of the clues that tells us that John is portraying this supper as a New Passover is that in the Passover tradition of Jesus’ day the children would ask four questions about the meaning of the meal.  In John’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus four questions as well.  The difference is that in the old Passover, it was a lamb that was slain.  This time it will be Jesus.  The disciples don’t seem to grasp that yet, but they might have an inkling, and they are certainly upset. 

 So Jesus continues, “Don’t be troubled.  Trust in God and in me.  In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.”  The Greek word is MONAI, and it’s the same word used in verse 23 of this chapter where Jesus speaks of the Father and Son dwelling in those who love him.  

 Now normally, the Father’s house referred to the Temple.  And sure enough, it had many rooms.  The Old Testament Temple was three stories high.  On either side of the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies, there were three levels of small rooms.  These were for the priests and Levites who were on duty in the Temple at the time.  In Ezekiel’s vision of a greater Temple, there were even more rooms.  The New Testament Temple also had many rooms in it for the priests and Levites and Temple guards.  

 Is this perhaps a vision of “heaven?”  An enormous Temple with many rooms?  It is interesting that in the book of the Revelation, the New Jerusalem is an enormous cube-shaped city, over a thousand miles on each side.  The only other thing in the Bible that is described as a perfect cube shape was the Holy of Holies in the Temple.  

 In the end, it’s not the architecture of heaven that should interest us.  It’s the word “many.”  There are many rooms in the Father’s house.  There is room in eternity for all who desire to enter in.  Heaven does not have a “NO VACANCY” sign.  They never run out of room in the inn.  

 “And I will come again and take you to myself, so where I am, there you may also be.”  Heaven is heaven because Jesus is there.  Nothing else is quite so important.

 “You know the way.”  And at that, Thomas speaks up.  Thomas was a pretty honest fellow. If he didn’t understand, he wasn’t going to be quiet and pretend he did.  “We don’t know where you’re going and we don’t know the way!” 

 Jesus’ answer has been called the most profound theological statement in the Gospel of John.  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  

 The Way is the “way of God.”  In Deuteronomy 31, Moses warned the people not to “turn aside from the way.”  Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared, “This is the way” (Isaiah 30:21).  

 The Truth was a name for God.  Truth was also used to describe God’s covenant faithfulness.  God is always true to his word.  Truth in Hebrew thought was used not only to describe something that was factually accurate, but also to describe something that is good and worthy.  

 And Jesus is the Life.  David wrote in Psalm 16, “You show me the way of life, giving me the joy of your presence and the pleasure of living with you forever.”

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