Summary: A funeral sermon upon the death of an elderly Christian.
John 14:1-4 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going. (NRSV)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled!” These are words which I would not dare--merely of myself—to speak to anyone who had just lost a dear one in death. Death is a troubling thing. The apostle Paul speaks of death as an enemy. Where death strikes, there sorrow, grief, and troubled hearts are inevitable for the loved ones who remain behind. In the face of death, who are we to say, “Do not let your heart be troubled?”
No, as mere mortals we cannot speak these words. But Jesus Christ can and does speak these words of comfort and encouragement and hope to those who have troubled hearts. He spoke them long ago to his small group of disciples when they were troubled in heart. Jesus had just told them that He was about to leave them, and would no longer be among them on earth. The imminent departure of Jesus quite understandably troubled his disciples. They had left all and had followed Him. Their entire lives had become wholly centered around Him and His presence. And now He was no longer to be among them? It seemed to them the shattering of their very lives. But to them Jesus turns and says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
With these words Jesus is not rebuking His disciples for being troubled. Rather, He is calling them out of their sorrow to a new hope and a new joy, which will overcome their grief. Because it is Jesus Christ who speaks these words, we also can find comfort and hope in them. His promises are sure; His word will not fail.
In order, therefore, that we may rest in the comfort and the hope which He holds out to troubled hearts, let us attend to His words as he makes clear where that comfort is to be found. He does this in four ways. He gives a command. He reveals a heavenly reality. He makes a promise. And He points out the way.
First of all, Jesus gives a command. He says, “You believe in God, believe also in me.” Faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ is what brings comfort and hope, also in the face of death. Where there is no belief in God, there is no sure hope in death. But when we rest in God through faith, we can cast all of our cares upon Him, knowing that “He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27) This was the confidence which our dear one had when he was ill. “I know,” he said, “that my life is in God’s hands.” That knowledge brought strength to him, and it brings strength and comfort to us, too, who mourn his passing; we know that even now his life is still in God’s hands. We, too, believing in God, can find that comfort in life and in death are ours. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) Believe in God, says Jesus to you, and your troubled hearts will find rest.
Then He immediately adds, “believe also in me.” Only when our faith in God is a faith directed to Jesus Christ can we experience the comfort and the hope which God offers us, for He is Emmanuel, “God with us.” He is the Word who was in the beginning with God and who is God. He is the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us. He is the one of whom John the Baptist, cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) He is the Lamb that was slain. He it is who died, who gave His life a ransom for many, for all who in humble repentance believe on Him. “No one comes to the Father,” says Christ, “except through me.” (John 14:6) The comfort that Jesus holds out to us comes as we follow His command: “You believe in God, believe also in me.”
When we put our faith in Him our hearts are open to hear what He says to us about a heavenly reality. He tells us that this earthly life is not the only life that God gives to us. He says, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places; I am going there to prepare a place for you.” We may think of our life here on earth as a life in one of the dwelling places in the Father’s house, but it is not the only one. To one of those many heavenly dwelling places our loved one has now departed. He has left one dwelling and has entered into another, a far better and more glorious place. What is it like there, where he is in heaven? We know so little about the details. But what we do know is enough to fill us with comfort and hope, for we know that there every tear is wiped away, and death is no more. We here below continue to mourn, but there there is no mourning nor crying nor pain any more.