Summary: Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure by showing them that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and by promising to bring them safely to the Father in heaven.
We’re studying through the book of John, and we’ve made it to the upper room. Jesus is having the last supper with his disciples, and he’s washed their feet to set an example of love. He has to do this because he’s getting ready to be crucified, and he wants his disciples to be ready for his absence.
This statement that he’s leaving now becomes the main topic:
Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.
They don’t understand where he plans to go, and he doesn’t say plainly. Earlier he had told them they can’t follow, but now he adds a little more; they can’t follow now, but they will when their time on earth is done. But first, the time has to be right:
37Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. 38Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.
I’ve often wondered what Jesus means when he says this. What’s the point? Certainly it’s not to make him feel grief; his next words are “let not your heart be troubled.” One possible reason is to show that he’s in control, but I think there’s more than that. When we take the conversation as a whole we find this struggle between Jesus and the disciples: he has to leave, but they want him to stay.
The first issue he deals with is Peter’s claim that he’s ready to go with him even now. “No, Peter. You’re not ready to go now. You will be when the time is right, but first you’re going to deny me.”
I suppose they had doubts when he said this, and I can picture the stormy, troubled look on Peter’s face. He usually thinks he understands his master; he’s ready to follow him to the death, but this conversation is giving him a hard time.
Jesus knows this and responds accordingly:
14:1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
They heard God’s claim that Jesus is his Son, and they believed it. They know Jesus is the king and messiah, but his talk isn’t lining up with their expectations. How can he leave when he’s supposed to set up a throne? Isn’t he supposed to be ruling and making peace?
2In 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.
This is the reason he has to leave.
“Mansions” is a poor translation that’s led to some people thinking we’re all going to get a golden palace when we get to heaven. The truth is that the Greek word means “rooms” or “apartments.” So, what he’s really saying is, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.”
Not only is this more fitting to New Testament theology (which says we shouldn’t strive for silver and gold), but it’s so much richer because we see all the saints of God dwelling in one house with the Father. We really are one big family.
Jesus leaves the earth to go and prepare this place. Now, that’s another interesting thing because he should be able to just speak it into existence, right? I mean, if he could make the earth and the heavens in only six days, then surely he should have this mansion finished in 2,000 years. But don’t think of him walking around heaven with blueprints and a hammer. Remember what Peter said: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pt. 3:8-9).
When Jesus goes to prepare a place, he goes into heaven and sits down until his enemies are made his footstool. Time marches on until all of God’s elect repent and confess, and then he will return to rule in the way the Jews first expected.
3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
This is a source of comfort for them. He goes away so that he can prepare their place. Think of the high priest going into the Most Holy Place every year. He went through the veil where no other man could follow, but when Jesus died, he tore the veil into: signifying that the way into the holiest of all was now made manifest (Heb. 9:8).