Summary: how Jesus comforts us at the loss of a loved one and other trials in life

April 25, 2002 John 14:1-12

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Jesus Calms the Storms of Trouble

On July 12th, 1959, Jim and Neda Meyer were married in a little country church. They were blessed with three children, a boy and two girls. If you could envision an ideal Christian marriage, this was it. Jim was a loving father - a faithful father - one who took his role as the spiritual leader of the household seriously. Every Sunday he would make sure that his family was up and dressed - ready to worship their Lord. And it wasn’t just a rite of passage for Jim. The kids could tell that dad wasn’t just going through the motions. He loved to be there. He didn’t fall asleep through the service, no matter how long the preacher preached. After the service, he would bring up the topic of the sermon - and ask his kids about it. The worship of his Lord would continue at home. In the way he treated his wife and children, in the way he led devotions almost daily.

If this weren’t enough, Jim was also a hard worker. A blue collar man, he faithfully showed up for work in the paper mill until the day he retired, only missing two days of 35 years of work over a sickness. He managed his limited finances very wisely, and was able to purchase a nice house for his wife and family.

Neda loved Jim with all of her heart. From the day he met her at a youth get together in high school - she knew he was the man for her. In a lot of ways, Neda needed Jim. She was a frail woman - often times very sickly. Quite often Jim would spend his nights taking care of the children after school while Neda nursed a cold or the flu. She wasn’t very good at finances, but Jim took care of that. She was good at housework and cooking. She was a faithful wife and she complimented Jim perfectly. It was just a cookie cutter marriage.

July 12th was a night of celebration. Forty years of marriage. Forty years. Think about it. Many couples don’t last forty days. But they had lasted forty years. It was a beautiful night. All three of their children came from around the globe - North Carolina, North Dakota, and southern Wisconsin - to celebrate their anniversary up in Wausau, Wisconsin. All of the kids shared stories of how mom and dad taught them how to ride a bike, tie their shoes, or mow the lawn. Little Jim recalled how he would shovel the walk with dad. Alice recalled cooking in the kitchen with mom. All of their friends laughed and joked about the good times they had had. The night was longer than usual - nearing midnight - as the party finally dispersed. At about quarter til midnight, the kids finally convinced mom and dad to head on home - they would clean up the VFW. After all, there was church the next morning.

As they traveled home, Jim and Neda just stared into the road, thinking to themselves about what a wonderful night they had. Holding hands like young sweethearts, they felt as if it was just yesterday they had gotten married. It was only about a seventeen mile ride out to the country, one they had made a hundred times before.

It just so happened that some other young kids were also having a fun time that night. Five high school classmates had heard of a party in the country at their friends house - his parents were out of town. In high school fashion, they tested and went beyond the limits of sobriety. As the night waned on, they were running out of beer. Tyler remembered that his parents had some booze stashed out in the garage. So all five kids decided to go back into Wausau for a booze run. Tyler hadn’t had that much - just a few beers, so he decided he would drive. That night, Tyler and his friends - happened to be cruising over the same hill that Jim and Neda had traveled over hundreds of times before. For some reason, the car was harder to steer that night for Tyler. He wasn’t drunk, but he had a good buzz going on. Unfortunately, as Tyler traveled over that old familiar road that night, he happened to swerve over the center line - just enough to hit Jim and Neda head on, at 11:53, July 12th, 1999.

As fortune would have it, Neda came out of the wreck with hardly a scratch, and the five boys seemed to be alright too. But Jim’s old Buick took quite a hit on the driver’s side. The steering column had crushed into his sternum, crushing his lungs - leaving Jim - now 71 years old - minutes from death. As Jim was laying on the ground, blood coming out of his mouth, with Neda holding his hand, rubbing his forehead. The last words he whispered to his wife were, “I love you.” He then closed his eyes and died. Everything that Jim and Neda had worked for and planned for - a wonderful retirement and life together - were all changed all because a foolish high school kid decided to drive after drinking.

Several days later, Pastor Schroeder preached a wonderful sermon on John 14. “Trust in God. Trust also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” The words of Jesus provided great comfort as he assured Neda that Jim was in the mansions of heaven. Yet, after the funeral, the kids were all concerned for mom. How would she survive on her own? And Neda also wondered how she would survive. “Jim took care of all the bills. I ate breakfast every morning. He drove me to church. He led me spiritually. And now he’s gone! What am I going to do? I can’t take the garbage out. I can’t balance a check book! I can’t even get up the stairs very well!” The more she thought about it, the more her eyes welled up. It seemed impossible.

Jesus had just told his disciples in John 13, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now.” Now, you have to understand that by this time the disciples had become very attached to Jesus. He was more than a husband in their eyes. He was their Messiah. Over the past three years they had enjoyed every minute of being with Jesus - it gave them so much comfort to have his authority and his words of comfort. It was an ideal situation - one that they wouldn’t have traded for all the gold in the world. But when Jesus said he was leaving them, the questions started raising in their minds. “How are we going to face the Pharisees? What are we going to do with the demon possessed? Where is he going? Why isn’t he staying? Isn’t he supposed to stay here and establish a kingdom? I don’t want him to leave.” The more they thought about it, the more scared they became.

Jesus knew this, and so he said to them, “do not let your hearts be troubled.” The word for “troubled” is tarasso - it means literally to be stirred up. The picture is a very physical picture. When the wind blew through Topeka last Wednesday, it came up very suddenly before the rain. The windows started shaking. Garbage started flying across the yard, after garbage cans were toppled over. Jesus said, “don’t let that happen to your minds. Don’t let all of your thoughts and worries blow your faith around like a reed in the wind.”

Maybe, with this word, Jesus was taking the disciples minds back to their time on the Sea of Galilee. Remember the story? In the evening Jesus and the disciples decided to go across the Sea. But suddenly a wind came up. Maybe it was gradual at first. But before they knew it, a serious squall came up and nearly swamped the boat. They could no longer keep calm. In a frantic mode they woke the Lord up and said, “teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” And what did Jesus do? He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Just as Jesus took care of that storm, he would take care of this storm of doubt that was racing around in their minds. So with a calm and reassuring voice, Jesus said, “trust in God, trust also in me.”

Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation. Maybe you will be. Imagine if on your way home your mother - whom you depend on for your tender care and comfort - died. Imagine if you were fired from your job this week. How would you respond to such a request - “Trust in God. Trust also in me.” What did Jesus mean? Weren’t they trusting in Jesus all this time? Yes. But over the years, it could have happened that they began to depend more on his physical PRESENCE than in GOD and his WORDS. The devil has a deceitful way of turning the gift of God into the god of our hearts. Has that happened to us also? If you say, “I trust in God when you have a good paying job and a wonderful spouse,” but your trust in God wavers when your job and spouse are gone, what is your trust really in? If you trusted God to take care of you when your mother or spouse was alive, then why can’t God take care of you when your they are gone? What are you really trusting in? The giver of the gold or the gold? These are honest and soul searching questions. They convict us and reveal our idolatrous hearts. It troubles us to think about how idolatrous we really are.

But in a time of “trouble,” Jesus did not feel the need to chastise his disciples. He felt the need to comfort them. To calm the winds and the waves - not with a shout, but with gentle promises. And so Jesus said to them, In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going. Jesus was assuring his disciples, “I am not deserting you - far from it. I am preparing you for your eternal future.”

It’s kind of ironic in the way that Jesus did this - that he prepared a room for us. When Jesus came to this earth, there was no room for him or his mother in the inn. We had no room prepared for him. No, we - mankind - set a apart a dirty and filthy cattle stall for Jesus. We said to Jesus, “we don’t have room for you in our house Jesus. Come at a time more convenient. Wait til we retire. Wait til we’re not so busy.” But Jesus said, “I’m not going to let you have what you want - separation from me. I’m sending Jesus anyway, because I want to reestablish our relationship with each other.” So Jesus came into our world - born in a cattle stall. And what did he do for humans? He healed them. He taught them about righteousness. He led them out from under the yoke of the Pharisees. And how did mankind treat him? We assigned him - not in a place of kings - but that of robbers - on the cross. We put to death the author of life. We told him, “we don’t want you in our world, Lord.” And while we were doing this, “God the Father also said to Jesus, “you are no longer welcome in my house either. As the substitute of sinners, you must go to hell.” It was a terrible thing what we did to Jesus. But when we did this to Jesus, Jesus was in turn providing us with a room in heaven. As we kicked Jesus out of our world, Jesus invited us into His. When Jesus died on the cross and went through hell in our place, He was also cleaning off our muddy shoes, washing our clothes, and enabling us to sit in the heavenly realms, in the presence of God Himself. He was providing a free ride to heaven. That’s what Jesus was trying to explain to His disciples.

Thomas didn’t get it, and neither did Philip. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” . . . . Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” And what was Jesus answer to them? “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” What was Jesus saying to them? “If you want to get back home to God the Father, you’re on the right path! Just trust in me! Everything that I am and do is intimately entwined with the Father. Don’t trust in what you THINK I should do. Trust in what I’m saying I’ll do. I am going to suffer and die - and rise again to heaven - and I am going to take you with me! Just trust me - it will work out! I’m not just showing you which way to take, I AM the way. You don’t have to go on a new path - just stay on the one you’re on. And don’t worry about the in between period. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Three years later, Neda still missed her husband. She missed the evening strolls with him through the country. She missed the smell of cigar that eminated from his study. She missed having him by her side at worship. It’s been difficult, and yet Neda has survived. As it turned out, she was able to move in with Jim Jr. down in North Carolina. They had an addition put onto their house. Every day she is now able to read stories to her grandchildren before bed. She doesn’t have to pay bills, as her son takes care of them. She didn’t have to walk up stairs. God provided her with a better relationship with her grandchildren and her son and daughter in law. In living with them, she was living with an extension of Jim. She could see his training and love as she experienced the love and care of her son and his family. She was able to go to worship with them every Sunday. And she was learning that she could do things that she never thought she could. If she would have chosen the path - this wasn’t she planned. It wasn’t what she wanted. But she was able to see the blessings in this situation. She knew that there was still plenty of room in heaven for her - and that Jesus would take her to be with him and Jim as well.

If you are facing uncertain times - with your job or your health - you can either continue to worry yourself sick, or you can trust in the promises of Jesus. Life may not go on the pathway you want. Peter and the disciples didn’t want Jesus to leave them - even for a moment. It’s very easy to become panicky, and wonder, “oh, how will I survive! How will I pay my bills? How will my children be able to survive?” That’s what the disciples were going through. But Jesus didn’t want them to feel that way. And so He said, “don’t let your hearts be troubled.” But he didn’t just command this - He provided it. With a promise of eternal life, he stopped the winds of fear. With a promise that He was the way, he put down the waves of fear that told them to jump ship. With a promise that he was connected with the Father, he encouraged them to stay the course.

I hope and pray that the promises in John 14 do the same for you in times of trouble. The promise of Jesus to his disciples is also a promise to us. Jesus lives. God accepted His sacrifice. Because of this, there are many rooms in heaven that have been prepared. There will still be a room - a permanent one - for you. If Jesus went through all of that work to make you holy and make you HIS - don’t think that he’s going to leave you to suffer here. The same Father who looked after Jesus in this world is now YOUR Heavenly Father. He’s looking after you - your children - and your parents - and anyone else that needs His care. Through faith in Him, he’s going to bring you home to be with him. Trust him when he promises you this. Before you know it, the winds of doubt will die down. The waves of worry will be stilled. And you’ll find yourself sailing on the calm waters of peace once again. Amen.