“In 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
How do you describe heaven – the place the glory of which is beyond anything we have ever seen or can even accurately visualize – the glory only God could envision and create?
Two weeks ago – as we began our series on JESUS as THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE - I told the story of a dying man who turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, "Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side."
Very quietly, the doctor said, "I don't know."
"You don't know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?”
The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side of which came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.
Turning to the patient, the doctor said, "Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing...I know my Master is there and that is enough."
I love that story because for me that story points to the essence of heaven as no human source could. Heaven is so glorious and beyond human understanding it is impossible for human beings to describe or even to picture. But all we need to know is the essence of heaven it is the place where we live eternally in the visible Presence of God.
There to greet us and to remain visibly with us through all eternity is our Lord, our Savior, our very life – and with Him those loved ones who have entered before us and who will dwell with us through all eternity.
That night in the upper room – as Jesus prepared His disciples for His crucifixion which was to happen merely hours ahead and His Resurrection on the third day in His air-tight tomb - He comforted them with a description of our eternal home geared to our human level of understanding. Modern translators attempting to improve our understanding have quoted Jesus’ words – “In My Father’s House are many rooms” or even “many dwelling places”.
Actually, Jesus said, “In My Father’s House are many mansions.” Now that confused me until I saw some housing in the Old City Jerusalem.
I had a problem picturing a house where composed of many mansions until each morning on my way to the city gate entrance in Old City Jerusalem I passed by this closed iron door. One morning the door was open and I discovered inside the wall a circle of small houses surrounding a common patio. A man builds a house for himself and his family – usually a small three or four room home. As each of his sons comes of age, he joins that son in building a home next door. This procedure goes on through the generations until there is a courtyard completely encircled by family homes.
Picture – as those disciples in the upper room no doubt did – that the family is the children of God – God’s eternal family – and those houses are mansions.
It is interesting that the Greek word, οίκοζ, has as its most basic meaning “an inhabited house”, but it can also mean “all the persons forming one family in that house”.
As the Methodist Bishop Arthur J. Moore reminds us, “Can you imagine simpler words? There is nothing here of which a child cannot take hold, the house with many mansions, a father with the security of His Presence, and all the children coming to live with him. Nothing could be simpler and more within reach of even a child than the way Jesus talked about life after death.”¹
Jesus tells His disciples and us, “Since Creation, all people have had My Father’s Promise of an eternal home of great splendor beyond human understanding or even imaginng in God’s Visible Presence. You know that. If you did not know that - if it were not so – I would have told you. I don’t need to, do I? You already know the Promise. Well, now, I go to prepare that eternal place for you.”
Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” And even if His twelve disciples didn’t know it as Jesus spoke those words, we know where He was going to prepare that eternal place for for us. As He spoke those wonderful words of temporal and eternal comfort, it was that emotionally-charged night of the Last Super — Jesus celebrating the Passover with His disciples ... Jesus washing their feet and teaching them to love one another the way He loves them ... Jesus preparing them for the crucifixion which would take Him from them within the next 24 hours. Jesus was on His way to the place where He would prepare that eternal place for for us – the cross on Calvary.
As Jesus spoke to His original disciples about His heavenly Father’s house, He said something which must have truly puzzled them. He said, “And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
It was the ever-questioning skeptic Thomas who said, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way ?”
Jesus said to him, “I am The Way.” - “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” “I am The Life” – apart from Christ there is only existence.
People might say “Pastor Borows has lived a little more than 80 years” and they would be right — but the life given to us by God Who came among us as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ is eternal and it begins the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord, our Savior, our life. In our Baptism, Jesus gives us The Life which we truly live when we permit the Holy Spirit to enable us to live in Christ. The Life is lived the way God created, redeemed, enlightens, and empowers us to live. The Life here on this earth is a mere foretaste of life in God’s eternal house with its many mansions. The Life is Jesus Christ living in us.
Eric Liddel – the Scottish Christian missionary to Japan before and during World War II killed in a concentration camp and Olympic athlete on whose life the movie Chariots of Fire was based – tells of visiting a cemetery and seeing all the grave stones with the dates of birth and death and a dash in between. Pondering his own life in Communion with Jesus, Liddel thought “It isn’t the date on either end that counts, but how they used their dash between the dates.” Do we truly live or merely exist? The Christian in Christ is truly alive now and continues to be on the other side of the grave.
We live our life in The Life Who is Jesus Christ or we merely exist without Him – now and eternally.
Jesus is truly “The Way, The Truth, and The Life” — and that means Jesus is everything you or I need or ever will need now and eternity.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS — OUR PERSONAL LORD AND SAVOUR — OUR WAY, OUR TRUTH, OUR LIFE. AMEN.
Fifth Sunday Of Easter
May 6, 2018
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio