THE CAPACITY FOR AUDACITY
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
— John 14:1-6, ESV
Jesus was unlike any other person who ever lived. He had the capacity to be both God and man. As such the Lord faced His final hours like He faced every moment of His earthly life, as a man of God and as God come to man.
He was fully human, with all of the emotions that entails. He shed tears at Lazarus’ funeral, experienced joy at the ensuing resurrection and banquet, got an adrenaline rush on Palm Sunday, and felt a cold chill run down His back when Judas left the upper room. He was fully God, too, of course, and displayed it with perfect wisdom and words when He was left the with remaining, faithful, fearful, eleven disciples.
In this tender teaching moment, the man Christ Jesus spoke in His capacity as God’s unique Son to comfort His dear children, lead them in the way they should go, and make the most audacious claim in human history.
The Capacity for Comfort
At this point in the good news according to John, the news is not good. Jesus is acutely aware and the disciples are generally aware of the plot to kill the Messiah. Jesus told the twelve that one of them was a traitor, and the polls were trending toward the recently departed Judas. Peter had opened his big mouth and Jesus had shut it by revealing his chief lieutenant would cowardly deny Him on the horizon. Worst of all, Jesus had told them He was leaving them, and it is becoming clearer that the place the Lord is going is His death, and they would each follow Him later!
Can it get any worse than this, to know that the person you love and trust the most is about to die, and that your association with Him may hasten your own death? They are all in trouble. They are all troubled about the trouble. But Jesus told them to face trouble, the worst trouble imaginable, without being troubled. Here the Lord Jesus Christ shows His amazing capacity for comfort, showing us how to face bad news, even death, without being troubled about it.
Jesus tells His disciples to face trouble with faith in a certain person. “Believe in God; believe also in me.” The most comforting doctrine in all of Holy Scripture is the sovereignty of God. He ordains all of our triumphs and troubles and is with us through them all, because all of them serve a purpose in His perfect plan. The most perfect part of God’s plan was the perfect person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, even though the finale of this work was causing the disciples to be troubled in the upper room.
Jesus tells His disciples to face trouble with faith in a certain place. Even death is not daunting to a true disciple, for it only opens the door to “my Father's house,” according to Jesus. Of course this is a reference to Heaven, eternal life, face to face fellowship with God and God’s people, in which there “are many rooms.” The KJV translation of “mansions” is misleading and has spawned many a southern gospel song, but our heavenly abode (a better translation) is infinitely better than any large house on earth. Those who live in large houses in this world usually worship money and not God, but those who trust in God by abiding in Christ will have an abode to abound for all eternity.
Jesus tells His disciples to face trouble with faith in a certain promise. Everyone in the room knew, or sensed, what was about to happen. Jesus would die. The disciples would be next. The terrible scar endured by Christ at His first coming can only be salved by the promise of His second coming. “I will come again,” Jesus said, “and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” This promise is fulfilled daily when a disciple dies, and it will be fulfilled grandly at the second coming of Christ.
This is godly and gospel comfort. The Lord Jesus Christ gives it to us to embrace in faith, enjoy in the moment, endure in trials, and evangelize the world.
The Capacity for Leadership
God — The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is not only our greatest comforter, but He is also our greatest leader. Great leaders lead the way to victory over our foes. Great leaders are transparent and truthful in all matters. Great leaders make life better, longer, worth living.
In an answer to doubting Thomas’ question (more doubts will come in 20:24, but do remember 11:6), Jesus utters the sixth of the seven great “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John. In it the Lord affirms His deity and articulates His great capacity for leadership.
Jesus is the Lord and the leader who shows us the way to Heaven. “I Am the way.” The way to God is through God, God’s Son and Savior Jesus Christ. His way was to fulfill every Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah and God’s salvation. His way was to live a perfect, sinless, life meeting all of God’s righteous requirements. His way was to leave that upper room, walk uphill to Gethsemane, walk down to face the Jews and Pontius Pilate, walk up to Calvary to lay down His life for God’s people, then walk out of the empty tomb. This, He, is the way of salvation.
Jesus is the Lord and the leader who tells us the truth about how to get to Heaven. “I Am … the truth.” Jesus referred to Holy Scripture as God’s word, and God’s word can only be true. Christ Himself spoke the truth about sin and death, salvation and life, heaven and hell. This, He, is the truth of salvation.
Jesus is the Lord and the leader who promises us life, eternal life, in Heaven. “I Am … the life.” Jesus makes life worth living on earth, abundant life, in spite of the many troubles we face. Jesus will make the troubles no more when He calls us home, to the place He has prepared, for those who by grace through faith have trusted in this, in Him, who is the life in salvation.
The best leaders lead by example. The greatest leader of all time is the Lord Jesus Christ. When we accept His atonement, we can follow His example. Such is our only hope.
The Capacity for Audacity
No one will ever comfort you like the Lord. No one will ever lead you as faithfully and truthfully as the Lord. And no one, except the Lord, has ever had the audacity to say He is the only one, the only way, the only hope of salvation and eternal life.
Notice that Jesus did say He is “a” way, “a” truth, or “a” life. In every case He used the definite article “the,” meaning the one and only. And Jesus did not follow up by saying “some” can still get to Heaven without Him, but that “No one” gets into the Father’s house except through Him.
Of course, by the time Christ came and uttered these words, millions of Jews, descendants of Abraham, had come to God by grace through faith in the laws and prophecies of the Old Covenant, so many of which pointed directly to Jesus Christ. But Christ has come, and the New Covenant of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is established, and God has audaciously closed the door to Judaism. Jewish people please hear the gospel and come to the Lord Jesus Christ!
Jesus also closed the door on other religions. Oh the audacity, to tell Muslims that Islam does not save, to tell Buddhists and Hindus that eastern religions do not save, to tell Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses that cults cannot save, to tell all religions everywhere that religion does not save, only a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ saves. Religious people everywhere hear the gospel and come to the Lord Jesus Christ!
Jesus closed the door on soft-hearted and soft-headed unitarianism, the belief that all people go to heaven, regardless of their faith or lack thereof. I call this funeral religion. Did you ever hear a funeral sermon in which the recently deceased was not said to be already with the angels?
Jesus had the audacity to close every door to heaven except His own. He is the way, and no one can come any other way. You must be chosen (ref. Ephesians 1:4), drawn (ref. John 6:44, 6:65), regenerated (ref. Titus 3:5), cleansed (ref. 1 Peter 1:19), and sealed (ref. Ephesians 4:30) by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The only evidence of this grace is true repentance of sin and absolute faith in God through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The eleven men in the room committed to the Lord Jesus Christ as their comforter, leader, and audacious savior. They would all watch Him die from a distance, save John, and they would all see Him face to face after the resurrection (but Thomas, of course, was late). They would all blaze a gospel trail with their lives, then lay them down one by one, beginning with James and ending with John, in a fashion similar to Christ. They all faced great trouble, but they were never troubled, for God was with them. Right now, they are at home in the Father’s house.
Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place, when you arrive, they have to take you in.” If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, then Heaven is your home. You will be taken in when your time is come. So be comforted, follow the leadership of the Lord, and live with the audacity of the exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ, who said, “I Am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Amen.