5th Sunday of Easter April 29, 2018
1 Peter 2:4-10
188, 465, 355, WS 736 (alt: 191:1-2, 6)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 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. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
We have all had nights where we cannot sleep. Sometimes our insomnia comes about because we are restless in our minds. We are thinking over and over again about something. Maybe something troubling has happened to us, or there is something troubling that we feel may be about to happen to us. Our hearts can be upset by so many different things, like the riled waters of a sea that cannot stay calm.
Jesus’ disciples were troubled as the hour drew very near for His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. He would be going away soon, and they were told they would not be able to follow Him—at least not right away. The Lord had also told them that they would run away from Him at the most important moment. Even Peter was told that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. There were a lot of worries playing on the hearts of Jesus’ friends. It seemed like the life they had known and become comfortable with was suddenly crashing down around them.
As troubled as they were, though, Jesus did not tell His friends that the things which concerned them would go away. He did not say, “Well, on second thought, Peter, you will not deny me.” He did not take back what He had told them by saying, “You know, let’s call off this whole crucifixion because it’s just going to be too hard on everybody right now.” There was a reason Jesus could not change the course of these events. He was the Lamb of God who was offering Himself for human sin. He was stepping in to take the blame for every evil thought, every evil action, every evil word that everyone on the earth has ever done and ever will do. His death and burial would surely trouble those faithful to Him, but He could not turn back. He could not take away the cup He was to drink—nor the things that would trouble His disciples in the months to come.
He could not take away their trials, but He could say to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” They would face pressures, but they did not have to let these pressures consume them. They did not have to let their worries “keep them up at night.”
Why not? Because Jesus told them they could look past the things that were bothering them. He had already told them, for example, that after He had died He would rise again from the dead the third day. They could look beyond the horrors of the approaching hours to the glory that would follow. He would not remain in the grave, but after the suffering for sin was completed, He would break the bonds of death and display His power and authority over it. Jesus Himself looked beyond His dark hours to the glorious Easter dawn as we are told in Hebrews, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Hebrews 12:2)
And when His disciples were troubled, He counseled them to look past the things that were troubling them—to remember His resurrection from the dead and look ahead to their own resurrection. He said, “Trust in God; trust also in me. 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. 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.” They were to set their hearts at rest by looking to the glory that was coming. Jesus promised to prepare a place in heaven for all of them, and promised that He would return from the dead, return again on the Last Day, and bring them back from the dead too so they could live with the Father and with Him.
This is a promise great enough to set any of our troubled hearts at rest too! He has risen from the dead, and as the living Christ He does not simply sit on His hands. Not at all. He is getting things ready for your future life with Him. His word is increasing your knowledge and your faith in Him. All things are working together for good to them that love God, who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). When the time is right and the full number have been brought to faith, everything will be ready, and Jesus will return, raise you from the dead, and take you to live in a new place, a new earth, where righteousness, peace, and joy will reign. Everything is being put in place so this can happen. Everything is being prepared.
The temptation for us, of course, is to look at the problems we face here and now. Troubles rise up against us and we think, “I am lost! What can I do! There is no way out of this!” We shake our heads and wring our hands, as we can see no way out of our problems. The world around us just keeps getting worse and worse, or our own sins against God rise up to disturb us. For many reasons we “drench our couch with tears” as the psalmist David says.
But Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He invites you to look past the things that burden you and see clearly the glory that is before you. Today’s worries and all the worries of this earth are swallowed up by His resurrection from the dead—and the promise that He will come again and take you to a new life forever. What harm can today do to you that an eternal life in heaven will not overcome? The things that trouble you may not go away as soon as you would like them to, but you can look past them and tell your hearts to be at rest! There really is nothing to fear!
Jesus disciples did not understand at first the full sense of what He was saying to them. They were still stuck in their present concerns. When Christ said, “You know the way to the place where I am going,” Thomas answered that they certainly did not know the way and could not follow Him there! But Thomas did not see that the Lord was talking about life in heaven. He still had it in his mind that maybe Jesus would be setting up an earthly rule like the governments he was familiar with—with armies and palaces and temples. He wanted to see some grand display of almighty power. Maybe that would make them all feel more secure and safe.
Maybe they would feel better if God the Father were to appear and destroy their enemies and set everything right for them in the world. Philip chimed in, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Philip thought that would really help to calm his troubled heart. If He could just see God and some of God’s might.
But you know what? He was already seeing God! He already had what He was asking for in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is one with the Father. “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” He said to them. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? The words I say to you are not my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
The disciples did not need to have the Father show them anything, because Jesus, although He is a separate person from the Father, is at the same time one with the Father. He is fully God, with all the power, glory, and abilities of the Father. No one, in fact, can have any contact with the Father apart from Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The Lord was assuring His disciples again not to worry. They were to set their hearts at rest because He was “the way, the truth, and the life.” They did not need a special demonstration of glory and power from God the Father to set their hearts at rest. Jesus was able to do everything for them that they needed. He would take them to heaven. He is the way. He suffered for our sin. He died the death we deserved. He rose again from the dead to declare us righteous and holy in the sight of God. He will return again to take us to be with Him.
There are times when our troubled hearts want to see some great godly display of power. Like Philip, we think, “O Father, just show us something great and then I will feel better!” And we hang our heads or complain against God, or start to lose hope if we don’t see just what we are looking for.
But Jesus says, “Look past your troubles and look to me.” He is the way to the Father. That is, He is the way to heaven! By His life and by His death He has paid our debt of sin and made sure that we can enter into everlasting life. By His resurrection from the dead, He shows that death has no power over us, and we will live in the presence of God forever—with Father, Son, and Spirit.
We already have seen the demonstration of godly power that we need to settle our hearts. It is the cross of Calvary. It is the empty tomb! It is Jesus appearing to His friends after His resurrection to show them He was alive! It is His ascension into heaven! Do not let your hearts be troubled! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.