Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 18, 2014)

Wordle: Untitled

“Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled” (John 14:1-14)

            I don’t need to remind you that there are many reasons why our hearts are often troubled.  There are all kinds of things in our lives that cause stress and distress, pain and pressure, guilt and grief.  Think about your own life right now.  If I were to ask any one of you at this moment, “What’s troubling you?” you could probably come up with at least three things.  And three is probably “lowballing” it.  Disease and depression, unconfessed sin and uncontrolled desires, and all kinds of problems at home, work, or school have caused your hearts to be troubled. 
The hearts of our Lord’s disciples were troubled.  They were with Jesus in the Upper Room the night of his betrayal.  And there Jesus said some pretty troubling things:  “One of you will betray me”… “The rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times”… “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”  Jesus was preparing them for the difficult events that were soon to follow…his arrest and trial, their desertion of their Lord and Master, and his horrible crucifixion.  But he was also preparing them for his Ascension which would come after he rose from the dead.  After saying all these things, you can imagine Jesus looking around and seeing the confused, hurt, anxious, and sad faces of the disciples.  And so he turned to them and said, “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.”  “You trust in God.  So trust in me, too, for I am God in the flesh.  It may soon seem as if everything is going to hell in a handbasket.  You are going to see me led off in chains, falsely condemned, beaten and nailed to a cross.  I will make no defense of myself.  But I will be in complete control the whole time.  It’s necessary for me to suffer, because behind all that suffering I’m winning for you life, forgiveness, and salvation.”
At times it may seem like your life is going to hell in a handbasket.  Or maybe things are just fine.  Outwardly, your life is quite comfortable.  But inwardly, things are not fine.  You have some secret sin that is eating away at you.  Like Peter, you have denied Jesus in your thoughts and actions that only you or a select few know about.  You know that you deserve to go to hell in a handbasket because of your sin.
Then listen to Jesus words in our text today, and believe them for yourself:  “Let not your hearts be troubled.”  Behind all YOUR suffering, Jesus is working for you, and has already won for you life, forgiveness, and salvation through his suffering and death at the cross.
Let not your hearts be troubled … because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is the way to the Father.  Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me … Whoever has seen me has seen the Father … I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”  Jesus reveals the loving, forgiving nature of God the Father to us.  St. Paul wrote in Colossians 1, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created … all things were created through him and for him … in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”  And then St. Peter also said in Acts 4:12 says “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
            Jesus is the way to the Father, and he is also the truth.  He is God.  Therefore his words are God’s Word.  Again, from our text, Jesus said, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”  Jesus is God in the flesh … God’s Son sent from God the Father.  Therefore you can trust him and what he says, for he has spoken authoritatively what God the Father gave him to say.
            Jesus is the way to the Father.  He is the truth who speaks trustworthy words.  And he is the life.  Through him, you can have a life of peace of mind and heart knowing you are forgiven of all your sins.  You can have a life of peace and comfort in the midst of pain and suffering.  And you have the promise of the resurrection to eternal life on the last day.
Let not your hearts be troubled … because there are many rooms in the Father’s house.  Notice that Jesus does not say that there are just a “few” rooms.  No, he says there are “many.”  When you get to heaven, you will not see any “No Vacancy” signs.  There is room for you.  There is no need to say to yourself, “How can God love me?  What I’ve done is too bad to be forgiven.  God cannot welcome someone like me into his heavenly kingdom.”  Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven.  He has gone ahead to prepare a place for God’s baptized, repentant children.  And one day he will come again to take you to be with him there.
In the meantime, let not your hearts be troubled, because Jesus is present with his Church to do great things.  In fact, Jesus promises that his Church will do “greater” things.  “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”  Jesus ascends into heaven, but is still with us.  “Behold, I am with you always,” he said, and “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  And on Pentecost, the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to empower God’s Church to do these greater things.
What are these “greater works”?  How can we do greater works than the works of the Lord Jesus himself?  Well, Jesus is probably not talking here about his miracles of healing or calming storms or raising people from the dead.  He is talking about the way in which His saving Gospel is carried to the ends of the earth.  When Jesus first spoke these words about doing “greater works,” he had never traveled beyond Palestine.  His entire earthly ministry was limited to Galilee, Samaria, and Judea … a distance not more than 90 miles from north to south.  But look what happened in the Book of Acts.  On the day of Pentecost 3,000 souls were added to God’s kingdom.  All those pilgrims returned to their homelands and preached the Gospel.  A former persecutor of Christians by the name of Saul became a believer in Christ and began a series of missionary journeys, and perhaps even carried the Good News about Jesus all the way to Spain.
The ministry of Jesus is no longer limited to Palestine.  The Church is the Body of Christ.  He continues his work in and through us.  The greater works that the Church does is carrying the Gospel message to the ends of the earth, including our little part of the earth called Marysville.  Through that Gospel message, sinners are converted by God’s grace.  Souls are saved for life eternal.  Those are greater works than any miracle, because miracles do not create faith.  Only the Holy Spirit working in Word and Sacrament creates and sustains faith in Jesus as Savior.   
            There is one more thing in our text this morning which comforts our hearts.  Let not your hearts be troubled, because Jesus truly hears and answers our prayers.  “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”  Now that’s a powerful promise.
            Jesus says to ask “in my name.”  That means to ask about all those things that are in accord with the will of Christ, all those things covered by his name.  A helpful paraphrase of this verse puts it this way, “From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it” (Peterson).  To help you think about what that means, think about what the name of Jesus means: “The Lord Saves.”  Therefore anything that has to do with your life of salvation and faith, you can confidently request, and Jesus will answer those prayers.  The Lord’s Prayer can serve as a model for those things that you can be absolutely assured of receiving when you ask “in Jesus’ name”:  daily bread, forgiveness, strength against temptation, deliverance from evil, and so forth.
            “In Jesus’ name” is not a magic formula.  Likewise, many people misuse Matthew 18:19 which says “if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.”  The fact is, two or more people agreeing in prayer is no guarantee that the prayer will be answered.  You and I can buy 5 dollars worth of lottery tickets, agree in prayer all day long that we will win the lottery, and we’ll still be 5 dollars poorer.  You can’t manipulate God.  God has spoken to us in his Word.  Now he invites us to speak to him.  He invites you to lay out all your needs and concerns before his throne of grace.  “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).  “The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).  “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17).  What an awesome privilege this truly is.  You can humbly come before your good and gracious God, trusting that he will do what’s best for you.
            Let not your hearts be troubled, because your dear Lord Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  There are many rooms in the Father’s house, room for you, and Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you.  Jesus is present with his Church to do “greater works” in the power of the Holy Spirit.  And he graciously hears and answers your prayers offered in his name.

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