October 20, 2020
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
This text is the universal go-to text for funerals everywhere. In fact, that’s about the only place I ever hear it. While comforting many a soul in the wake of loss, I’m not so sure this is what Jesus had in mind when he spoke these words.
The context here is not a funeral but final preparations for a sequence of cataclysmic events—namely Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, ascension, sending of the Holy Spirit, and final return. Jesus clearly addresses the living not about death but concerning their ongoing relationship with him in the absence of his physical presence.
Bear with me. This is about to get mind-bending. Jesus teaches his disciples what it means to dwell in two realms simultaneously—on earth and in heaven. (On earth as it is in heaven is not an ethical paradigm but a living mystery.)
Stay with me. Because Jesus is physically seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father, he is able to dwell all over the earth in and through his disciples (i.e., the church) via the person and power of the Holy Spirit. In like but opposite fashion, because Jesus’ disciples are physically present all over the world, they are also seated in heaven in the presence of Jesus by the person and power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit mediates the presence of Jesus on earth as it is in heaven. And the Holy Spirit mediates the presence of Jesus’ disciples (a.k.a. the body of Christ) in heaven as it is on earth.
This is what it means when Jesus says, “that you also may be where I am.”Jesus is here and we are there. Paul is all over this in his letters. Check these out.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:6)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)
This is indeed a profound mystery and one in which we have scarcely begun to perceive the implications. So what if we began to apply this text more for our lives than in others’ deaths?
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who has prepared a place for us that where he is we may also be. Come, Holy Spirit, and help us grasp the reality that he is here with us and we are there with him, and show us all this can mean in our lives. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
1. Does it make more sense to see this text as futuristic or as present?
2. What does it mean that we are seated in the heavenly realms?
3. What are the implications of this way of understanding the presence of Jesus and the presence of his people?
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