(from our midweek Lenten series)
You might remember me sharing with you a few years ago how my daughter, Clara, used to think I was leaving her. I am not talking about the times when she knows that I must go to the office and prepare sermons and Bible classes. Nor am I talking about the times I leave to visit fellow members at their homes. No, when I would put her down for bedtime, say good-night, and shut the door, she thought I was leaving her. Tears streamed down her face. Her face grew flush and she got hysterical. She would even stand up in her crib and try to climb out of it just to be with me.
Just because I am not physically in the room with her does not mean that I left her. She has a baby monitor in her room. I can hear every noise in the room. If something scares her and she cries, I hear the crying. If something falls, I hear the thump. If she wakes up, I hear her talking to herself. Not to mention, her wellbeing is constantly on my mind. I make sure her house is safe. I make sure her room-temperature is set just right. At a moment’s notice I can come to still tears, calm fears, and get her up out of her crib. Clara can be certain of that.
In a world of tears and fears, heartache and loneliness, your Savior fills you with certainty. You get to see the empty cross and tomb. You can look to the heavens and see that Jesus has not left you! Everything stands empty for The Fulfilled Word Makes You Certain! Certain that Jesus leaves for the Father and certain that Jesus will return for you.
He spends all Maundy Thursday evening filling his followers with this certainty. In just a few hours Jesus is going away.
So, as the disciples gather around a dinner table with him to celebrate the Passover meal, he begins revealing the night’s upcoming events. “I tell you the truth,” he says “one of you is going to betray me” (John 13:21). Looking directly at Judas Iscariot, he says, “What you are about to do quickly” (13:27). Judas scurries out of the room and into the evening dusk, but none of the disciples thought Judas would actually hand over the life of Jesus! They thought Judas had dinner supplies to purchase (13:29).
Again Jesus says, “You will look for me… Where I am going, you cannot come” (13:33). Peter, making sure nothing harmful happens to his beloved Lord, promises to stand by Jesus’ side to the point of death (13:37). Yet, Jesus knows by night’s end, Peter will have denied knowing him three times (13:38).
Jesus is leaving for the Father. He explains why: “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” (14:2). In just 72 hours Jesus will suffer under Pontius Pilate, be crucified, die, and buried. He will rise again and ascend into heaven! Jesus can leave for the Father because he has completed God’s saving plan! He can leave for the Father to begin preparing your eternal room!
If [the disciples] loved [him], [they] would be glad [he can go] to the Father. The disciples do love Jesus— they love being with him. They love falling and touching the feet of the One who can immediately answer their every request. They love standing around the One whose teachings silence powerful religious authorities and fill the heart with comfort. They love living with the One who feeds with miracles, heals with a touch, and controls the wind and the waves! Their love is anchored to the presence of Jesus. Yet, their love is stunted because their love is only attached to Jesus’ presence.
It might be difficult to put yourself into the disciples’ place. After all, you have not had the chance to stand with Jesus and plead for him to stay. You know he rises from the dead Easter Sunday. You believe he has ascended into heaven. You confess as true that he is seated at the right hand of God the Father ruling all things in heaven and on earth. Yes, you have not seen Jesus with your own eyes. Yet, your heart may only believe Jesus actively cares for you only if you see him.
Clara cried and shouted, kicked and screamed as though I left her. She felt all alone in her room. Maybe you feel alone and abandoned in your world. Society appears to be growing more violent with no change in sight. Gun violence looks like a raging epidemic. Drugs are found in your woods; strangers break into summer homes. Your government is still working towards firmer footing. Your heart aches watching these events; you pray for healing and structure. Statistics reveal the increase of people remaining out of worship. Yes, you mourn many are avoiding the Way that leads to eternal life. Yes, you recognize without a true fear of God there is no respect for each other. Yet, you can feel as though living in a shrinking religious world means that Jesus lost and the future does not appear bright at all.
Jesus leaves for the Father to fill you with the certainty that heaven is your eternal home! He enters heaven because he has done everything to secure your eternal future. Still, our hearts may selfishly want him to make earth into heaven! If you search for lasting joy on earth, then you are robbing yourself of the true joy Jesus brings.
Jesus leaves for the Father, not to forsake you, but to fill you with certainty! He carries our love for this world on his back. He carries our self-pity and self-loathing on his shoulders. Our lack of trust is heaped on him. He marches to Calvary to scrub them off from you with his blood.
Just look at the cross. No decaying body hangs there! Look at the tomb; it is empty! Easter proclaims that there is a bridge between death and life— and Jesus is that bridge. Life no longer races to a dreadful end. The grave is nothing more than a doorway into your new reality. Jesus’ ascension into heaven proves this! He leaves for the Father because he has no more suffering, no more dying, no more rising to do in order to save you!
Jesus leaves for the Father to fill you with certainty! That is why he can promise: [But] I am coming back to you.’ The disciples will witness Jesus go from freed Teacher to condemned criminal in just a matter of twelve hours (9:00pm-9:00am). One from their group (Judas) will betray Jesus. No high priest will set him free. Only one disciple (John) will watch their beloved Friend crucified until he dies! It will look like Jesus lost and hope for a better life is crushed.
So, [Jesus tells them] now before it happens, so that when it does happen [they] will believe. That is the purpose— to reveal all these things so that they could rejoice that sin is paid off! If sin is paid off, then nothing will keep them out of heaven. Their grave will be empty. Their eternity will be secure. The disciples can live life under the umbrella of God’s finished, saving love.
What certainty you and I have now! We are not like those first disciples— waiting to see if Jesus escapes imprisonment or if he comes down from the cross or if he remains dead and in the grave. You can open your Bible. You can see Jesus’ betrayal, his sufferings, his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. You stand gazing at the clouds as you watch him ascend into heaven. You can see The Word Fulfilled! Since Jesus has done everything the Father wants, you can be certain that eternal life is yours! Jesus is in heaven preparing a room in his mansion for you!
While you wait, live certain that Jesus will return for you! At bedtime, [my daughter] Clara could sleep peacefully, knowing that I watched over her safety. Your Jesus reigns in heaven, watching over your safety. Nothing escapes his notice. Nothing limits his reign! He commands angels to protect you and prevent dangers. He causes the sun to rise and set— making sure you have seasons for food and joy. And you— you have reason to look up every day and be certain that Jesus pours out blessing after blessing on you.
Clara could know I heard her every whimper and act on it. Your Jesus lives to hear your every prayer. He sacrifices his life for you. He rises from the dead to give you assurance of eternal life! His love for you is well established. His love for you continues as he brings your every petition to your Father in heaven.
Clara could know that at the right time, I would enter her room and remove her from the crib— just as your Jesus promises to return for you. He can do that. He holds the keys of life in his hands. On the Last Day, he will unlock your grave and gather you to his right-hand. Those who have died trusting in his saving work—your spouse, your children, your friends—he will raise the to life. You will spend eternity with your Lord! Jesus will return for you.
This is your certainty. Jesus Fulfills every Word of Scripture to open heaven for you. So, he leaves. Jesus leaves for the Father--not to forsake you, but to prepare your eternity. You are certain of this.
It means you live certain. Certain that in a world of tears and fears, uncertainty and loneliness, your Jesus remains with you. You can see the empty cross and tomb. You can look to the heavens and see that Jesus has not left you! Everything stands empty for The Fulfilled Word Makes You Certain! Certain that Jesus leaves for the Father and certain that Jesus will return for you.
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