Pastor Mark R Jacobson – Easter 5 – John 14:1-11
TRUST YOUR TRAINING
You’re not dying. You may not be grieving the loss of a loved one today, but chances are the next time you hear the words of today’s Gospel someone you know has died or your life or the life of someone close to you is in jeopardy. The Words of today’s Gospel are often used in memorial services and by death beds. These are serious times, times when a seemingly permanent change has occurred or is pending. Death and near death experiences are not the only scenarios when believers experience a troubled heart. Any kind of unwelcome change we experience or anticipate can cause our hearts to be troubled.
You have heard the words of Jesus
In our Gospel lesson today Jesus says to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This statement of Jesus was not a suggestion. It was a command, a direct order. Jesus did not wink, sigh or shrug as he gave this command. There was no “Yea, I know,” indication from Jesus. “Yea, I know you should not let your hearts be troubled, but you will anyway.” Jesus was serious, 100% serious.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” is a command, and Jesus in his grace freely offers encouragement to obey this command. Jesus says, “You believe in God; believe also in me.” Jesus is not the friend who says, “Trust me.” “Trust me with you secret,” only to share your secret with someone else. Jesus is not the spouse who says, “I do” “I do promise to be faithful to you as long as we both shall live,” only to not be faithful. Jesus is not the witness who says, “I swear.” “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, but nothing but the truth,” only to lie under oath. Jesus is 100% trustworthy when he says, “Believe also in me,” and Jesus had a history that proved it. Jesus never lied.
It was one thing for the disciples to believe in Jesus on a hillside in Galilee. There Jesus could teach, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” There Jesus could teach “Do not worry about your life,” “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” There Jesus could teach about the way, the truth and the life and the disciples would more easily believe Jesus, but on Maundy Thursday in the upper room the truth of those teachings were becoming difficult to see. A troubled heart can cloud clear teaching. It did for Thomas. Thomas, a 3-year disciple of Jesus suddenly knew nothing of Jesus. Thomas said to him (Jesus), “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way.”
We don’t hear another disciple begging to differ with Thomas and often times in our emotional duress we don’t either. It’s one thing for us to learn the truths of God’s Word in a Catechism class or Super Saturday course. In those settings we more easily learn how there is trouble in this world, how the wages of sin is death, how we should not be anxious about anything and how Jesus is the way and the truth and the life in this life and the life to come, but a troubled heart can cloud clear teaching. A troubled heart can cause us to suffer what we might call spiritual vertigo.
Vertigo is a term used in the medical field as a balance disorder. In the aviation world vertigo is a condition where a pilot’s sense of direction is in conflict with reality. Pilots will tell you it’s not all that difficult to fly an airplane. Outside of the take-off and landing, pilots mostly look out the window to make sure they are at the right altitude and are headed in the right direction. However, pilots can’t always look out the window. The sky isn’t always clear and sunny. Sometimes there are clouds. Sometimes the sky is dark. Amateur, celebrity pilots crash their planes in this kind of weather. They trust their troubled heart. Their vertigo throws off their sense of balance. Professionally trained pilots trust their navigational instruments. Professionally trained pilots like to see out their window, but they don’t have to. Their navigational instruments tell them exactly where they are.
Trust your navigational instrument. Like Thomas you know Jesus. You have heard the words of Jesus. You have been instructed in the truths of God’s Word. You know the way, the truth and the life. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust your training. Trust your training when you don’t feel loved. You are so loved by God. Trust your training when you can see how you can make it financially. He will provide for all of your needs. Trust your training when you’re scared. Jesus promises, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” Trust your training when you feel under attack. Jesus will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. Trust your training when a believer dies. Jesus is the resurrection and the life; the one believing in him lives even though he dies. Trust your training when you die. He will come back and take you where he is. Trust your training. You have the words of Jesus.
You have seen the love of God
Jesus should have received an apology from Thomas or at least an apology from one of the other disciples for Thomas. They had clear teaching of Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. Instead, Philip is looking for just a little more from Jesus. Philip says, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Miracles were performed by Jesus and later by these disciples to strengthen the faith of believers. Jesus had performed many miracles in front of Philip and these disciples. The first miracle was in Cana when Jesus had turned water into wine. The last miracle was the resurrection of his good friend Lazarus from the grave. In between these miracles Jesus calmed a storm and walked on water, fed 5,000 then 4,000 and healed many who were sick. Jesus had shown himself to be one with the Father in his teaching. His miracles had supported the message. Jesus had done more than enough to demonstrate his wisdom and love. One more thing wouldn’t have been enough.
The disciples had an advantage over us. The disciples had the advantage of seeing Jesus and his miracles with their own eyes. It wasn’t enough. We have an advantage over these disciples. We have the advantage of seeing Jesus’ completed work. From the year of our birth Jesus had already died and had risen from the grave. And every year we have lived is another year we have had to review this life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You have seen the love of God year after year. And it hasn’t been enough. On Maundy Thursday we witness the great crash of the disciples because they didn’t trust their training and every time we crash our beautiful Christian life the cause is we didn’t trust our training.
The reason we are forgiven and our Christian life restored is because Jesus trusted his training. Already as a 12 year old Jesus was caught studying the Scriptures in the Jerusalem temple courts. Jesus was trained in the Word of God at church and at home and when a moment of truth came, a moment that defined what Jesus truly believed, Jesus trusted his training. Jesus demonstrated this trust when he withstood the devil’s temptation. Jesus didn’t live by how he felt, but by what is written. Jesus also demonstrated this trust when his life was under trial. From the cross Jesus didn’t ask for one more sign from his heavenly Father. Instead Jesus simply said, “In your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus trusted his training.
It’s important for us to remember, John the Apostle, is not writing this account as it is happening. John, the Apostle, is the only living Apostle at the time of this writing. Thomas and Philip and the others would go on after Easter living their faith, carrying out their ministries even dying for the faith. They were forgiven for their failures of this evening and in the peace of forgiveness they would go on to trust their training. They followed the good example of Jesus. Their bad example on Maundy Thursday and their good example in the book of Acts continue to serve believers today, believers like you and me. Their examples help us think about what we’re going to do when our hearts are troubled. Like the disciples everyone has their moments of truth, moments that define what we believe. From the disciples we learn two important lessons. The first lesson: We are forgiven. We are forgiven of all our failures. Don’t let your failures haunt you. You are forgiven. The second lesson: Next time, in the peace of forgiveness, with the help of God, trust your training. No matter what, whether the skies are clear or cloudy, your heart does not need to be troubled. Amen.