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Be Happy

Be Happy, Be Assured. In this world?

John 14: 1-31


OK. Before we start, for those of you who are observant, Yes I know that I am using the passage that Kay used last week.

This is not because I think Kay spoke rubbish last week and that I have to correct all her heresies this week.

I had that happen to me once, I gave this talk to secondary schools once as a student, and then the minister stood up and said, ’Now this is what Mr McNeil was trying to say.’

That is not what is happening here.

What is happening here is that the reading that I was supposed to use today was the second reading that Gil read out today...did that second reading make any sense to you?

Well it didn't make any sense to me either. And part of that was because it starts halfway through a discussion. It’s like you come home from a hard day at the office and you put on the TV and it’s a film you've wanted to see for ages, only you've caught it halfway through, and it just doesn't make sense.

So I thought I would read it from the start of the discussion.

And to be honest that didn't make much more sense.

So I thought I would try to break it down into bite size pieces.

It starts of with Jesus saying to the disciples, ‘Don’t be worried or upset,’ no matter what is about to happen, you can still have confidence...and then explaining that their belief or faith will give them confidence.

Then Thomas says,’ I don't understand this.’

So Jesus then explains that He, Jesus, and faith in how he has shown the love of the Father, is the way to find hope..

Then Philip says, ’I don't understand this.’

So Jesus then explains that they can have faith because of all the teaching that Jesus has given, that teaching will have included watching his life, how the teaching is lived.

Then Judas (not Iscariot) says, ‘I don’t understand this.’

So Jesus then tells them that they don’t need to worry because they will get a helper that will explain it all to them.

And then he repeats that they will be OK so they can be glad, or happy, or assured.

So there is a couple of points I want to make from this.

One is a really serious theological point.

And the other is just as serious, but I don't think you would get it in a theological book.

The really serious point is the context of Jesus telling us that we can be happy, or content, or assured.

The background to this statement is that Jesus is with his disciples for the last time. He knows that...they don’t.

Jesus is going to be betrayed and handed over to his enemies to be tortured and then crucified. He has told the disciples this...they don't believe him.

Their faith, their hopes and dreams will be shattered. Jesus knows this...they don’t.

And before all this happens. Jesus is telling them that things will be alright.

That there will be a time when they look back on all this and realise that it turned out all right.

Now, that is especially important because they will face a lot of guilt and shame and have such a sense of failure.

It will be tempting at the end of the crucifixion to believe that there is no way back for them. They betrayed Christ, they ran away in his hour of need. At the one point where their faith should have been strong, it wasn’t.

In their mind they had their chance, and they blew it, everything is lost, there is no way back.

But Jesus is saying at this point, before it all happens.

‘No. It is all right to fail. It is all right to dramatically botch things up, because I will still be there for you.’

It’s what we were talking about a couple of weeks ago about the good shepherd.

The lost sheep can’t find its way home, it can’t undo what it did. But that is OK.

Because the good shepherd continues to look for the lost sheep. The lost sheep just has to admit that they are lost, and make a noise when the shepherd is shouting so that it can be found.

Jesus is telling them that he understands how hard it will be for them, because he will face it. He will struggle with the torture, he will struggle with the betrayal. He will struggle with those feelings that he is alone and isolated and abandoned.

And having faced it all himself he will not only have compassion for everyone else who faces it, he will be able to give his strength to those who face it.

I find that comforting.

I know there are times I have had doubts, that I have struggled. That I have tried to fix things my way and made things worse instead of better.

And at the end of all that, finding that there is a God who doesn’t reject me.

That when I come to my senses and admit that I am lost, He finds me,

That is a reason to rejoice, have assurance, even be happy no matter what we face.

The danger is that there was one who didn’t hear these words and found no hope.

We know that the only disciple not to hear these words of Jesus was Judas Iscariot. He had already left the group and gone off to organise with the High Council where to find Jesus when there were no crowds about.

And because Judas wasn’t there, he didn't hear these words.

I don’t think what Judas did was any worse than any of the other disciples.

I don’t think what Judas did was worse than Peter denying that he knew Jesus three times.

I don't think what Judas did was worse than the disciples running away when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

But I do think that Judas believed that there was no way back. I do believe that as far as Judas was concerned Jesus wouldn't forgive him. And because he believed that...he committed suicide.

Again, we need to hear these words.

It is OK to fail. It is OK to have doubts. It is OK to really botch things up.

Especially when the world is really hard and what we are facing is beyond what we can cope with. It is OK to fail, to make the wrong choices.

Because we are not defined by our failure...we are defined by God’s love for us.

We are not defined by our being lost and our wonderful capacity for wandering down wrong paths and having stupid ideas that take us where we don’t want to go...we are defined by the shepherd who seeks us to be found.

That’s the serious message.

The second message that I don't think you will find in any theological books is this.

It’s OK to be unimportant and stupid.

If that’s the way you think about yourself then that’s OK, because Jesus still loves you.

Let me explain...let’s look at the slide again that explains this passage.

Jesus is saying, ‘Don’t be worried or upset,’

Then Thomas says,’ I don't understand this.’

So Jesus then explains to Thomas.

Then Philip says, ’I don't understand this.’

So Jesus then explains to Philip

Then Judas (not Iscariot) says, ‘I don’t understand this.’

So Jesus then explains to Judas (not Iscariot).

There is a pattern there.

None of these people are the important disciples.

If I was to ask you to name the disciples. I am sure the first three you would mention are Peter, James and John. They are the best of the best.

When Jesus goes up the mountain who does he take? Peter, James and John.

When Jesus brings Jairus’ daughter back to life who are the only disciples allowed to see it happen...Peter, James and John.

In Luke's gospel Jesus is picking his first disciples, walking along the sea shore and sees two sets of brothers on their fishing boats and he chooses these as his very first disciples...they are Peter, James and John...and Peter’s brother Andrew.

The ones that ask the questions aren’t the important disciples.

In fact you could argue that the further on the question, the more obscure the disciple. If we went through the list of disciples we knew, we might mention Thomas before Phillip. We might not even remember Judas (not Iscariot) or if we did remember him, he would be one of the last ones.

I suspect that often we don't go to God for help because we don't think we are important enough.

If Jesus himself walked through that door and said, ‘I will answer any one question this church has... but it must only be one. And if I think it isn’t a worthy question, or not given by a worthy person, then I will feel that you have demeaned me and I will strike you with a bolt of lightening.’...who do you think they would get to ask the question?

Who do you think would be worthy enough to ask that question?

In your heart of hearts, would you feel comfortable if it was yourself?

If I volunteered any of you would you truly think I thought you were worthy, or just trying to make sure that I wasn’t struck with a bolt of lightning.

Yet in this very passage.

After Jesus has explained what is going to happen...

Thomas, unimportant, stupid, says ‘I still don't understand,’ and Jesus says, ‘That's fine. Here’s the explanation.’

Then Philip, less important, more stupid, says ‘I still don't understand,’ and Jesus says, ‘That's fine. Here’s the explanation.’

Then Judas, less important, more stupid, says ‘I still don't understand,’ and Jesus says, ‘That's fine. Here’s the explanation.’

And the reason Jesus does that is because to Jesus they are important, they are precious.

And so are we.

No matter how insignificant or unimportant or thick we may think we are...that’s not the way Jesus looks at us.

These words are part of the very last words that Jesus will say to this group.

Maybe the reason Jesus spends so much time with these unimportant disciples is that he knows they think of themselves like that, and he wants to reassure them all the more that he cares, that they will be all right, that he won’t forget them or desert them.

And maybe that's a message some of us need to hear just now.

No matter how insignificant or unimportant or thick we may think we are...that’s not the way Jesus looks at us.

Jesus still wants to spend so much time with those who feel they are unimportant because He knows we think of ourselves like that, and He wants to reassure us all the more that he cares, that we will be all right, that he won’t forget us or desert us.

‘Do not be worried and upset. Believe in God, believe also in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house, and I am going to prepare a place for you.’

That’s Jesus’ message to us.

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