The Time Jesus Didn’t Talk
Remember the time Jesus didn’t talk about heaven? Yes, He didn’t talk much about the subject directly at all, but I’m referring to the time we all assume He did (John 14:1-21).
Okay, here’s the setting.
The disciples were terrified. And rightly so. The religious and political vultures were circling with malice and Jesus was talking about His impending death too much for their liking. Their Teacher had just spoken of a traitor within their own camp, hinted at his own death and predicted the denial of their boldest leader in the group, Peter (John 13:18-38).
They had literally given up everything with great hopes and aspirations for a better world and it now seemed to all be crumbling down around them.
In the next breath, Jesus said,
Let not your heart be troubled.”
He then proceeded to say, “in My Father’s house are many mansions” and “I go to prepare a place for you” (v. 2).
Most people make these opening verses in John 14 all about heaven; it’s a text regularly heard at funerals.
So, Jesus comforted his frightened friends telling them, what? Telling them they were about to die, too? “Don’t be afraid, chaps, you’re going to heaven.”
That’s neither realistic nor is it what Jesus meant, as we’ll see in a moment. Plus, if you factor in that Jesus knew none of the disciples present were going to die any time soon, aside from Judas who was not present in this discussion (John 13:30), it would be a little perverse.
So, what was Jesus talking about if not heaven? In John 14:6, Jesus revealed the point He was making and then unpacked that point in the subsequent verses.
What was His point?
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Notice He didn’t say, “No one gets to heaven except through Me.”
The entire chapter, however, is a stunning revelation of God’s Fatherhood.
In fact, Jesus mentions the Father fifteen times in twenty-one verses, while not making one single reference to heaven. Not one!
Let that sink in deep. Father: 15 times. Heaven: zero times.
Jesus’ focus is on the Father-heart of God, not heaven.
So, what did Jesus mean by “in My Father’s house are many mansions” and “I go to prepare a place for you”?
Under Judaism, only one person had direct audience with God: the high priest went before God on behalf of the nation once a year. One man. Once a year.
There was a place for only one before God under the Old Covenant template and even he served merely as a substitute for everyone else.
Of course, this was a foreshadow of Jesus Himself who would serve as the High Priest once and for all, making a way for all of humanity in God’s heart. Thus, in contrast to the Old Covenant, Jesus was ushering in a New Covenant where there was “place” for everyone to come to the Father. Indeed, in the Father’s heart there “are many mansions”—we are all invited: there is now room for all!
In other words, Jesus referred not to heaven, but to the Father’s Presence available now. He was talking about a Person not a place, a relationship not a destination.
He assured these terrified disciples that they would enjoy the same serenity He Himself experienced in the Father’s embrace despite the ordeal He faced. And He was right. Secure in the Father’s love, these timid souls would soon become bold lions overcoming their own seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Waxing eloquent about heaven (aka: you’re all going to die!) would not have mustered any comfort or encouragement in these frightened men.
As mentioned, in the rest of the passage, Jesus continued to reassure the disciples by unpacking His meaning further. He told them that He would not leave them as “orphans”; rather, the Father would bestow a gift upon them:
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth … He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Notice the use of the words “abide” and “dwell”. These words contextualise and explain His earlier comments about His Father’s house, about mansions and about preparing a place for them. Because of Jesus’s completed work, we are no longer orphans. We are restored to the Father, who now indwells us by His very own Spirit.
Jesus wrapped up His explanation by saying,
A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will also live. At that day, you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
Jesus promised them the same blessed assurance of intimacy and security in God’s Fatherhood. Not after death. Now. In this life.
In other words, knowing His disciples weren’t going to die (or go to heaven any time soon), Jesus’ entire focus in this passage was on the Father. Not heaven. He was inviting His disciples into an intimate relationship with Father God made possible in this life through His victory and His indwelling Spirit.
This same invitation is extended to you and me.
We are invited into a personal, intimate, life-transforming relationship with Father God.
In this life. Here. Now.