05 Sep Jesus’ Travel Plans
Jesus’ Travel Plans
September 2, 2018
Calvary Presbyterian Church
Travel horror stories. How many of you have experienced a truly awful travel misadventure and lived to tell about it? Flight delays, missed connections, and lost luggage are events that if you travel much at all, are likely to happen at some time or another. But then there are the travel experiences that reach another level of grueling. I’ve had two such experiences. The first occurred 26 years ago when I was traveling from Little Rock, Arkansas to London, England with a 10-month old and a 3-year old. The first leg of the trip went well enough, but when we got to Cincinnati, our overnight flight to Europe was canceled due to mechanical problems with the plane. Arriving at a hotel at midnight, having had no dinner and trying to manage diaper bags and luggage, carry one child and trying not to lose the other one, if it hadn’t been for the kindness of two strangers, a retired couple from Hot Springs, Arkansas, I don’t know how I could have made it. And of course, that was in the days before cell phones, so communicating with anyone to let them know what was happening required a collect call to my parents who then relayed our dilemma ahead to the military base in England. When I think back to that night, I can honestly still feel the exhaustion in my body.
In John 14 we encounter Jesus as he is making some travel plans and sharing those plans with his disciples. He begins by speaking words that are good for any of us to hear when we’re headed to a new destination: “Let not your heart be troubled.” Jesus goes on to say, “Look, fellas, I’m going away. Here’s what you need to know—because someday you’ll be taking this trip, too.” And then he talks about their journey. Jesus is sort of like the tour guide who has arranged everything and is going on ahead to make sure everything is up to snuff before the group arrives.
Let’s say you have a special occasion coming up—a big anniversary, perhaps, or a milestone birthday and you want to take a trip with your family to commemorate the event. The first thing you have to decide is the destination. Where are you going? Next, somebody has to make the travel arrangements, whether you’re flying or driving or need train or ferry passes. Then, you want to know about the accommodations. Where will you be staying and what are the rooms like? You’ll also need directions. How do you get there? And, you want to know who is meeting you when you arrive.
These are the same questions and concerns that Jesus addresses with his disciples about his own travel plans. He first announces the destination and he uses three words or phrases to answer the “where” question. He tells them that he is gong to his “Father’s house,” which he also calls a “dwelling place” and finally, he identifies simply as a “place.” In other words, where he is going, and where the disciples will someday follow him, is a place where one lives. It’s not just a place to visit. It involves a change of residence.
Are you happy with Jesus’ answer to the destination question? In some ways his three answers don’t really tell us much. It’s not like he’s describing a physical structure in the clouds that has our name above a door. Instead, what Jesus is saying is that he’s going to God; he’s going home. And, that is a word of true comfort to his followers. We will one day, in a very real sense, follow Jesus home because ultimately, our destination is God.
“No one comes to the Father except through me,” says Jesus. When we talk about our future destination, it comes down to this reality: we are going to God. We are going to live and dwell and spend eternity in the presence of God. So, that’s why we should not be troubled. We believe in God. And we believe in Jesus. And Jesus is going to make sure we get home.
In general, I do not like spending time on the internet. Some people love it, and I’m glad they do. What that translates to in my family is that I am not the one who researches trips or makes the travel arrangements. Some of my internet-surfing relatives and friends do that. In John 14, Jesus is the travel agent. Jesus is managing all the details to make sure we get safely to our destination. Because Jesus is the advance man, we don’t have to have all the answers to trust that all is taken care of, that all is in his very capable hands, that everything is going to be ready exactly when we need it to be.
“Prepared” is the word Jesus uses to describe what our accommodations are like. Think of the finest five-star hotel. The bed is plush with exquisite linens, lots of extra pillows, turn-down service and a mint or treat left by your bedside. There’s a fully stocked mini-fridge and drawer full of snacks. The bathroom is equipped with great lighting, scented oils, a heated towel rack and floors. No detail is overlooked. The preparations are immaculate.
The dwelling-place Jesus says is prepared for us is going to put those five-star hotels to shame. One of the things about scripture is that the reality that the signs point to is always better than the sign itself. This place that Jesus is describing is not just going to meet expectations, it is going to exceed our wildest imaginations. There’s no need, then, for our hearts to be troubled about where we’ll be staying.
What about directions? Jesus says that we should already know how to get there. “You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas pipes up, no doubt speaking for the whole group, and says, “hey, we don’t even know the destination, so how can we possibly know the directions?” It seems Thomas has not been paying attention.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Imagine that you’re going to some strange, off-the-beaten-path location. Someone asks you how you’re getting there. You could answer, “I have no idea, but Bob is going with me. He knows the way. Actually, Bob is the way, so as long as I don’t lose Bob, I’m not worried about it.”
Jesus is the way. Jesus is all the direction we need. Our journey to our eternal destination is already under way. Maybe we don’t know how to get to where we’re supposed to go. We don’t know how to love that family member who is really difficult to love. We don’t know how to provide comfort to those who are grieving. We don’t know how to help someone who seems stuck in self-destructive behaviors or self-doubt or worry. We don’t know how to lift up the chronically impoverished. We don’t know how to get to where we’re supposed to go.
But Jesus is our guide, our model. He is our sense of direction. Jesus is the pulsating blue dot on the GPS screen that shows us where we are. There is no need to be troubled about directions.
Finally, who’s going to meet us when we arrive? Well, all “St. Peter at the Pearly Gate” jokes aside, we actually don’t know who will compose the welcoming party that meets us. Scripture says that the angels rejoice when one sinner repents. And then there’s the story of the prodigal son. When he finally burns through all his cash, then all his options, then all his pride, the wayward son comes to his senses. He doesn’t then say, “Hey, I should go back to my house, or I should return to the old home place.” He says, “I must get up and go to my father.”
Who’s going to meet us? The Father. “So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:18-20) The Father greets his children, and then, the celebration begins.
We should not lose sight of the fact that none of this is possible unless Jesus goes away. This is what Jesus is explaining to his disciples. Jesus is going to his Father’s house, but he is going by way of the cross.
Because of the cross, we know the way home.
Because of the cross, we have a place in God’s kingdom, both now and later.
Because of the cross, we can know Christ in whom we have truth and life.
So, there is no need for troubled hearts. No need for worry about travel plans. Jesus has it covered. Jesus is leading the way home.
Thanks be to God. Amen.