5th Sunday of Easter (A)
John 14:1-14
May 7, 2023

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel from St. John.

It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago that I started my vicarage assignment in Seattle.  A vicarage is basically an internship where I learned more of the nitty gritty of congregational life.  Jennifer and Becca flew about halfway from Fort Wayne to Seattle, while a friend and I drove the moving truck.  As we drove across Montana, I came to understand why it’s called “Big Sky Country.”  There are parts where you can see for miles and miles because there’s nothing to block your view.  It was a completely different picture when we arrived at the Cascade Mountains in Washington.  There the road twisted and turned, up and down hills, around blind corners, and up steep hills where you didn’t know what was just over the crest of the hill.  Unlike most of Montana where you can see what’s all around, in the Cascades you have no idea what lies ahead.

Your life is also one of uncertainty because you have no idea what lies ahead on the road of life.  You’re clueless about what waits around the next corner or over the hill you’re climbing.  While we might say we want to know the future, not knowing is a gift from God.  Can you imagine how differently you would live if you knew what was around the corner?  You might never get out of bed!  It’s also a gift from God that we don’t dwell on the unknown future.  But you are also well aware of how life can change in an instant.  Insurance is proof that we don’t know what’s going to happen, just that something will happen.

Once on my way to Saint Louis there was a herd of deer silhouetted by the morning sun crossing the road at the very top of the hill.  If they had been ten feet on the other side of the hill, I never would’ve seen them, and I might have clobbered one or two.  That would’ve ruined my day.  There are other events that seemingly ruin our lives when they appear in front of our windshield.  Someone who’s been healthy all their life is suddenly sick and gone.  A perfect relationship, or maybe an imperfect one, is unexpectedly over.  An essential job is now in the rearview mirror.  Death leaves you travelling alone.  All your hopes, dreams, and plans are abruptly changed by political and economic decisions.

These unexpected events can leave even the strongest Christian reeling and wondering about God.  Is God powerless?  Is He cruel?  Is He punishing me?  Does He even care.  Saints of every generation have asked these same questions.  In Psalm 88, one of the faithful cries, You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.  Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves (Psalm 88:6-7).  Another saint says in Psalm 80:O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?  You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. (Ps 80:4-5). And perhaps you’re familiar with Job?  He waffled.  He went from saying, The Lord gives and the Lord takes away to God has cast me into the mire…I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me.  You have turned cruel to me (Job 30:19-21)

Logically speaking, you might know these events, tragedies, and heartbreaks are caused by Sin.  Not a particular sin of a parent or child, but the Sin which infects and affects us all.  There is no escaping Sin, it’s part of our human nature, it’s in our DNA.  Sin also blinds us to how God is involved in all this.  You might see God as cruel or absent when the truth is that He is present with you with all His love and grace.  And this is true no matte what you see, hear, think, or believe.

Listen to what’s going on in the Gospel.  The text is Maundy Thursday and Jesus has just finished telling the disciples again that He will suffer and die and leave them.  Then He says, Let not your hearts be troubled.”  How out of place is that little tidbit of advice.  Yeah, right!  They’re going to be more than a little troubled.  In the next couple of days their hearts truly were troubled, but despite their disbelief, what Jesus said is still true.  He is God and the resurrection would reveal the truth beneath the tragedy.   The crucifixion of anyone, let alone, someone like Jesus of Nazareth, was a horrible thing.  The disciples were filled with grief, unable to see that God would use His Son’s death for the good of all people.  His death washes away your Sin and it reverses the curse Sin brought upon our world.  In reversing the consequences of Sin, you can know that God has relief for you.  You can know that God isn’t absent or cruel.  He is present in Jesus and He is perfect love.

You might be wondering how this helps you in your troubled heart, but hear Him out.  Thomas is afraid.  He doesn’t know what lies ahead.  He doesn’t know what’s around the corner.  He tells, Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”  To which Jesus replies, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.”  He is the way through the unknowns of this life.  He leads you.  He strengthens you through His promises. It’s His grace that will sustain you on your path.  David sings, For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3).  For your name’s sake means according to your promises.  God has promised to deliver us, He has promised to hear us, and He has and will!

Listen to what the author of Hebrews wrote: “Therefore [Jesus] had to be made like His brothers in every respect…For because He Himself has suffered when tested, He is able to help those who are being tested(Hebrews 2:17-18).  Jesus who shed His holy blood is with you when you shed yours.  Jesus who endured the torments of Hell hears your cries of My God, My God why have you forsaken me when you endure your own personal hell.  It’s by His resurrection you can be assured that death and suffering are only temporary, and while we don’t understand what’s going on, or what’s the next thing we’re going to run into.  Jesus does, and because He is your resurrected and living Lord you can trust that He speaks the truth.

Jesus is the divine truth.  He’s the one who speaks the Word of God that you hear, the Word of God that can never be broken.  He promises that you can trust Him, even when it’s hard to do.  He speaks the truth even when your sinful nature lies to you.  King David says, This God – His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true (Ps 18:30).  You can be sure that He is never absent.  David also says, If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:8).  In other words, when things are great in life God is here, and when life is hell on earth, God is here.  There’s no place that He’s not.  And you can trust that He knows what lies ahead and He already knows how He will lead you through it. Again, listen to King David: Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:16).  Nothing catches God unaware.  He’s not blind to the dangers that befall you.  He’s not oblivious to your struggles or deaf to your prayers.

Sometimes though you may (or probably) doubt that God hears you or loves you enough to answer your prayers.  You pray and pray, and nothing happens, so obviously God’s not listening, right?  When He doesn’t answer you get angry or discouraged or you just give up, right?  Jesus knows how hard it can be to pray.  Sometimes when you don’t feel like praying is precisely when you should be praying!  And it’s at this time that that Holy Spirit intercedes for you.  If all you can say is “Lord have mercy” or “God help me”, that’s enough.  You don’t have to have flowery prayers.  Jesus wants you to pray!  So tell Him your fears, vent to Him, be honest.  That’s praying.

Jesus says, Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”  There it is the lie!  God has never done everything a person has asked, so He’s obviously untrustworthy.   Jesus tells us to pray in His name which doesn’t mean ending every prayer with “In Jesus name we pray.”  To pray in Jesus’ name means we pray trusting in His will to do that which is right, for Jesus can never do what is wrong.  I know it’s hard, believe me I do!  We’re praying to God for a reason, and we want Him to give us what we want, otherwise He’s not answering.  But as one Lutheran pastor said way back in 1919, when we get upset that God isn’t doing exactly what we want, we’re limiting Him to acting in only the ways we can imagine.  But aren’t God’s thoughts way more sophisticated and holy than ours?  Could the Almighty, perhaps, know something we don’t and already have a plan in place?  Of course!  In one way or another, in ways we may or may not see, God promises to use these events for the good of those who love Him.  The disciples didn’t want Jesus to die, they wanted Him to fight or flee because they didn’t see what laid ahead.  They didn’t know Jesus had something far greater in mind, something great for all mankind!

The same thing applies to you.  You don’t know what lies ahead.  You don’t know what God is thinking.  You don’t know what God has planned for each of you.  What you do know, or what God wants you to know is that you can trust Him.  He is the one who will sustain you in the one, true faith.  Have the faith that’s willing to put all things into His hands.  Hebrews 4 promises you that Jesus sympathizes with your weaknesses.  He knows your struggles to pray and to trust, He knows your struggles but He never caved, so you can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).  Or as one writer of the Psalms wrote after severe struggles: But truly God has listened; He has attended to the voice of my prayer.  Blessed be God, because He has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me!” (Psalm 66:19-20).

Contemplating what lies ahead is scary and it can worry us to death.  But as we consider what lies ahead, let’s also consider who lies ahead, it’s Jesus.  He says that He will take us to the place that He has prepared for us, and nothing unexpected that we experience is unexpected to Him, nor is He powerless.  Even in grief, pain, spiritual doubt, or anger Christ is right beside you, walking towards His kingdom which was prepared for you.  Christ is the life that fixes all the death in this life.  He is the one who answers all prayers with the goal to make it best for you.  That’s His promise!  May the Lord grant you peace in the face of the unknown which lies ahead, peace that trusts that Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life and He is the one who will guide you and preserve you until you enter the place He has prepared for you.


Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen