Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way’”. With that joyous affirmation Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) testified that the Christian faith is a lot more than ‘pie in the sky after you die’. No one had to wait until Catherine’s funeral to say she had entered into life. She entered the new life when she came to know Jesus as the Way!
I have recited the words of today’s text at hospices, funeral homes, and at open graves. And yet, Jesus does promise that all the way to heaven can be heaven for us. We don’t have to wait until we die to cash in on His words.
My understanding of this text was long colored by first hearing it in the King James Version, as Jesus talked about “many mansions” in His Father’s house. We even sang the Gospel song about “a mansion just over the hilltop” and walking “on streets that are purest gold”. I did not know then that for the King James translators, a “mansion” meant simply a “dwelling place”. It was an Old English word for the place where a person lived, a place a person called home. Jesus promised in this text to make a home for us with the Father right now!
The Greek word translated “mansion”, and in today’s New Revised Standard Version, “dwelling places”, is the word mone. Mone is used but twice in the New Testament; here in John 14:2 and in John 14:23, where Jesus promises that He and the Father will make their “dwelling place”, their home, in us.
Closely related to mone (dwelling place) is its cognate noun meno (abide, remain, stay, make a home), used 40 times in the Gospel of John. Knowing the relationship between mone and meno, illuminates the meaning of John 15:4 where Jesus asks: “Abide (meno) in me, as I abide (meno) in you.” Jesus longs for you to settle in, to make your home in Him, as He and the Father have already made their home in you!
It must have been hard for Jesus’ disciples to believe Him when He said: “It is to your advantage that I go away” (John 16:7). Similarly, it is hard for us to believe that we have the advantage over Jesus’ disciples as they walked with Him in the Gospels. But when Jesus got up from the Last Supper that night, He went straight to the cross and prepared for us a place with the Father, so that where He is, we are there also! Jesus wants every disciple to know He is not the only one who has a dwelling place with the Father. There has made room for everyone to have a home in God!
Catherine of Siena was right. Because Jesus is the ‘way’, all the way to heaven, can be heaven for us. We can truly experience Jesus’ peace in a troubled world (John 16:33), we can know His joy even as we carry our cross (John 15:11).
What Jesus promises is not just for some spiritual elite, some supersized saints. Rather, the life of every follower of Jesus is already the home of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has settled into you, to live His life in you, to make you His home. He is sharing your life right now. God shares your job. He shares your troubles. He shares your physical pain. He shares your joys.
Lord Jesus. You are my life. I pray that by your Holy Spirit you open the eyes of my heart so that I might today experience my life in you, and you in me. Help me to live every moment at home with you in the Father. Amen.
Grace and peace,