Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sermon for Easter 5A - John 14:1-14 (and 1 Peter 2:2-10)

Most of the thoughts contained herein are from Pastor David Petersen.

             On the night Jesus was betrayed, the disciples in the upper room were getting more disturbed the more Jesus spoke.  Our text starts with Him telling them, “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1) because just before this He told them that He would be with them only a little longer, and they would not now be able to follow Him (John 13:33). 
            Philip thinks he knows what the apostles need to make it through the dark days to come.  “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (14:8).  If you show us more, show us God’s glory and power, that will be enough.
            How often do God’s people make a similar request?  If only the Lord does this, that will be enough.  “If only I had money to pay off my credit cards and start over.”  “If only God had made me smarter.”  “If only it would not rain so much.”  “If only I could get organized.”  “If only gas prices were not so high.”  “If only we had better leaders for our country and our church.”  “If only God would show how good our church is by packing it full of people.”  “If only a few more members would carry a bigger load for the congregation.”  Then we think life would be good.  And we could do what we want.
            How many times a day do you find that your life is not what you want?  How much temptation is there to ask God, “Just give me this much money for my bills, a few frills, and the rest for charity.  That will be enough.”  But will it ever be enough if these desires are met?  Or will there always be something more once you get it?  New desires.  New demands.  In this way we replace God with ourselves, asking in my name, according to my will, to satisfy me when I want it in the way that I know is best.
            Repent.  God is good, no matter what sin’s greedy voice claims.  The Lord does not forget you.  He knows better than we do what you need, and when.  He knows what you do not need, and what will hurt you.
            Philip is just like you.  He is God’s child.  His heart was purified, for our Lord, on the night when He was betrayed, had given the apostles His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of their sins.  Nevertheless, the same temptations that take hold of you took hold of Philip.  He is neither better nor worse than us.  “Lord, show us the Father.  That is what we need.  That will be enough.”  Philip does not know what he is asking.  It is nearly blasphemous that he is not satisfied with seeing Jesus.  He considers Jesus as not nearly enough for him.  Philip wants something more.  And that is right where the Devil wants him.
            The problem is not that God has failed to give Philip what he needs.  The problem is that Philip is frustrated with all of sin’s failures.  He is tired of this fallen world.  And he probably is more than a little afraid of Jesus going away.  He wants temptation to stop.  He wants the past regrets to go away.  He remembers the emotional and spiritual high from the feeding of the 5000, and the crowds gathering to hear Christ’s words and see the healings.  He wants those joys in life to go on without end.  But instead the apostles have to go to dark Gethsemane.  They must face their own shortcomings.  They have to wait for Easter evening with no more proof that it will happen than the Scriptures – just as you have to wait for the return of Christ and the resurrection of your bodies with nothing more than that same proof, even as you face your shortcomings.
            Philip’s frustration – and ours – is not completely wrong.  The holy form of this  dissatisfaction moved our Lord to heal the sick, feed the thousands, cast out demons and raise Lazarus and other dead people back to life.  And Christ was certainly frustrated as He wept over Jerusalem’s unbelief and drove the moneychangers out of His Temple.  But where Philip goes wrong in that upper room is in saying that he was dissatisfied because God was holding out on him.  He wrongly blames Jesus for not doing enough.  He even knows exactly what the Lord should do to make it right: “Show us the Father.”  He was not content with Jesus.
            The amazing thing is Jesus says, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9).  The sad thing is Philip did not believe it.  What God has done and is doing is more than enough.  It is enough for Philip’s sins, for his doubts, his concerns, his misunderstandings, for all his shortcomings and regrets.  Philip was not willing to trust in the goodness of God.  But Jesus is willing and able.  Christ’s desire to die as the Lamb led to the slaughter, to turn the other cheek, to take upon Himself the guilt of guilty men who doubted Him – that is enough for Philip, for the rest of the apostles in that room.  And it is enough for you.  Christ’s willingness to be the sacrifice for sins to restore us to the Father – that is how the Father is shown.  In the Cross is how you know God.  And that is enough to redeem you, to purify you, to rescue you from death and the devil, and to open Heaven.
            As painful as it was, Philip needed to go to dark Gethsemane.  He needed to see Jesus die.  And, in a way, he needed to go through his own failures and shame.  Just as you do.  We need all of that before the Resurrection and the “Peace be with you” and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For God worked all of this out for good – as all of this was enough to make Philip an apostle, serving with the other apostles as the foundation of the Church built upon Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone.  All of this is enough to make you into a living stone, being built together with the rest of us as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5), the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
            All the things we want are found in Christ – all the honor, respect, wisdom, health, fame and fortune.  Not in the way we might first think, and definitely not in the way our sin desires.  In faith comes perfect peace, patience, and contentment with the Lord.  Whatever is asked in the name of Jesus, by way of His death and resurrection, according to God’s will, trusting His mercy and goodness – all these things Jesus has done and will do, so “that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (14:13).  All these things He still does, so that where He is, you will be also.  Therefore, as we will hear in the coming Sundays, He sends the Holy Spirit who glorifies Christ by blessing you, by giving you the gift of forgiveness, and showing you the Father in the crucified and risen Son.
            Do not let your heart be troubled when you ask for what you need – whether they be spiritual gifts or worldly things.  Believe in God.  Believe in Christ.  Ask for the faith to desire what He promises.  Ask for the courage to act, for love to serve, for mercy to forgive.  And pray for good food and even a little extra money to have some good, clean fun.   Ask God to calm your heart that is troubled by the changes and crosses of this life.  Pray without fear.  For Christ knows how best to answer you – even when you ask for the wrong things. 
The Father loves you.  He invites you to come to Him with your requests as a dear child asks a dear Father.  Has He not provided for you up to this day?  You have worried over all sorts of things in the past, and most of them have not gone as bad as you thought they might.  Your Father loves you.  Don’t you realize you are more precious to Christ than the blood He shed on the Cross for you?  Has He forgotten you?  Has He forgotten this congregation?  No way.  You and this place are His blessing to the world, here to “proclaim to one and all the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light”  (1 Peter 2:9). 
Oh, we of little faith.  Let not our hearts be troubled.  Believe in the God and His Christ who loves you.  Your prayers please Him in Christ.  And at some point down the line, all of His answers will please you too.  Most likely you still have many dark Gethsemane’s to go through.  But soon your own Easter will come.  Gone will be all your sorrows, doubts, and regrets.  You know the way for this to happen, the way for you to see the Father in Heaven.  Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life.  Amen.

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