How many of you had some pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving week? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but an article came out last week, with the headline, “Canned pumpkin isn’t actually pumpkin.” You know, those cans of Libby’s and other cans of “pumpkin” that many of us use to make our pumpkin pie filling? The article says there isn’t really that much pumpkin in those at all. It says government regulations are very lenient on what “counts as pumpkin,” so what you actually get in those cans is mostly butternut squash, not pumpkin. A professor friend of ours at Michael’s school posted that article on Facebook last week, with the disappointing comment: “I feel like my whole life up to this point has been a lie.”
Well he was joking of course. But in reality we DO experience great disappointments in life, that really challenge us. Jesus’ disciples in this passage were experiencing some great disappointment — but they also heard some of the greatest words of hope from Jesus, that can comfort us as well. First, His disciples experienced:
I. The Disappointments of Earth
These disappointments took a couple of forms in this passage:
— First, there was disappointment with their circumstances, and with others. Jesus had just told His disciples that He was going away from them. This was no small thing. These disciples had walked with Jesus for the last 3 years. And they had totally committed their lives to Him. As Peter had said, “Behold, we have left everything and followed you.” They had given up their jobs, as fishermen and tax collectors, and just dropped everything to follow Him. They had built their whole lives around Jesus.
And now here He was saying in :33, “I am with you a little while longer” and “Where I am going, you cannot come.” They were crushed; they were really disappointed with Jesus, and with what He told them their circumstances were going to be. We see this in the first verse of Chapter 14, where Jesus told them, “Do not let your heart be troubled.” So their hearts WERE troubled at what Jesus had just told them.
— But it was not only their circumstances, and others that they were disappointed in — there was also great disappointment in themselves.
After Jesus told Peter and the other disciples that He was going somewhere they could not come, Peter said in :37, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for you.” Peter was zealous. He considered himself to be totally committed to the Lord. Nothing would stop him! But Jesus answered in :38, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” This had to be crushing to Peter. He was going to fail. He was going to deny Jesus three times. And it came to pass exactly as Jesus said. Peter DID deny Jesus three times.
Honestly, this is probably the worst kind of disappointment there is: not in others, or in our circumstances, but in ourselves — when we see ourselves as we really are. You know, sometimes we picture ourselves very optimistically; we think things like: “I’m a pretty good guy (or gal). I’m really devoted to the Lord” Peter was like that here. He said “Hey, I’m so committed, I would DIE for Jesus!” But then certain incidents or circumstances come along in our lives, and the facade comes down, and we see ourselves as we really are — and that can be the worst disappointment of all. We’ve let ourselves down.
The University of Oklahoma recently fired their long-term defensive coach Mike Stoops, as the defense week after week gave up way too many points. He was on the radio the week after and said: “Disappointment in myself is probably the No. 1 thing” … “That I couldn’t get our program back to that level consistently is what probably hurts the most.”
Unless we are delusional, most of us know that disappointment. We’ve disappointed ourselves: in our work; in the way we have treated our spouse or family; in the way we responded in a certain situation, that wasn’t as kind, or Christian, as it should have been; by giving into some temptation. We’ve ALL disappointed ourselves, others, and most especially we’ve disappointed GOD.
Genesis 6:5 says when God looked down on mankind, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And :6 says, “The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
— Psalm 14:2 says: “The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.”
Verse 3 answers: “They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is NONE who does good, there is not even one.”
— In Ezekiel He says He looked for a man among them who would build up the wall, and stand in the gap before Him for the land, and He saw no one. No one. Again, God was disappointed in us. He’s been disappointed in our whole human race, and in every single one of us individually. We have all personally disappointed God, and fallen short of the standard He set for us. That’s what Romans 3:23 means when it says, “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”
We’ve disappointed God, we’ve disappointed ourselves; we’ve disappointed others; we have BEEN disappointed with our circumstances. Every one of us has experienced the same kinds of disappointments in our own lives that the disciples did here. Like the disciples, there is good reason for our “hearts to be troubled,” because of all of our disappointments of earth.
II. The Comfort of Heaven
So it was in the face of these disappointments that Jesus spoke those famous words that open Chapter 14, “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places … and I go to prepare a place for you.”
I think it’s very interesting that as the disciples were suffering from all the discouragements of this world, Jesus sought to comfort them with the hope of heaven. As we have seen, there is just SO much in this world that is disappointing. But we can be encouraged, because we are not going to be in this sinful, disappointing world forever. Jesus says there is a better place we can look forward to living in forever. Look at the way He describes it:
— He calls it “My Father’s house.” That’s enough right there, isn’t it? It’s where GOD is. Jesus said there “I will receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
— But He said in His Father’s house are “many dwelling places.”
— And He said the reason He was going was to “prepare a place for you.”
So He is preparing a place for us, to live together with Him and with the Father forever.
This world is a place of disappointment, because of the sin that we humans introduced into the world. There is sickness; there is pain; there is death; there is mourning; there are tears … And you don’t have to look hard to find them, do you? We all know those things. We have all experienced them. The disappointment and hurt of this world is all around us.
But Revelation 21 says of “the Father’s house” that is awaiting us:
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them. And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
The Bible says, be comforted. All the disappointments we know here on earth are only temporary, and soon you can be enjoying the comforts of your Heavenly Father’s house.
I have been reading a very interesting book, “Two Years Before The Mast,” written by a man who worked as a seaman aboard a trading ship in the 1800’s. It is amazing to read all the hardships these men endured on that ship, as they left Boston, and traveled all the way down and around South America (there was no “Panama Canal” then!) and up the coast of California to trade and bring supplies. It took them TWO YEARS to make the trip!
And as he writes about how difficult the trip home was, he said they were SO tired, after two years of backbreaking work, day and night; climbing masts, and fixing sails, often when the masts and ropes were frozen as they sailed past the southernmost tip of South America. They had lost a couple of men along the way, so they were short-handed, and everyone had to do even more work. But he said there were THREE WORDS which cheered them the whole journey home: “We’re homeward bound.” That thought kept them going; he said those 3 words became the answer to every hardship: when the captain commanded some difficult task, or some storm blew in that required extra work, they’d just look at each other and say again, “We’re homeward bound!” They could put up with anything, because they knew they were headed for home.
Those same words should be our comfort as God’s children. “We’re homeward bound!” Just like those sailors, many of us have painful, disappointing things to endure in this life: continual pain; or disappointment after disappointment, with your circumstances, with others, or even with yourself. But in all those things, if you know Christ, you can smile and say, “We’re homeward bound!” It’s not always going to be this way. There is something amazing waiting for us just on the other side! Jesus has given us the promise of heaven, and soon we’ll be HOME there, where there’s no more disappointment or pain.
It’s just like the song that was so popular a few years ago:
“I’ve always heard there is a land
Beyond the mortal dreams of man
Where every tear will be left behind
But it must be in another time …
There’ll be an everlasting light
Shining a purest, holy, white
And every fear will be erased —
But it must be in another place …
So I’m waiting For another time and another place
Where all my hopes and dreams will be captured with one look at Jesus’ face
Oh, my heart’s been burning, my soul keeps yearning
Sometimes I can hardly wait for that sweet, sweet someday
When I’ll be swept away To another time and another place”
(“Another Time, Another Place,” Gary Lee Driskell)
Now I know, there are people who say, well, you don’t want to think about heaven too much; you know the old expression, “You’re too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good!” But C.S. Lewis disagreed with that. He wrote:
“A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”
We NEED to have our minds set on heaven. Colossians 3 says: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This world is so often for us, a place of disappointment. But Jesus says, you can take comfort, that there IS indeed “another time, and another place” waiting for you, in the Father’s house in heaven.
III. The Only Way
So after comforting His disciples with the hope of heaven, Jesus told them the way to get there. He said to them in :4, “‘And you know the way where I am going.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?’” And then in :6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” Jesus said, there is only ONE way to experience the comforts of heaven — and that is through Him.
Now, many people have a problem with Jesus being the only way to heaven, but it is one of the clearest things taught in the Bible:
— Jesus said here that He was THE way; that no one could get to the Father except through Him. That’s pretty clear.
— His disciples picked up on that teaching, proclaiming in Acts 4:12, “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.”
— I John 5 says, “He who has the Son has the life; He who does not have the son of God does NOT have the life.”
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is the one and only way to heaven.
But why would that be? How could Jesus be the only way to heaven?
— First of all, because He is the only One who has been from heaven to earth & back. Jesus said, “No one has ascended to heaven, but He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” (John 3:13) Jesus came from heaven to earth, and He knows the way. No one else does. All the other religions of the world are guessing; they are man’s ideas of how they think someone can get to heaven. Jesus says, He has BEEN there. He knows the way!
It’s like a few months ago, when those 12 soccer players and their coach were trapped in a cave in Thailand, and they sent out search teams to look for them. Two men, John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, found where they were and told the boys they could take them out to safety.
But what if those boys said, “How do we know that you can take us out?” Those men could have said, “We have been there and back; we know how to take you out.” They’d have been foolish not to follow. They were going to perish where they were, and these men knew the way. They had been there, and those boys hadn’t.
And that’s just how it is with Jesus and us. He said in John 3, that He is the only one who knows the way to heaven. He’s been there and back. We can stay where we are, and perish, or we can follow Him to heaven!
But Jesus not only KNOWS the way to heaven, He says He IS the only way to heaven. And that is not because Christians are trying to be “exclusive”, or anything like that. It Is because Jesus absolutely IS the only way for us to get to heaven.
See, God created us to live with Him in His presence forever. But as we said earlier, we disappointed God. We sinned against Him, and our sins separated us from Him, and His perfect, holy heaven. It is not possible for a sinner to enter there. Heaven is holy. And God Himself is holy. Sin cannot abide in His presence. So somehow, God had to make a way to deal our sin, and let us to heaven to be with Him. And there was only ONE way that could happen:
If God Himself put on human flesh, and became a man, and died on a cross, bearing our sins in His body. But that was the ONLY way:
— Hebrews 2 says “He HAD to be made like His brethren … in order to make propitiation for their sins.”
— When Jesus was facing the cross, knowing that all the sins of the world were about to fall on His holy, perfect soul, and the wrath of God was about to fall upon Him for all those sins, Jesus asked the Father, “If possible, let this cup pass from Me.” He asked God, is there ANY other way? If there is, then let Me out of this. But His Father sent Him to the cross, because THERE WAS NO OTHER WAY! There was so absolutely no other way, that God sent His own Son to the agony of the cross, because there was NO other alternative.
Which confirms for us today: listen, God is serious when He says there is only one way to heaven. We’re not trying to be exclusive; we don’t want to be narrow-minded; we aren’t being bigoted — the fact is, there just IS NO OTHER WAY to heaven:
— No other Son of God has ever descended from heaven who knows the way there.
— No other religious leader was perfect God, who put on real human flesh, and was “made like His brethren” like Hebrews 2 says HAD to happen as a prerequisite for our salvation.
— No one else ever “bore our sins in His body” on the cross.”
— And NO ONE ELSE ever rose from the dead, like Romans 1 says, demonstrating Himself to be the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead. The truth is: there just IS no other way. There is only one answer to some things. Just like the only answer to “two plus” is FOUR, the only way to heaven is through Jesus. He is THE only way.
Only Jesus can take you, with all the hurt and disappointment you have experienced here on earth, and fix you up, and take you heaven. And that is exactly what He will do — if you will let Him.
Last week a friend of ours (Blake Whitley on FB 11/19/18) posted this picture of a sharp-looking bike in garage, with this comment:
“I dug this out of a dumpster at work … A little sandpaper, a little paint, new tubes and tires and voila! Was thinking of ordering me a new work bicycle but I think I like this better.”
Our friend literally took something out of the dumpster, fixed it up, and made it look fantastic! When I saw that, I thought, “What a picture of redemption!” What a picture of what Jesus does with us! We all get hurt and banged up here on this earth, and people may give up on us — and maybe we even give up on ourselves — and we find ourselves in “the dumpster” as it were. But like our friend, Jesus can take us out of “the dumpster,” and He will fix us up, and make us better than we ever were, and give us the happiest of endings — a home with Him in heaven forever.
That can be our comfort … but whether we ever have it or not is up to us. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” You have to decide you want out of the “dumpster.” See, you can’t stay in the dumpster and follow Jesus. He calls you to come out of there, and follow Him. But if you WILL come to Him, and if you’re willing to be changed by Him, He will take you, He will change you, and He give you “Heaven’s comfort, for earth’s disappointments.”