God’s people share one heart, have one home now and always in God – and that includes you, includes all.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Fifth Sunday of Easter, year A
Text: John 14:1-14 (plus 13:36-38)
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Peter must have nearly collapsed in despair.
Jesus struck at the heart of his bold loyalty. “Why can’t I follow you now?” Peter asked. “I would give my life for you.” “No,” Jesus said, “the truth is, tonight, before morning breaks, you will betray me by denying you even know me. And not just once. Three times.” It’s heartbreaking.
And it’s not the first time. Some weeks before, Peter also boldly declared his faith that Jesus was the Messiah, only to be called Satan for trying to stop Jesus from heading to his suffering and death. And just that evening, they had that little argument over the footwashing. So this last weight came on top of Peter’s already fragile sense of his own faithfulness.
The others had to be shaken, too. Maybe the footwashing conversation felt a bit amusing, typical blustery Peter getting it wrong. But Jesus had said at supper that one of them would betray him, and no one knew who. Now they must have thought: Peter? Our leader, the brave and foolish one, is the betrayer? How could their hearts stand it?
That’s why Jesus’ next words have to be heard in this proper context.
His very next words are, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in me.”
He says, “Yes, you will betray me tonight, deny me, run away. Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust God. Trust me.” He says, “Yes, you have failed me, misunderstood my mission, tried to stop me from my path. Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in me. Trust in God.”
I imagine Jesus touching Peter’s face, maybe embracing him to comfort him as he says these words: Yes, my dear, you will do badly tonight, and on more days and nights to come. Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust me. Trust God. Into the heartbreaking reality of Peter’s coming failure, Jesus speaks words that still give us hope.
But here’s what you didn’t hear, couldn’t see.
Jesus isn’t just talking to Peter.
Jesus actually says, “All of you, do not let your heart be troubled.” Our English pronouns are impoverished, as we’re learning in so many human and divine contexts these days. But John’s Greek readers would have understood this from the first: everyone is included in Jesus’ comfort and encouragement. The various Marys, and Thomas. Joanna, Matthew, and Mary Magdalene. Andrew and Salome. Susanna and Philip. And yes, Peter. Jesus knew all their hearts were breaking at this coming betrayal, and would break even more in the next days. So he spoke courage into them all.
And every “you” in today’s Gospel reading is plural, except that brief interchange with Philip. This promise of a place prepared, of the way, the truth, and the life, none of this is a promise to an individual.
Jesus is preparing a place in his Father’s house for the whole community, everyone, all brought in together by Christ. The healing grace of God in Christ isn’t something you can have or lose as an individual, even if you betray Christ, deny Christ with your life. You are in God’s community in Christ in baptism and Christ will bring the whole community into the life of God now and in a life to come. Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust Jesus. Trust your God.
And in this community, failures, faithfulness, all are held and carried in Christ.
Because there’s something else to notice: Jesus says, “all of you, do not let your heart be troubled.” Plural you. Singular heart.
This community of Christ shares a heart. One community, one home, one heart in Christ. So if, like Peter, you have a bad night, or week, or year, or if your heart is troubled, you are not alone. This community heart, fed and nourished in Christ, will hold you. Your anxiety and failure are shared across our heart and you will not be let go of.
In this community of Christ – which we know in the flesh here at Mount Olive but which extends throughout the world and throughout time – in this community, sharing one heart, your failure or mine can’t stop God’s love or break the community. God is making a place for all, and all includes you.
If you can grasp this promise, if all who bear Christ’s name can, wonders will happen.
This community in Christ will learn that Jesus is the Way we all live together, the path we learn together. No one walks it alone. It’s a path shaped by the Truth that is Jesus – a living Truth that reveals the vulnerable love of the Creator of the universe for us and for all. Living in this Truth, walking the Way together, never alone, we find the abundant Life that Jesus is, that Jesus told us last week he so desires for all. And together in this Way, Truth, and Life, we will do greater things even than Jesus, he promises. That’s how God will heal this world.
If salvation isn’t an individual thing – and that’s what Jesus promises today – and if we’re all in this together – Jesus promises that today, too – then don’t let your heart be troubled, beloved of God. We have a Way to walk, together, lived in the Truth of God’s love, animated by the abundant risen Life of Christ. And you belong.
That’s a lot to grasp. But actually, it’s only scratching the surface of God’s true desire.
All these promises today are made to the community of those who trust in Christ, but God plans so much more.
Jesus says in John 3 that because God so loved the whole cosmos God sent the Son to save and heal. Jesus says in Matthew 18 that his Father’s will is that not a single little one be lost. And in John 12, Jesus declared: “when I am lifted up (on the cross), I will draw all things to myself” (all things, not just all people).
So when Jesus says today that no one comes to the Father except through him, it’s the ultimate inclusion. Christ is drawing all things, every little one (human or not), the whole cosmos, into the heart of God. Today Jesus proclaims the promise to the end of the universe: everyone and everything gets to come to God through me. No one and nothing is lost.
We leave how all this works to the Triune God who won’t rest until every atom knows it is in God’s love always and forever. But even as we rejoice in the gifts and blessing of this community in Christ with our shared heart, we would do well to also rejoice that the God who loves us, loves all. No exceptions.
And surely that is good news for this broken, fearful, struggling world God loves so much.
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen