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1[Jesus said:] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way to where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  John 14:1-7

Our hearts are troubled. They’ve been troubled for years now. Not chiefly, I think, because of any particular headline or threat looming over us. We've become a bit numb doomsday predictions. No, our hearts are troubled by all the change that has come to our lives without our consent or direction or control. No matter who you are, where you stand, or what you have, change has come to you.

We like stability. Even when our circumstances are uncomfortable or unfair or downright unbearable, we feel a bit safer at least having our feet under us, at least knowing what to expect. We can prepare ourselves for the future we imagine—no matter how good or how bleak that may be.

But change is very scary. When changes happen to us, we’re reminded that we’re not ultimately in control of what happens to us, nor what our future holds.

So much of our idolatry and sin comes from seeking stability, insulating ourselves from changes, so that we can control our lives. For example, we want to be rich enough so that we can have security in what we shall eat and drink and wear, how we’ll be protected. And then—no matter how great or small our riches—we guard and feed our pile of wealth so it will always be there to provide for us and protect us from changes. Or else if money can’t do it for us, we look for stability through relationships, or through our self-reliance. Or maybe we look to chemical means to even us out, make us feel more comfortable or stable for a little bit—whether those chemicals be booze or drugs or brain chemicals produced by addiction to what we see on a screen.

No matter what it may cost us, it seems, we don’t want to endure change. If there is change, we want to be in charge of it. We don’t want to have it happen to us.

But change has come to all of us, nevertheless. Think back over the past few years. Folks have lost their jobs, their businesses, their savings. People’s hearts have strained and ached and broken from the isolation and the division. Former friends now stand apart. People got sick and died from COVID--or a myriad of other diseases--or from organ failures--or overdoses--or just plain old age.

And right here is where we get to the meat of it, the bottom of our fear of change: it’s because change is dangerous. It’s because we may die.

Death is the biggest change of all. And we have absolutely no control over what comes next. So our hearts are troubled.

On the night on which Jesus would be betrayed, the disciples’ hearts were troubled. They knew that trouble was brewing. They knew that a big change was coming and they had no control over it. Jesus’ enemies had been scheming for a long time to silence Jesus’ voice permanently. Not only Jesus' teachings, but His very existence threatened their way of life, challenged all they held to be true. The religious leaders—Pharisees and Sadducees—thought they had it made. They thought they had security and stability—socially, likely financially, somewhat politically, and certainly religiously. They were seen as righteous folk by their peers. They didn’t like the Roman government above them but they had figured out how to cope under it, and apply pressure to get what they wanted when they really needed to. Before God they saw themselves in a secure position. They had their pile of righteous deeds to lean on. With their good deeds, because they were good people, they thought, surely God would have to bless them here, and surely God would give them the kingdom of heaven in the hereafter. And even if they slipped up, they could make use of the Temple, perform a religious rite, and make things right with God again. They thought they had things under control. They thought they had stability.

But then comes Jesus into the picture and changed everything. Jesus doesn’t care about the power structures we’ve set up in this world. He doesn’t bend to our demands or expectations. He exposes all our ideas of righteousness to be hypocritical. He forces us to confront the fact that all of us are really sinners who have no standing to obligate God to give us anything, much less the kingdom of heaven.

And then Jesus goes around forgiving people, handing out righteousness as a gift, not something earned. That shows that none of us—not even the goodest of do-gooders—have any control over what happens to us after death. We have to trust God to give it to us.

Oh, and that Temple they were familiar with—that idea that we can do something “spiritual” and make God give us the goods—that Temple was going to be destroyed too. All that we’re left with is faith. All our hearts can do is believe God is who He says He is, and will do for us what He says He will do for us, and there’s nothing we can add to that to nudge things in our favor. We have no control over the change that is coming.

And so the hearts of the religious leaders were troubled. Only Jesus’ death could bring their troubled hearts peace. Ironically enough, in this they were right. In the midst of all the changes in this world, including death, the only place our troubled hearts can find peace and security is in the cross of Jesus.

Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said to His disciples’ troubled hearts—to your troubled hearts. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. 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, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14.1-3)

Things were about to change for Jesus. But He was not going to leave the disciples without a secure and unshakable truth upon which they could fix their hearts and anchor their hope. “I am going to prepare a place for you,” He said. I don’t want you to think of this as Jesus planning a trip up to heaven to prepare a guest room for you in His Father’s house. Rather, He went to prepare a place for you to be laid as a living stone as a part of His Father’s house. Not a place for you to visit. A place for you to belonga living stone of God’s own Temple, in which God will dwell forever, so that where He is we may be also.

So Jesus had to change us. Stones don’t build themselves up. Jesus came us to us dead stones buried in the earth, bearing in Himself the image of a cathedral. He would have to raise each and all of us up from our place in the earth, raise us and wash us and shape us and build us up together to become His new Temple, His living body, His immortal Church.

That’s big change for a stone. A change the stone has no control over. But now fixed as a part of that holy house, the stone’s future is bound up with the future of that house. And the future of God’s house will not change.

Now how did Jesus prepare a fixed place for you in His Father’s house? Not by heading upstairs to fluff the pillows, but by going to the cross. Jesus spoke these words to the disciples on Maundy Thursday. That night He would be betrayed, beaten, accused of trying to change things, of trying to secure a crown and a nation for Himself, of even tearing down the Temple. On Good Friday Jesus would be condemned to the death we guilty sinners deserve, would bear a crown of thorns, have the Temple of His body destroyed, all so that we would become His chosen race, His royal priesthood, His holy nation, a people for His own possession, proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Jesus had to change us, had to kill our sin in His cross and bring us to life as His own holy saints by the Word of forgiveness His cross won for us, to make us worthy and fit to be in His house forever, be part of His house forever. Jesus was a living cornerstone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, so that you yourselves like living stones would be built up as a spiritual house upon Jesus Christ—crucified and resurrected, ascended and living.

Christ is that cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame. Our hope for the future, for life now and after death, is fixed on Him. In the midst of so much change and so much fear, our hearts must be fixed on Him. He is the only unchanging factor here. Nothing now can change the truth that Jesus bore all our sins on the cross. Nothing can change the truth that by His death He atoned for all those deadly sins—and the truth that He actually, factually, really and truly rose to life again proves that His death did what He said it did for us. Nothing can change the truth that Jesus had opened the way to eternal life for us, that He leads us in that way by His Word, and that faith in Him is the only way to live in His Father’s house forever.

Nothing can change any of this, because it’s simply history now. And we can rely on what His Word says about our future life for us with Him, because Jesus who speaks this Word is God Himself—the same Word that spoke creation into existence promises us life after our bodies die, life in resurrected bodies in a renewed world to come. What God says, IS. His Word is by definition, truth. You can rely on that Word. The Word and promise and gifts of Jesus will not change. The truth that the same Jesus who was crucified now still lives with and among and for you—you His Church, His new Temple, His body—that truth of the living Jesus will not change. The truth that you, as part of Jesus' Church, will endure forever in Him, will not change. Christ’s Church cannot be destroyed, just like His body could not be destroyed. Your life and future in Christ is secure.

Now that’s a truth we want to fix our hearts on as so many changes come to the Church’s life in this world, too. The Churchor at least the way we're used to doing thingsmay look different than what we’ve been familiar with in the past. Different now and in the days to come. The Church may look different, but it will always sound the same. The Church will always speak the Truth of Jesus, will always proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name, always live in faith towards God and loves towards the neighbor—no matter what painful changes the world may bring upon us.

Consider Stephen, the first martyr for the Name of Christ. His life is an image of the life of the Church in this world, which follows the life of Christ. Stephen was arrested because he proclaimed the truth of Jesus. His opponents used force because they could not overcome the Word he spoke—“they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” (Acts 6:10) Stephen was persecuted because they heard Jesus in him. So he was unjustly arrested like Jesus, brought before the same council that condemned Jesus, and like Jesus falsely accused of wanting to tear down the Temple. The word Stephen preached threatened to bring change upon them: “We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” (Acts 6:14) And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel (Acts 6:15) —like the face a heavenly messenger who dwells in the presence of the living God, and who has a message from God to speak. Like Jesus, Stephen was killed by his own people. And like Jesus, Stephen forgave those who murdered him even as he died.

And where did Stephen fix his eyes and his heart as the great change of death came upon him? On Jesus. “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God….Lord Jesus, receive my spirit….Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:56, 59-60) And when he had said this, he fell asleep in peace. Stephen followed in the way of Christ, the way of the cross. Stephen trusted in the truth of Jesus’ grace for us sinners. And so Stephen received Jesus’ own eternal life. Nothing in the world could change that, not his own sin, not his persecutors, not even death itself.

Remember Stephen. And remember who you are as part of God’s Church, Jesus’ living body. In the midst of so much change, let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe in Christ. Trust not in anything in this world to secure your future, but only Him. Fix your hearts on Jesus, who is the way and the truth and the life. Believe Him when He says He forgives you, that by His death, resurrection, and ascension He has prepared a place for you to live with Him forever. Because of His cross and empty tomb, you now belong with Him. That future will never change, for Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!