John 14:1-14 (NRSV)
14"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In 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? 3And 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.
4And you know the way to the place 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 know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 8Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
I suspect we hear these words of Jesus to his disciples most often as they are read at funerals. So we are programmed to hear them as words about heaven and life after death. Yet the word often translated as “mansions” or “dwelling places” is actually a form of the word “abide” and refers to “places of abiding.” In John’s gospel “abide” is another word for “faith.” It speaks of that “abiding” relationship with Jesus that begins in faith here and now in this life and continues in life beyond the grave.
So these words of Jesus are really intended for a disciple community here and now as it seeks guidance on how to live, now that Jesus is no longer physically present with them. The promise is that Jesus’ abiding presence will enable them to continue to believe and to do the kind of faithful works Jesus does. So Jesus’ words are part of the promise to an Easter people, empowered to live in confidence of Jesus’ abiding presence.
God of promise, you have promised that in faith we abide in Jesus, your Son, and so also in you. Help us trust that in your presence we are empowered to live and act in love and service to you and our neighbors. Amen.