““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. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?””
John 14:1-5 ESV
For my day job, I am often speaking in schools with teenage students. Often, I will ask questions for them to respond to which they already know the “right” answer to, but they don’t know exactly why it’s the right answer. I think, when it comes to understanding the Bible, those of us who have had the privilege of growing up in western culture where Judeo-Christian ethics and theology have had a profound, yet waining, impact on our worldview, we often know the answers but we haven’t done the work to understand why that is the answer. If you’ve ever been in a children’s Sunday school class, we always knew the answer was “Jesus” to every question. So, when we come across the wonderings of Thomas, it’s easy to forget that the answers we take for granted were, for the majority of human history, unknown.
Where would Jesus be going?
Backtracking just one or two verses, Jesus had told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. We have to remember that, for as common as these phrases are to us, the first century Jews did not have a well developed understanding of God as Father, and definitely not one Who is accessible. They knew of the tabernacle. They knew of the temple. They knew of the bells the high priest would wear around his ankles just in case he was struck down dead during the sacrifices. When Jesus came, part of His ministry was to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.””
Matthew 4:17 ESV
Jesus brought access, among many other things. For the first time, regular people had the ability to enter into a real, personal relationship with their Creator. This is one of those incredible truths that we simply take for granted, but to those who heard it first hand from Jesus, it was so completely different from everything they had known that they didn’t fully understand it until He ascended into Heaven.
For us, this is knowledge that has been handed down but, just like the disciples, we can hear without understanding. Pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate the reality of what Jesus has done and what He is now doing on your behalf.