Psychologists believe that the brain is a prediction machine. It feeds on anticipation. Every millisecond, massive neuronal resources are devoted to determining what happens next.
Certainty is a subconscious obsession. We long to make our home secure, our car insured, our food prepared, our children protected, and our paychecks guaranteed. This is why: the brain views uncertainty as a threat to your life, so the desire to be certain is obsessively strong.
In fact, several industries exist because of it. Investment forecasters, life coaches, and palm readers, to name a few, are designed to make you feel less uncertain about your future. But, as G. K. Chesterton said, “There is only one thing certain, that is that nothing is certain.”
Courting certainty in this life is courting disappointment. If nothing else, this is what we have learned from the Corona Crisis. We don’t know what happens next. Neither did the disciples that night before Jesus was arrested. Uncertainty threatened their lives.
Jesus, according to John 13:1, “loved them to the end,” which, as far as they could tell, was moments away. There in the upper-room on Thursday night, Jesus comforted His disciples with the certainty of God’s dwelling.
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 14:2–3
In these two verses, Jesus talks about preparing a place for His disciples. Notice that the phrase “prepare a place for you” appears in both verses and that there are a handful of similar allusions. God wants us to know that during uncertain times, you can be certain of God’s preparations for you.
The House of the Father
Ancient Jews had a different idea of housing than we do today. They were a patrilocal society. Instead of marrying and moving out, they married and moved in—that is, into the house of the husband’s father. So, as families expanded, so did the Father’s house.
This is the picture set behind Jesus’ words, “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (Jn. 14:2). It didn’t refer to a multiplex of mansions, as some of the old translations suggest, but to a single complex large enough to house multiple living spaces for family members. Israelites, particularly in the more condensed regions, added on to a single structure as needed. So, it was not uncommon to see a large house full of multiple rooms.
If you can imagine multiple generations under a single roof, you can imagine how large some of these houses would have been. And yet, it is nothing compared to the big truth that lies behind it. Christ invites His disciples, and all who read these words, to join Him the comfort of His dwelling place.
The Living Space for You
We have a saying here that “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” We have the world’s largest fire hydrant (Beaumont), mosquito (Clute), crab (Galveston), cross (Groom), rocking chair (Lipan), horseshoe (Marfa), cowboy (Dallas), cowboy hat (Paris), cowboy boots (San Antonio), peanut (Pearsall), shovel (San Antonio), and more. We know big.
When Jesus described the Father’s house as having “many rooms” (Jn. 14:2), He was thinking much, much bigger. According to Revelation 21:16, the Father’s heavenly house spans an estimated 1500 cubic miles, easily able to house a billion people. Some translations use the word “city” in this verse instead of “house” in order to better convey its size. By comparison, the entire state of Texas can fit comfortably within the Father’s house at least nine times. It’s a big, big house.
Jesus wasn’t being braggadocious. He wasn’t in a competition with His friends to see who had the bigger house. Instead, He wanted His disciples to know that the Father’s house is big enough. It’s roomy. It’s spacious. There is plenty of room for them in it. And, there is sufficient space for you.
The Dwelling Place for God
Even still, size was a small matter in light of the bigger picture. You see, it meant nothing to know that the house had plenty of space for you if the Lord was not in it. “Whom have I in heaven but you?” the psalmist says, “And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25). This is the bigger point.
The Jews understood the “Father’s house” (Jn. 14:2) to refer to the Old Testament tabernacle. In Exodus 25:8, God tells Moses to “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” The tabernacle, which means “dwelling,” was the house of God, the dwelling place of the Lord.
Faithful Jews longed to be near it. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” says David (Ps. 23:6). Jesus, outraged that the tabernacle was turned into a “den of robbers” (Matt. 21:3), took a whip and drove them all out saying, “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade” (Jn. 2:15-16). To the faithful Jew, the Father’s house was a holy place deserving the highest reverence and deepest longing.
However, it was only a symbol. Solomon recognized this immediately after building the stationary tabernacle called the Temple (1 Kn. 8:27). His words were later echoed by Stephen just before he was stoned, “The Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48; Is. 66:1). The earthly dwelling place of God was at best a copy of the heavenly dwelling place of God. The writer of Hebrews explains it through the work of Christ on the cross:
“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”Hebrew 9:24
Jesus didn’t enter repeatedly, as the Jewish priests did once a year, “but as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:27). In other words, the earthly house of God prepared us for the heavenly house of God. The earthly house was built by man, but the heavenly house was built by God.
Christ was the forerunner into the heavenly house. He went first to prepare a room for all who follow Him. In his gospel, John has been building up to this point since the beginning. His emphasize of Jesus’ deity has been woven into every chapter, every story, every highlight. “The Word became flesh and [tabernacled] among us,” is how he started (Jn. 1:14).
The earthly tabernacle prepared us for the heavenly tabernacle. Jesus embodied the heavenly tabernacle. He was God dwelling among us. He told the woman at the well that a time would come when “true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,” because the tabernacle will dwell within them and they in it (Jn. 4:21-24). So, it was good for Christ to leave His disciples. In doing so, He would fulfill the tabernacle’s promise and bring the tabernacle to our hearts. He is, as John related, the indwelling tabernacle.
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”John 14:23
What does all this mean? What is the big truth behind the small picture? What does the Lord mean by saying, “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (Jn. 14:2)? This:
There is room for you in God’s presence.
The Father’s house is God’s dwelling place and there is room for you in it. Overcome today’s uncertainty by seeing it in light of tomorrow’s assurance. God’s dwelling is not short-seated. It isn’t running out of room. There is plenty of space.
Recently, I drove my family to Colorado for a mission trip. We planned to stop in Amarillo to stay for the night. It’s not a small town, so finding a place to rest under normal circumstances would be easy. But, it was an abnormal night. People from all over the country were gathering there for a number of conferences and sports tournaments. Every hotel in the city, and its surrounding cities, was completely booked up. There was no room at all.
The Father’s house has many rooms. Those who come to it will not be turned away. Rather, they will find that pain is absent, sorrow is null, rest is full, and goodness abounding. And, best of all … God is there.