‘In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’
– Jesus in John 14:2-3
Often these verses are used during funerals and there is definitely justification for this given the impending sacrifice of Jesus, his resurrection and ascension. This is reading into the text with the benefit of hindsight. At the time the disciples didn’t have this benefit. Verse 5 makes it clear that when Jesus is speaking of his Father’s house the disciples do not understand that it is heavenly.
It is most likely the disciples understood the phrase as referring to the Temple and yet what are they to make of these ‘many rooms’? The language of the Temple helps to understand Jesus’ message in these verse if we remember that the Temple was essentially representative of the place where God dwelt and where his people could go to meet him. What Jesus seems to be saying is that he is going to make it possible for people to live in the Temple and therefore in the presence of God. If Jesus is saying that he is going in order to bring them into God’s presence in an ongoing way, then his use of Temple language is revolutionary. It is a metaphorical way of speaking of God dwelling with people. It was no longer necessary to go to the Temple to encounter God, but Jesus has brought God into the daily lives of people. In effect it is saying that God is not interested in bricks and mortar but in people.
Of course, as Jesus continues, this was only possible through him. Given his words come just prior to his arrest and crucifixion, I can only imagine this is on the forefront of his mind. This is the message of Christianity. We no longer need to jump through hoops to meet with God. Jesus has already done that for us. We need to enter into a life that embraces him.