The New Man

Before living the Christian life, you must know Christ.

This statement may cause you to ask, Are you saying a person cannot be a good person Ð trustworthy, moral, kind Ð without knowing Christ?

No, not at all. We all know people who live good, moral lives and are not Christians. The difference is that the Christian is living out of love for Christ, who first loved them. St. John writes, “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). A personal relationship exists between Christ and the believer. The moral person lives by a set of laws or ethics that he learned from some organization or the parents who may have been responsible, but were not necessarily Christian.

When I was a boy, my good friend and I joined the Boy Scouts. This organization is world-renowned for shaping the lives of millions of young men. We memorized the scout oath and laws. The Boy Scouts taught us to live a disciplined life. One would never question that it was great training. However, I also went to Sunday school and learned about Jesus, who loved me. I learned that Jesus loved me so much that he died for my sins. Because of his love for me, I wanted to live according to his will. It was far more than trying to be faithful to some laws.

I also learned that, when I sinned, Jesus would forgive me and we could start over. This was called grace, which means, undeserved favor with God. My friend, who never went to Sunday school or learned about Jesus, lived under the guidance of the ethics he had learned from well-meaning people and organizations. I lived out of love for my Savior. That is a big difference.

Sometimes we see people wearing a bracelet with the letters WWJD. This means, what would Jesus do? Their relationship with him directs their behavior.

St. Paul put it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). When Jesus is your Lord, you are a different person.

Today is the last of four sermons where we have seen Christ at work in the life of a man who was a helpless paralytic lying by the Pool of Bethesda. Our purpose in this series of sermons has been to point out how

¥ helpless we are.

¥ indifferent society can be to our problems.

¥ Christ will heal us.

¥ rich and abundant our lives can become while living in his grace.

Jesus healed the physically paralytic man. This was obvious as the man walked through the crowd. However, the bigger question was if he had been spiritually healed. This would take time to observe his lifestyle.

One verse in this text is especially encouraging, I believe, to Jesus. We read, “Later, Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, ÔSee you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.'” What did this mean?

Is this an indication that this man’s illness was a result of his sinful lifestyle when he was younger? He could have been addicted to alcohol or immorality. Jesus knew more about him than we read in the text. Whatever his past was, I believe Jesus was thrilled to see him in the temple. He could have beat it right to the bar and found some of his old drugs, or he could have looked up some of his old girlfriends. Instead he was in the temple. I believe Jesus gave him a big hug and said, You are on the right road. Here in the temple you will hear my word, and that will be your source of strength. You will get a new circle of friends and have a new look at life. Continue this pattern of living and you will see that the greater change is not your physical healing, but that you now belong to me forever.

This is a marvelous story, but it is more than a brief biography of a man who met Christ and his life changed. It is a word for all ages. We pray with the Psalmist, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119:11, 28). We need to remember that God’s Word has not changed.

Lee Iacocca, one of the great leaders in the automobile industry, has an interesting paragraph in his book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? He writes, “You cannot lose if you follow the market. For much of America’s auto history the industry had a wrong approach to the market. They said, ÔWe will decide which cars to build, and then we will convince the people that they want and need them.’ Then someone came up with a bright idea: Why don’t we find out what kind of cars the customers want and need, and then build them?'”

This philosophy has proven successful in the car industry, but we cannot apply it to the Christian message. We cannot adjust God’s Word to satisfy what humans want. This needs to be emphasized. Humans like to make changes in the Word that will satisfy their desires. Let me list just three of many.

1. Through the early years in the Church, the biblical message that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ was changed. Now we teach that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ AND our good works. It was this heresy that called for the Reformation to restore the Gospel to its right place in the church’s message.

2. Today, with our world getting smaller and other world religions becoming more familiar to our citizens, some are calling for a change. They believe Jesus’ statement, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me,” should read, I am “a” way, meaning it is one among many ways to get to the Father. The Christian cannot accept this, although it could be tempting to wear the hat of being broad minded over being called a bigot.

3. One other change that has won favor with some faithful church members is the practice of homosexuality. The Scriptures have made it clear that such a lifestyle is contrary to God’s will and cannot be accepted. The tension increases and the leaders of the church give in to what the people want, and today the official teaching of some mainline protestant denominations has changed. Same-sex marriages are acceptable and gay pastors can serve our congregations. The most serious part of this change is what it does to the teaching that God’s Word stands forever.

The teachings of Jesus cannot be lowered to what we humans want to satisfy our appetites and thoughts. He calls for those of us who have tasted of his grace to forsake our sinful wishes and follow him.

Jesus’ words to the healed paralytic man stand: “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

Our Lord knows we are sinful people living in a broken world. He knows we will be tempted and fall. In these times, he is with us to forgive us, lift us up, and send us on our way. That is living in God’s grace. It does not mean that we take sin lightly. With a new attitude toward sin we pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free Spirit.”

Do you see yourself in this story of the paralyzed man? Then God’s Word has spoken to you.

The Man Is Healed

Today we come to the climax of a series of sermons based on John 5:1-5. We have met a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years and laid by the side of the pool waiting for the waters to be stirred by an angel from the Lord. It was their belief that the first person in the pool after such a disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he or she had. However, this man was not able to move fast enough to get into the waters because others who were more mobile jumped in ahead of him. Jesus asked this sick man, “Do you want to get well?”

In this sermon, Jesus is reported to have made the invalid well simply by telling him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” This is the primary message of the story. Jesus heals both the physically and spiritually sick.

Most people believe that if they are going to heaven, it will be by their own efforts. That is not true. The Bible tells us that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The invalid man in our text is a witness to this biblical truth. He did absolutely nothing, but Jesus healed him. All he had to do was receive the gift of healing that Jesus offered to him.

It is at this point that evangelical Christians disagree. Some say that to receive Christ is a work; therefore if it is necessary to receive God’s grace, salvation is not by grace alone. They say, “Preach the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit will create faith in the heart.”

The other group, of which I am a part, believes and teaches that to receive Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit contributes nothing to your salvation. If you invite me to your house for dinner, the meal is a complete gift. However, the gift is of no value to me unless I receive the food and eat.

Let us turn to the Scriptures for help. In Genesis 1:26 and 27 we read, “Then God said, ÔLet us make man in our image, in our likeness . . .’ So God created man in his own image.” What is this image of God? It does not refer to our physical body, for God does not have a body. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” John 4:24.

Three characteristics found in God are also found in us:

1. God has a mind; man has a mind. Man can work with an idea.

2. God has a will; man has a will. Man’s will is free to say no to God, and often we do.

3. God is eternal; man is eternal. This means we live eternally.

The invalid man could not make himself well. However, because he was created in the image of God, he could respond to Jesus’ command to pick up his mat and walk. Empowered by God, the man responded to Christ’s command. He, in faith, got up and walked. However, he also had the right and power to say no Ð even to God Ð if he had chosen to do so. Although God is the Creator and Healer, being created in God’s image gave the invalid man the right to reject God’s gift of healing.

There comes a time when our Creator calls for a decision on our part. He reveals his way of salvation to us in his Word. The gospel is proclaimed by his messengers. He sends the Holy Spirit to empower us to receive him. However, in order to enter into a personal relationship with Christ, I must receive Christ as my Savior.

Listen to what the Bible says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This verse tells us of God’s gift Ð He gave his Son who gives us eternal life if we believe in him. Man can say no to this gift if that is his decision.

In speaking to his friend, Martha, after her brother Lazarus died, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25). Notice that Jesus says the person must trust him. William Barclay, the British scholar, writes, “The miracle of being healed, whether at the Pool of Bethesda or where life finds us, is when our will and the power of God cooperate.”

St. Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth, ÔJesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9, 10).

I have a concern. Have many people in our congregations failed to respond to Christ’s gift of salvation? Have we failed to understand that such a response is necessary? Has our preaching failed to make this clear to those who listen? In our teaching of the young, have we guided them to this decision? Do we preach as though all people who listen are saved when they will tell you they are not? Do we have a concern for the lost, or do we believe all are saved?

The debate on these questions will continue, but many other parts of the Bible call for a response to God’s way of salvation, which is through Christ Jesus.

For the invalid man whom Jesus healed, it was the beginning of a new day in his life. For all who have been healed physically or spiritually, it is a new day as we live by grace under the Lordship of Christ.

The Silent Crowd

In this sermon we return to the Pool of Bethesda.

Jerusalem was a beautiful city, but it also had its sad sites. The Pool of Bethesda of was one of those places. St. John writes, “Here a great number of disabled people used to lie Ð the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One man had been lying there for 38 years. The sick waited for the moving of the waters believing that the angel of the Lord would come and stir up the water. The first one in the pool after the stirring would be cured of whatever disease he had.”

One day Jesus was with the visitors at the pool. He asked one of the sick, “Would you like to be made well?”

This is what the man said in reply: “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone goes down ahead of me.”

A typical crowd! Many of us have been a part of the crowd. We have experienced the pushing and shoving to be at the head of the line when the doors are opened. The goal is to have the best seats possible when the program starts. But what kind of a person would push aside a cripple who had been trying to get into the pool for 38 years to be healed? It brings out the selfishness in human nature.

Study the crowd. Perhaps some of these people had heard about this pool and wanted to make it one of their stops while visiting Jerusalem. They might have been curious to see what some people had to endure before they died, but beyond that they had no interest in those who were ill. An hour at the Pool of Bethesda made a good topic for a conversation with friends back home.

In reading your Bible, did it ever occur to you that we have our pools of Bethesda? Throughout our history, we have called them poor farms, county homes, asylums, or homes for the aged. It is only within the last century that we have seen great improvements in the care of those who are unable to care for themselves.

It was in the early 50s that I came as a young pastor to serve a congregation that had many elderly people. Some of these friends who could not care for themselves were living with their children. Such an arrangement had its problems, but it also had its strengths. The families handled their responsibilities to the elderly in a different way than we do today. I have to say that, as a child, I loved having grandpa live with us. However, as much as I loved my family, I would not choose to live with our children.

When a nursing facility was necessary for these elderly people, they had two choices. One was to live in a private nursing home or to move 200 miles away to a church nursing home. Often I took these people to this church home. It was almost worse than taking them to the cemetery. They wept as they said goodby to their friends of many years.

Returning one evening from this emotional trip, I visited with a leader in our congregation and challenged him to take the initiative in building a Lutheran home to care for people in their last days on this earth. This person accepted the challenge and since the mid 50s this home has served the elderly in need of assistance. Today 200 people live and die in this home. There is such a thing as living in dignity.

All these people have more than physical needs. Some of them are spiritually needy. We must remember that all people are created in the image of God. We have a body that can be sick, but we also have a soul that needs our attention. When a soul is out of a relationship with God, he or she is spiritually sick.

I believe there were people in Jesus’ day on this earth who understood the spiritual needs of these people at the Pool of Bethesda. Just imagine a woman who had been at the synagogue for a Bible study. The group was studying the Prophet Isaiah, which reads, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 16:3). On her way home from the study she dropped by the pool and shared this promise with one of her friends who had been lying there for a long time. On another day, she had lifted her friend’s spirit by reminding her that King David had said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Those were precious moments for both the sick person and the one who was bringing her the bread of life. A visit to the sick can be an opportune time to share the promises of God.

It was certainly true one day when I visited Olivia, who was near to death. Entering the room, I was met by her husband of many years, her son, her daughter, and her son-in-law, who was a prominent theologian. He has written many books, taught in many prestigious schools, and is sought out as a specialist in the confessions of the Lutheran Church.

What did I have to say to that family? There was only one message. I was to reassure them of Jesus’ promise that he had gone to prepare a place for her, their loved one, and was coming soon to take her to himself that where he was, she would also be. Jesus was the only way to heaven. In my prayer, I thanked Christ for his atoning sacrifice and glorious resurrection, which gives us victory over death. I concluded, “Father, we have no other word to share with your child, Olivia. We entrust her into your loving arms.”

The first to thank me for the words was her son-in-law. “Thank you, thank you. There is one other word I would add,” he said. “Where two or three are gathered, there he is in the midst of them.” How true. A frail body breathed her last breath, but a healthy soul went home to be with the Lord.

And then there is another story Ð the parting days with Don. Quite different from Olivia. He seldom attended church. No matter how hard his mother tried, Don was not counted among the faithful. That is why it was so surprising when Don asked me to visit him in the nursing home. I didn’t even know he was sick.

Don and I were friends. He ran a bar and sold great pork tenderloins. I sometimes went in and ate a sandwich and had a coke. He was pleasant, but never promised that he would see me in church. Now it was different. Don greeted me with these words: “I am going to my heavenly home!”

“To your heaven home! How are you going to get there?”

Don said with great conviction, “Jesus died for me.”

“Do you believe that, Don?” I asked.

“Of course, I do. I learned that in Sunday school, and I have always believed it was true.

Then the prodical asked, “Do you know that song, ÔJesus loves me’?”

When I told him that I did, he said, “Let’s sing it.”

So we sang a duet that must have awakened the whole nursing home. It was just one more experience that taught me the opportunities we have of sharing the Gospel when people are sick.

Many times I would visit with a family when a loved one was dying. I used the opportunity to have a person who had been in my confirmation class years gone by to talk about dying. I would take him by the hand and say, “Come up to the bed with me.” Then I asked, “Do you remember when we talked about death and dying in confirmation class? You were a 14-year-old boy then , and it was natural that other things like wrestling had more important priority in your life. But now the serious illness of your friend’s death is a reality. Let’s talk about it.” He was listening.

This man was physically well, but spiritually needy, and it was time for the old preacher to share the basic truths of God’s Word with him. After the funeral of his friend, the former confirmation student thanked me for those minutes we shared at the hospital.

We still have our pools of Bethesda. The facilities are much nicer now, but the physical and spiritual needs are still there. We, who know Christ, are called to visit our friends who lie there as patients. Just to drop by has meaning: it tells these people that you are thinking of them. But it is not enough. Make plans for your visit. Have a passage of Scripture to read with them. Pray for them. This is not just a visit, but a call from a brother or sister in Christ. Such a visit lifts the spirit of the sick person and can make a real contribution in strengthening them, if not physically then spiritually.

Learn from this marvelous passage of Scripture that you can be an instrument of the Holy Spirit and not just a part of the silent crowd.

Do You Want to Be Healed?

There is a saying, “Into every life a little rain must fall.” How true that is. If we think that life is all sunshine, we are in for a big disappointment.

We can expand on this thought and say, Into every city Ð large or small Ð a little sadness can be found. No city is exempt.

The miracle story told by St. John confronts us with the hurts that are found in our society, and Christ’s desire to reach out and heal the broken bodies and wounded souls.

Jerusalem was a beautiful city. The tour guide would have shown the visitors such things as the beautiful houses where important people lived surrounded with manicured lawns and gorgeous flowers. You would have visited the Temple and heard a lecture on its architecture and how this work of art had been built.

But the city also had its Pool of Bethesda, which was not a pretty place. Great numbers of disabled people lay there. You would see the blind, paralyzed, and the lame waiting for an angel of the Lord to come down and stir up the waters. Their superstition taught them that the first one into the pool after the waters had been disturbed would be healed.

One man had been lying there for 38 years. In John’s story, Jesus asked this man, “Do you want to be healed?”

The paralytic man replied, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I was trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Why did our Lord ask such a foolish question? Wouldn’t any person want to be healed after all those years of illness?

Most of us would agree that anyone would want to be healed, but this is not necessarily true, and Jesus understood that this man could be quite satisfied with his lifestyle. He had made being a cripple his way of life.

Many people from the better parts of Jerusalem could have visited the Pool of Bethesda on a regular basis. It could just be that the ladies’ organization from the synagogue brought gifts to these unfortunate people as their project for the month. In the evening, some of his old cronies might have come for a visit and brought with them a bottle of wine to enjoy while they talked about the events of the day.

This scene gives us a picture of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. It was a beautiful city, but was not without its problems. Life at the pool was heart-breaking, and Jesus said to the man, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.” The man got up immediately and walked away. When asked who healed him, the man said that he had no idea. Jesus had slipped away into the crowd.

Now he was faced with a much harder, but more pleasing way of life. He had to go to work. He had new responsibilities.

The influence of the Christian Church on western civilization has placed much value on the life of a person. Although we are told by the politicians that millions of people have no health insurance in the United States, we are being challenged to see that this is changed.

Having said this, let’s view the human being Ð who has been created in God’s image, as more than a body, but also a soul Ð as eternal. With this understanding of humanity, every city, big and small, has its pools of Bethesda. Think of God’s concern for these souls. He loves every man and woman so much that he has given his Son, the Lord Jesus, to die for all of us.

Just use one example. Look at the crowds of people at an athletic event. While the majority are well protected with health insurance, all of these people who do not trust Christ are facing death without a Savior. This is the Pool of Bethesda in America today. Let me tell you of some of this hidden hurt.

A friend asked me to have lunch with him. As we ate, he asked if I had read the paper, which printed a story about his son being arrested for possession of marijuana. My friend continued, “Do you know what the boy asked me when we talked about it? He said, ÔDad, I have seen you under the influence of alcohol many times. How did you get by with driving under the influence of alcohol? You never had an omvi.’

“This is why I want to talk to you,” he continued. “My drinking is out of control. My wife is unhappy.” This man, dressed in a business suit, faithful in his attendance at church, appears to have life well in hand, but lives at the Pool of Bethesda.

Jesus looks at him and says, “Do you want to be healed?”

This is the question he must answer honestly, or Christ cannot help him. Our Lord has given him the right to say, “No. When we get over the embarrassment of our son’s arrest, our old way of living will look pretty good. I needed to talk with you especially when my emotions were running high.”

I saw a member of our congregation one day in the grocery store, and said, “I met your sister last week. We had a brief, but nice visit. She seems to be a delightful person. I was almost envious of the good times you two must have with each other. My wife once said that she wished her sister lived closer. They shared a lot when they were growing up.”

The woman’s answer was surprising when she said, “I don’t know how my sister is. We live in the same town, but have not spoken a word to each other for years. We are two different people. It’s better this way.”

This is the modern picture of the Pool of Bethesda.

It is to this woman that Jesus asks, “Would you like to be made well? You are spiritually sick. You can’t even talk with your own flesh and blood.”

In visiting with a mother about her son one day, I soon learned she had a broken heart. I initiated the conversation. It was not a planned visit for a particular reason. Her son lives in a large city hundreds of miles from home. He had done very well in school and now had worked himself into a very respectable executive position. He had become a multimillionaire. He thought well of his parents and looked toward to their visits.

At this point, the mother wept. She said, “He is a good son; he has a nice wife. The children are doing well, but Christ has no place in their lives. His work and the prestige of his job, together with his wealth, has become his god. These are the gods who control and direct his life.”

I broken into the conversation and asked, “Doesn’t he go to church?”

“Pastor,” the mother said, “going to church will never save you. He has little or no relationship with Jesus. Yes, he and his wife had their children baptized, and we were all there. The pastor’s sermon had little to do with Jesus. He preached as though the whole congregation was saved, and I know that is not the case.

“Weekends find them at their summer home, and there is no church during those months. There are no family devotions, and I question that the children have ever heard their father pray.

“Yes, we love our son and his family. We are proud of his accomplishments. I believe he is an honest businessman, but far from his heavenly home. Oh, how I love him. Where have we gone wrong in raising him? I have tried to talk with him, but all he can say is, ÔI believe in God. I am no heathen.’ But outside of Christ he does not have a relationship with God. He is running his own life, while he doesn’t own his next breath.”

This is the Pool of Bethesda, and Jesus said to this son, “Would you like to be healed?” he doesn’t even know he is sick, but his mother does.

We turn on the television and listen to a man who is getting his seventh divorce. This man, who has a wife and children, has had sexual relationship with sixteen women while married. This is the Pool of Bethesda.

While all these things are happening, the churches grown weaker and weaker. We listen to church leaders tell congregations that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can never be changed, but the Law of God can be adjusted according to the culture in which we live. Then, with their confused thinking, they go on preaching that we should love one another and accept one another’s differences regardless of what the Law of God says. This is the Pool of Bethesda. And Jesus says to the church, “Would you like to be made well?”

These are just a few of the tough moments I have had in the ministry. It’s not always easy, because in this same miracle story I can find myself. Jesus says to me, “Would you like to be made whole? Would you like to be made stronger in your faith? Would you like to learn how to handle some of your bitterness? What about those times when you compromised the Word to save confrontation with rather important members of the congregation or members of the hierarchy? What about those meeting when you had a choice to be an agreeable board member or a faithful servant of God’s Word, and you voted with the majority?

This is my time at the Pool of Bethesda. God have mercy on my soul.

When Jesus asks us, “Would you like to be made well?” more often we respond to the question, “Our lifestyle is comfortable. A deeper commitment to the Lord would cost me some friends, and perhaps some social acceptance.

Living With Mysteries

I once heard a woman say, “Living with my spouse is exciting; you never know what is going to happen next!” One man, when talking about his job, said, “I love it! No two days are alike.” These two people like diversity.

The Christian’s life is also filled with mysteries. No one knew this better than the twelve disciples.

When we talk about mysteries in the Christian sense of the word, we have to ask ourselves how we handle these mysteries found in our faith.

Some would say they reject them. They believe only what they can understand in the Christian faith. Others claim Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and believe they will have all the answers when they get to heaven, but they also believe we can have some answers now.

Christianity has a mysterious foundation. As God reveals truths found in these mysteries, they become the foundation of our lives. Rejecting every mysterious thing takes the heart out of the Christian faith. The fact that Jesus died for my sins is a mystery; but not believing it because we don’t understand it is taking away the very core from what I do believe.

I like the way that Jesus’ disciples handled the mysteries God brought to them. They lived with these mysteries. They experienced great truths within these mysteries, and they didn’t want to throw them away. They didn’t want these mysteries to be misinterpreted because they believed God was going to reveal their truths at the right time.

Some of those mysteries were the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost. On Easter the disciples became convinced that Jesus was alive. However, there was a period of time when this was a complete mystery, and they didn’t understand it.

For example, one day at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus said he was going up to Jerusalem to suffer at the hands of the chief elders, priests, and the teachers of the law. He would be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter responded that he would never let this happen to our Lord. However, when Peter stood in the courtyard that night and the rooster crowed three times, he knew Jesus was right. He was suffering in the courts of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and they would not quit until He was killed. Peter saw his Savior hanging on the cross, and he knew Jesus was going to die and on the third day he would be raised. The mystery had been unveiled.

During the days when the disciples walked with Jesus over the shores of Galilee and into Judea, they heard him make statements like these: “I am going there to prepare a place for you” and “You know the way.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5)

Another time, Jesus uttered these words: “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. Where I am going, you cannot come.”

Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

There was a mystery that Peter would realize one day. St. John gives an inkling of it in the book of Revelation that Peter would be martyred. And after he died, he would see Jesus. That is what Jesus meant on that day. It was veiled in mystery, and Peter couldn’t understand it then.

There is a tremendous mystery around the heavenly home. Revelation 21:4 and 6 say: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

When I read this passage, I rejoice with it and I believe it with all my heart. However, I have to admit I don’t understand very much of it. The truth being taught is still veiled in mystery for many of us. But it does give us a peek into heaven.

We do not want to reject the mystery simply because we do not yet understand it. For when we reject the mystery, we throw out its blessed teaching. One day, by grace, we will understand what St. John was saying. However, we also do not want to interpret the mystery and declare it as a basic truth. Perhaps some of the things that we think have truth will not be truth at all. So instead we live with the mystery and let God reveal its basic truths clouded there while we are on this earth. When Jesus comes to receive us into our heavenly home, all things will be made new, for he will be with us.

While we find much mystery pertaining to the heavenly home, many things are clear. They are true and we live with these truths. There is a heavenly home! There is also a hell. Whether or not I have the assurance that I am going to heaven or hell makes a tremendous difference for what life is like for me while on this planet earth.

I have a home in heaven, and I know the way. Jesus has not veiled that great truth. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The early disciples must have had trouble with that, too. But after the Holy Spirit worked on their hearts at Pentecost, they knew that Jesus is the only way. When Peter and John were forbidden to speak that truth to the people of Jerusalem, they simply said, “There is salvation in no other name but in the name of Jesus Christ, and we must proclaim that while we are here.”

The way to heaven is clear Ð it is through faith in Christ. Remember that and enjoy the excitement of knowing what heaven will be like: no sorrow, no suffering, no death. All these things will have passed away.

That is my heavenly home. It is still partially veiled to be sure, but nevertheless true. It is true, because Jesus Christ has said so.