Roy Hill, Bristol, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
John 13 described in vivid detail the trauma of the disciples as they faced the many challenges of their last days with the Lord Jesus. Seldom had so much happened in the course of a few hours. The chapter opens with His telling them in plain terms that He is to depart from them. This is something they do not wish to hear. It is followed by other disconcerting things: the devil is mentioned, v. 2; an act of betrayal is contemplated, v. 3; He announces that they are not all clean, v. 11; Jesus is seen to be troubled, v. 21; doubt rises in their hearts, v. 22; Satan enters the scene and into the heart of Judas, v. 27; the Lord tells Judas that whatever he is to do he should do it quickly, v. 27; it is night, v. 30; where He is going they cannot come - at least not yet, v. 33; Peter is told that he will deny the Lord, v. 38. Thus, the disciples had a right to be confused and concerned as they really had no idea of what was happening, why, nor when, nor of their own part in the proceedings.
There is then the incident of the feetwashing. The disciples had gathered together to celebrate the Passover with the Lord in a room of His choice. Provision had been made for this act of fellowship by water being made readily available, together with a towel. However, no servant had been provided to perform this menial but vital ceremony and while the guests recognized this none was willing to do the job for the others. No doubt some of the disciples thought about it but decided against doing anything. They chose rather to sit at the table in some discomfort and guilt rather than to take the lowly place of a servant and to perform this task for their brethren. However, the Lord Himself does so, much to the chagrin of the disciples and of Peter in particular. He forcibly makes the point that the Lord should not be washing his feet. Patiently, the Saviour explains to him that this was not solely for his physical comfort but had other spiritual significance as well. Eventually Peter accepts the inevitable but by this time a feeling of deep guilt has engulfed them all.
Thus Chapter 13 ends on a disconsolate note; everything seems to be going against the disciples. There is much to concern and confuse them and to encourage fear in their hearts. Yet Chapter 14 opens with the wonderful words we all know so well, ‘Let not your heart be troubled’. The Lord Jesus Christ indicated that all problems and fears, together with the way forward, however unclear, should be left entirely with Him. ‘Trust me’, He seems to be saying. They believed God and now they can trust the One who is God incarnate. Today, in the early years of the 21st century, there is much to concern the godly. All sorts of things are happening in the world many of which cause deep grief to the believer whether political, moral or economic. Naturally speaking we are at a loss to see where all this might lead. We are saddened at our own efforts as well and may feel that our witness has been weak and that we have failed. Personal and corporate testimony are under attack by Satan who seems to be recording significant successes against us and we are troubled. This feeling is neither new nor indeed unusual. Paul once wrote, ‘We are troubled on every side’, then from his own experience and for the encouragement of others he added, ‘yet not distressed’, 2 Cor. 4. 8. Again, in another place he says, ‘Without were fightings, within were fears’, 2 Cor. 7. 5. We know how he felt and the remedy then was the same as the remedy now – trust the Lord.
The Lord is at pains to reassure the disciples that when He goes away He will undoubtedly come again for them and warmly receive them to Himself. The objective is that they will be with Him for all eternity. This unqualified promise we too gladly claim and His purpose we gratefully appreciate. We anticipate being with Him and like Him. We shall be free from all trouble and concern and enjoy the bliss of everlasting peace and tranquility.
Associated with His promise is a perhaps somewhat obscure statement that ‘in my Father’s house are many mansions’. He adds, ‘If it were not so I would have told you’, which seems to make the whole thing something expected and necessary to us for the enjoyment of the eternal occasions. Of these only two are in the New Testament and both in John’s Gospel, here and in Chapter 2. Each of the Old Testament references to ‘my father’s house’ is not to a building of any kind but to a household or family. However, the New Testament references are thought to refer to places and this certainly seems to be the case in John 2, ‘Make not my Father’s house a house merchandise’. What He refers to in John 14 cannot be the same place, i.e., the temple here on earth, and in line with the earlier references may not be a place but a household or family, perhaps paraphrased, ‘In my Father’s family are many mansions’.
Many explanations have been suggested, including the following: 1) in heaven there are rooms assigned to believers, the quality of which is based on their individual faithfulness in service here on earth; 2) these rooms are places where a believer can grow and develop from one into the next in a number of stages; 3) that while believers are rejected and cast out on earth there is ample room in heaven for all who come to faith; 4) that the whole universe is the house and the first room is on earth and the second in heaven so that in dying the believer simply moves from one room into another. None of these, however, seems entirely satisfactory.
So, what is meant by the word ‘mansions’? The word occurs twice in the New Testament and both are in John 14. The second of these is in verse 23 where the Lord says, ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come into him, and make our abode (mansion) with him’. In this case the mansion is the body of the believer and this ‘tent’ may be inhabited not only by the believer himself but also by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This mansion is a physical body. What a privilege to know that deity considers my body, the earthly house of this tabernacle (tent) a mansion in which to dwell (remain). It is also as another scripture would remind us ‘a temple’. The other occurrence of the word is in our verse here, verse 2, and I suggest that it may have the same meaning, i.e., a body. We know that when we are raptured or raised from the dead at that time our earthly bodies will be changed into spiritual bodies which will be appropriate for heaven. These new bodies will be fashioned like unto His body of glory and will be perfect in every way. Not subject to ageing, decay, pain, disease or death they will be an enormous contrast to what we have now. Our present ‘tents’ will be replaced by ‘mansions’! The mansions of which the Lord speaks in John 14. 2 may therefore be seen as the new bodies we will be give in which to live permanently in heaven.
The Lord had spoken in the chapter of His ‘going away’ and of the fact that believers will follow Him. The disciples may well have wondered how such an event could take place. ‘Trust Me’, He says. This is all foreseen, planned and provided for in the Father’s house you will be absolutely at home in your new spiritual bodies. Therefore we, with them, take courage that all has been thought of and we await with patience that great day when all will be revealed and enjoyed. Our new bodies will give us the feeling of being in mansions.