I watched the Miracle Maker recently with my children. It’s a stop motion version of the life of Jesus (who is voiced by Ralph Fiennes) seen through the eyes Jairus’ daughter, who I think is called something like Tama in the film. At one point she dies and Jesus brings her back to life. At the end of the film, she is there when Jesus is giving his final instructions.
“Go through all the earth and make disciples of every nation. Baptise in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy Spirit. For the spirit will come upon you soon, the Spirit will come upon you. And I will be with you always. Even to the end of the world.”
Then Jesus disappears.
Another little girl is looking around for him, trying to find him. Tama says to her “Don’t be worried or upset” and quotes something Jesus had said earlier “In my father’s house there are many rooms.”
“In Capernaum?” asks the girl? “Yes” replies Tama, “in Capernaum, in Jerusalem and the whole world. The kingdom of God has come and he is with us forever.”
It occurred to me that she might be saying the rooms are churches and Jesus died to make the church possible. I have never thought of it that way. Jesus went to prepare a place not in a heavenly mansion but in earthly kingdom outposts.
I remember Terry Virgo preaching on John 14 saying that the emphasis was on the now rather than the later. It was a brilliant preach. His thesis was that Jesus is talking about going away and not leaving them as orphans. He emphasised that being a Christian was about being with Jesus. The disciples bought into Jesus. Not a religious code, not a philosophy, not a way of life, but being with Jesus. Jesus had asked them to follow him. That was it for them. Now he says he’s going away so where does that leave them?
“It’s ok”, says Jesus “I am going to come back to you”. “Oh, well”, they say, “that’s ok then”. Now if Jesus is talking about his second coming then their reassurance and relief evaporates. They are going to have to live the rest of their lives and die without Jesus after all. But what if Jesus meant what the disciples would have understood him to mean – that he was really coming back to be with them soon so they could continue their lives with him. As Jesus goes on its apparent that he would be present with them through the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit brings the presence of Jesus and gives them access to the Father. The rooms must be a now thing!
There is something else I have noticed here though. The context of the “many rooms” saying is John 14 which starts with “do not let your hearts be troubled”. (just like the little girl said)
“Trust in God. Trust also in me. In my father’s house there are many rooms…I am going to prepare a place for you. …I will come back and take you to be with me that you may be where I am going. You know the place where I am going“.
Thomas says “how can we know the way“. Jesus says “I am the way… if you know me you know my father“. Philip chips in “show us the father, that will really help us“. Jesus says “I am in the Father and the Father is in me….if you struggle to see that think about all the miracles“. Then comes a key miracle verse. We were just talking about it at a wedding a few days ago.
I love the way John 14:12 starts in the KJV. “Verily, verily“. In the NIV its “I tell you the truth“. In California it would be “Hey dude, check this out, its like totally awesome”. Then Jesus says “Anyone“. That’s a big word, let me look it up in the Greek (it’s almost 10pm, I’m exhausted but buzzing, don’t you just love the bible!!). Oh, there is no word for “person” in the Greek text or “man” or “anybody”. I don’t know enough Greek to translate the words properly but it’s translated “the person” in the KJV, and “whoever” in the ESV so it seems everyone is agreed that its “anyone who believes in me” or “the person who believes in me” so that’s ok. It’s anyone. (Maybe I should learn some Greek sometime).
Anyway its “anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” What’s he been doing? He’s just been talking about miracles. Miracles is the nearest context to hand. What’s next? “He will do even greater things than these”. Not lesser. Greater. It’s such a shame when people interpret this verse to mean “well, it will be lesser miracles but more of them“. That’s like saying “you’re going to run faster than Usain Bolt – well, over a 10 mile distance with him running the whole way and all of you doing it as a relay; running a 100 meters and handing the baton on to the next person.“. It sounds amazing at first, then it’s a bit of a let down. To me Jesus is clearly saying “through faith in me, you, in fact anyone, will do greater things than I have been doing”. Turn over a few pages to the book of Acts and that’s just what’s going on. Peoples handkerchiefs are healing the sick, their shadows are falling on individuals and they are cured.
So we know it’s through faith in Jesus, in the name of Jesus you might say, but there is more. The reason why this will be possible (because faith in Jesus was possible right then) is “because I am going to the father.” What’s that about? It’s about the Holy Spirit being poured out. (“the Spirit…had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” John 7:39). Again that’s just what we find in Acts after Jesus has been glorified (“Father, the time has cone. Glorify your son” John 17:1) . Jesus leaves in Acts chapter 1, the Spirit is poured out in Acts chapter 2 and people start getting healed in Acts chapter 3. Awesome.
But we still have another dot to join. What about the “he in me and me in him” stuff? That was the evidence and result of Jesus being in the father and the father being in him. Now, I recon, that’s what happens when the Spirit is poured out. The Spirit is in us and on us and we are in him (well in Christ at least). The Spirit brings a unity between us and Jesus such that he is in us and we are in him (John 17:23, Rom 8:1 etc). Now what is the evidence and result of that? It’s just what Jesus has been saying. We do a whole bunch of amazing miracles and healings. If someone says “show us Jesus, prove hes real” we should be able to point to the miracles and say “look, heres in us by the Holy Spirit”.
Going back to whether the rooms are the church, even if they are not (maybe it’s a kingdom of God thing and we can’t quite bring the church into focus for sure), it really seems that it’s a “now” thing not a “much later thing”. It reminds me of some of the stuff Rob Bell says in his Poets/prophet/preachers seminars. He stresses the fact that heaven and earth are going to be together and that we live now in the light of that joining.
God’s been speaking to me a lot recently about being a conduit; a conductor, a ladder between heaven and earth bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. Jesus himself said “the kingdom of God is at hand“. It’s not up there or way off in the future, its breaking out in the here through those willing to take hold of it. We pray “your kingdom come“. Bill Johnson emphasises the kingdom of heaven coming on earth particularly in the context of healing. In the context of the poor we and oppressed we don’t just say “hang on in their and wait till Jesus comes back” we help them, seeking to bring the kingdom of heaven in the here and now.
I’m still not sure if the rooms are the church. I’d like to think so. It certainly makes you more focused on enjoying and advancing the kingdom now and emphasises the wonderful nature of the church as the house of God. Maybe the small groups are the rooms! In any case, I’m defiantly up for the greater things.