Not many people like saying, “Goodbye”, whether it is on the doorstep, at the station or at the airport, but it has to be done. It is usually just as hard for the person leaving as for the person staying.
Knowing he was shortly going to die, Jesus had to say goodbye to a group of his close friends. What he said to them is helpful for us as we prepare to say goodbye too. His words are recorded in chapter 4 of John’s gospel (the fourth book of the New Testament).
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 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. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas [one of Jesus’ close friends] said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus said that he was the forerunner - he was going first to prepare a place. If we get unexpected guests who need to stay the night we need to rush round to get things organised, leaving them waiting while we get a room ready, think what we have in the freezer, and wonder how we will entertain them. While this is going on we try to give the impression that their arrival has not put us out, and has not disrupted what we had planned for the evening. The welcome our guests receive is much better if we have had a chance to prepare, and we know which friends will be staying with us.
Jesus said that he was the escort - “I will take you to be with me”. Abigail and I had a touring holiday in Spain, where the holiday company had pre-booked us into a hotel in each city. As the holiday went on, we found that all the hotels seemed to be difficult to find, in confusing one-way systems in the centre of each city! We spent most of the day worrying about whether we would be able to find the place, and whether there would be somewhere to park the car. On other holidays we have been met at the airport by a local guide and taken to our hotel, usually being given some helpful local information on the way. Having an escort is so much more relaxing, and reduces the stress of the journey.
Jesus said he was the destination. Many years ago there was the possibility that my firm would want me and my family to go and live and work in Iran for a couple of years. In the days before the internet the only way to find out about the place was to spend time in the local library. We did not know anyone who had lived in Iran, but we wanted to know something of what we were letting ourselves in for! The local library had very little information about the city we had been told was to be our destination. (As it happened we never went to Iran - the Shar was overthrown shortly before our planned departure, and the need for us to live there disappeared.) In contrast, the library of books we call the Bible has a great deal of information about the destination of which Jesus speaks.
Jesus said he was the way. He also said that there is no other way to heaven, but by belief in him. We have all done wrong things in our lives, which ought to preclude us from a place with God. However, if we pray to him, acknowledging that we have done wrong, asking for his forgiveness, and trusting that Jesus has taken the punishment that should rightfully come to us, we know that we will be forgiven, and will be treated as friends of Jesus. Once we have become his friends we can accept that those words that were addressed to his friends about 2,000 years ago also apply to us today.
What I have written about on this page is not my original work - it is based on a short talk by Rico Tice, a church minister in London. If this is something which you would like to investigate further, it so happens that Rico has also prepared a course called ‘Christianity Explored’. It does just what it says in the title, and we know from our own experience that it is a very helpful way to find out more. If you click here you can see more information, and this link also helps you find where a course may be running in your area. In addition, I am happy for you to E-mail me, and we will see if we can put you in touch with a church that may not actually be running the course, but who may be able to help you explore in other ways.
http://deathisnotdying.com/eventvideo/ is a link to a talk by a Canadian lady, given towards the end of her five years since her cancer diagnosis; she expects to die within a short time of giving this talk. It is 55 minutes long, but is well worth the time, as it is very helpful to hear how she regards her situation.