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Gospel according to John 14: 1-3 (NIV)
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 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.”
Pain, it seems, is common to the human condition. We all know pain, whether it is inflicted on the external parts of our bodies or is borne inwardly, as is the case with some illnesses.
We know too the pain of severed relationships and of broken friendships. We know the pain that is associated with loss, whether of somebody close to us or of a part of our own selves: loss of home, loss of job, loss of independence, loss of hope. We know the pain of watching a loved one suffer; such pain is the more acute for us if we feel utterly helpless, unable to relieve that suffering.
Pain is not always for the worst: in childbirth, the joy associated with a newly-born baby is able to replace pain and, to a great extent, compensate for it.
Pain too is the pathway to physical improvement for athletes, although the training they undertake should be regarded more as discomfort from exertion than as a penalty for striving.
These three verses of Scripture give little hint of the pain Jesus was about to endure.
He spoke on the night he was to be betrayed by one of his disciples. It was the night he would be denied by another and abandoned by all.
He was soon to be bound, flogged, abused, falsely convicted, nailed to a rough timber beam and hoisted high on a pole to die a criminal’s death. He knew pain, perhaps more acutely than most of us ever will.
As he addressed his closest friends on that last night of his life, his concern was for them and for their reaction to the fate that awaited him. He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
Despite the loss that Jesus’ disciples and close followers were about to endure, he wanted them to remain hope-filled. His reason is clear. The end of this life is not the end of the story. The end of this life is, instead, a transition to another life. Christians believe this life-to-come is what Jesus promised to his disciples: life eternal with him where he is.
In that reading, Jesus said, “I am going there (to my Father’s house) 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.”
For those who trust Jesus, today’s pain is to be replaced by tomorrow’s joy. That future life will be peaceful, painless and without tears.
Perhaps our greatest sympathy should be for those who carry no hope of a life beyond this one. For somebody convinced that death is the end and that nothing awaits them on the other side, pain could become totally unbearable.
We, however, can accept the assurance that Jesus gave to his disciples so that they could pass Jesus’ words on to us: “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”