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What did Jesus mean when He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)?

I go to prepare a place for you

Jesus’ disciples were greatly distressed about His impending departure (John 14:1; cf. John 16:6, 22). For this reason, Jesus set aside His own agony (John 12:27 and John 13:21) and took an extended moment to lend emotional support to His disciples (John 14—16). Is there a greater example of putting others before ourselves?

John 14 is linked with John 13 in two important ways. First, there is an implicit connection to Peter, who Jesus said would deny Him three times (John 13:36–38). If Peter would deny the Lord, would the other disciples remain steadfast in their faith?

Second, because Jesus sensed the inner turmoil of His disciples, He thought it necessary to address the implications of His departure (John 13:33, 36).

To calm their troubled hearts (John 14:1), Jesus issues an imperative: “Believe in God; believe also in me” (ESV). The word for “believe” can also be translated as “trust” (as the NLT renders John 14:1). Here, we discover the real problem—a lack of trust. The disciples did not fully trust God, nor did they fully trust Jesus. If they trusted God, they would also trust Jesus, who “proceeded forth and came from God” (John 8:42, KJV). The implication is that there is an indissoluble union between the Father and Son (cf. John 10:30 and John 17:21), a union that would be more fully explained in John 14:7–12.

D. A. Carson, a professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has this to say about the union between the Father and Son:

For thoughtful readers of the Gospel, however, the link is almost inevitable. If Jesus invariably speaks the words of God and performs the acts of God (5:19 ff.), should he not be trusted like God? If he tells his followers not to let their hearts be troubled, must it not be because he has ample and justifiable reason?
The Gospel According to John, Eerdmans, 1991, p. 488.

It is not simply the fact that Jesus should be trusted like God. Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14; 5:18). Therefore, He can be trusted to provide the solution to every problem that we face (see Matthew 11:28–30).

The disciples did not understand that Jesus’ departure was for their benefit. Not only would Jesus leave to prepare a place for them, but He would also come back for them (John 14:2–3). Should this not have been sufficient reason for the disciples to rejoice?

In John 14:2, my Father’s house refers to heaven, where there are many rooms or dwelling-places. Jesus’ point is not that every believer will receive a “mansion” (as the KJV renders John 14:2). Rather, it is an assurance that ample provision has been made to secure space for all believers in heaven. This is yet another reason why the disciples should not let their hearts be troubled about Jesus’ departure.

By going to the cross, Jesus prepared a place in heaven for His disciples (cf. John 12:32). Thus, He is our forerunner or precursor:

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19–20 emphasis added).

Our hope for an eternal resting place in heaven is sure and steadfast because it is grounded in the finished work of Christ (John 19:30).

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Questions about John

What did Jesus mean when He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)?
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This page last updated: August 2, 2023