Michael Bublé’s powerful ballad “Home” tells the story of a weary traveler who laments the fact that he is not home. He longs to go home, to be home, and, in some sense, to be able to stay home.
The emotional strength of the song is rooted in what we long for home to be and for what home, at its best, can be for us. At its best, home is a place where we feel safe and secure. A place where we are welcome. A place where we belong. Admittedly, our homes here are imperfect and all too often fall short of our desires for them. But in its best moments home awakens in us a longing and a hunger for a home where we will be accepted and never disappointed.
Jesus taps into that deep desire by using the imagery of home—a home unlike any we have ever known. It is the home that awaits us in the life to come. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that this life is not all there is and that there is a life ahead. While this future home must not be seen as an escape hatch from life, it offers us certainty as Jesus explains: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you” (john 14:2).
In the disciples’ unfolding threatening circumstances, Jesus speaks of this ultimate provision for them:
“My Father’s house”: Ironically there was no room found for Him here on Earth. At His birth, there was no room for Him at the inn (luke 2:7), and in His adulthood, Jesus was essentially homeless (matthew 8:20). There was no room for Him here, but He makes room there for all who will come to Him. This is the Father’s house with a bountiful table where all are invited to come and dine.
“Many dwelling places”: In the Father’s house, there are eternal homes for once-weary pilgrims to dwell—that is, to settle in and be at home.
“I go”: As one writer put it, Jesus is essentially saying, “My mission is to go, and I must do it alone. I didn’t train you to help Me do my work, but afterwards to tell the world what I have done.”
“To prepare a place for you”: This element of our hope is not here, it is there—for He is preparing a place of never-ending for us just as clearly as He was going to prepare a place for them.
It is unlikely that the disciples could have heard these words without thinking of Jewish marriage customs. Upon betrothal, the groom-to-be would have a year to prepare a home for his new bride. In many cases, that place would be an addition built onto his father’s home. There he and his bride would join the family in sharing the burden of work and the joys of life. Once that dwelling place was prepared, it was time for marriage and the celebration of life together.
Additionally, it is important to understand that this imagery of a prepared place in the Father’s house was not a New Testament idea first unwrapped in that upper room. This same thought brought comfort to Israel’s shepherd-king, David, who sang, “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (psalm 23:6).
Like Jesus’s words in John 14, David’s words carry both a present reality and a future hope. The present reality of a life resting in the goodness and lovingkindness of the Father (psalm 23:6) is directly linked to trusting Jesus in life’s storms (john 14:1). And the forever promise of a place in the house of the Lord is there to offer us hope when despair might become overwhelming. This is the rich sense of home that can be so wonderful.
As Augustine in his Confessions wisely wrote of God, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” In the same way, we will never fully and completely know the peace we long for until we find ourselves at peace in Him. That is why the Father’s house is so important. C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain wrote:
There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether in our heart of hearts we have ever desired anything else. . . . It is the secret signature of the soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds when the mind no longer knows life or friend or work.
I have to wonder: Do I long for the Father and His peace in that way? Yet, as wonderful as the Father’s house will be, that promised home is not the most important aspect of the life to come.