It really sounds too good to be true. Jesus tells his disciples, and by extension us, that he is going away so that he can prepare a place for us to be with him, forever. Whether or not you knew before reading this article that this sentence from Jesus was actually a wedding proposal, it sounds like a happily ever after.
But how do we know that this is true? How can you trust that Christ really is going to prepare a place for you?
What Is the Context of This Verse?
This phrase appears in John 14:1-3,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 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? 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.”
Jesus is comforting his disciples here. He has recently finished washing his disciples’ feet after their Passover meal and has warned them of his coming betrayal from Judas and denial from Peter.
He continues his speech to them, telling them that he was going to go away, but that Holy Spirit, the Advocate, was going to come into the world for them.
And where was Jesus going to be while the Spirit came to us? With the Father, preparing a place for us. And although that metaphor might go right over our heads in this day and age, to his disciples, his language would have been crystal clear: Jesus was using wedding language. This was a proposal.
Jesus was communicating to his disciples in the strongest language possible that he loved them and wanted to be with them forever. And the same love that he had for his disciples is the love he has for us today.
What Does it Mean to ‘Prepare a Place’ in Jewish Culture?
This is the general gist of how ancient Jewish proposals worked:
1. Somehow, the groom’s family would choose their son’s bride. It could be when they were small children, it could be a year before the proposal.
2. When it came time for the engagement, the groom would leave his father’s house to go to his prospective bride’s house to propose and to pay the “bride price.”
3. The groom would present his bride with a glass of wine, representing a blood covenant. If she drank it, then that would mean she accepts the proposal.
4. Then, the groom would leave his new bride and go back to his father’s house to build an addition, or a room, for his new life with his new bride.
5. It was up to the father to say when this room was complete. The bride nor the groom knows exactly when it will be considered finished.
6. But once it is, the groom would come back to his wife’s home, and bring her back with him to his father’s house, to their new room, where they would consummate the marriage and begin their wedding celebrations.
If you’re seeing some similarities between a Jewish proposal and communion as well, you are absolutely right. Jesus presents his love story for us in a way that their culture would best understand. We still get the benefit of these expressions today.
So, when Jesus tells his disciples that he is leaving them to go back to his Father’s house, where there are many rooms, and that he is going to prepare a place for them, he is telling his disciples that he is committed to loving them.
Whether his disciples were with him physically or not, he was working for them, doing good to them, and would one day come back to be with them.
“Many rooms” could be translated as many “dwelling places” or “places to stay.” Jesus states that he will “come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
It is such a beautiful thing to know that Jesus wants to come back for us so that we can bewith him. Not to strive or toil or earn, but simply just to be where Jesus is. To dwell there, to stay. Forever.
We don’t know what these rooms will look like in heaven when Jesus comes back for us. It could be one gargantuan mansion with a special bedroom, just for us. It could be even more wild and grand than that. We don’t know. But we do know that we can take Jesus at his word.
How Did Jesus Go and Prepare a Place for Us?
The really incredible thing about Jesus taking so much time to teach and comfort his disciples was that he was about to go to the cross.
In John 15, 16, and 17, Jesus continues to teach his disciples many lessons, like about how he is the true vine, and we are the branches, how the world will hate them on account of him, and about the Holy Spirit. He prays for his disciples and for the unity of all that would come to Jesus.
But then in chapter 18, Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested. In chapter 19, he is crucified and buried. Jesus, reassuring his disciples that he was going to come back for his disciples, came right before he was crucified.
This must mean that it was of grave importance for the disciples to be confident. And Jesus was so loving that that was what was on his mind, even though he knew he was about to be murdered.
Jesus could not prepare a place for us in heaven had the crucifixion not happened, though. It is through Jesus’ sacrifice that we are made clean, and through this sacrifice, we have been made perfect (Hebrews 10:12-14).
Because God is a holy God, he cannot be in union with anything unholy. But by Jesus’ loving sacrifice, we are made clean, and can freely enter heaven and the special rooms that Jesus is preparing for each of us.
Trusting Jesus to Come Back for Us
It must have been a vulnerable thing to trust that your newly betrothed groom (that in those days, you may have just met) would come back for you. You had to trust that his word could be relied upon and that he was sincere in his love for you.
You had to trust that he was working hard for your future. And you had to trust that he didn’t just leave you out to dry.
Jesus’ disciples had to trust Jesus with all of these things, too. They had been walking with Jesus for three years at this point, and I’m positive none of them were happy to hear him say that he was leaving, regardless of if they understood why or not.
But Jesus reassured them that it was a good thing that he was going back to the Father because he would be preparing a place for them. Working for their good, all of the time.
So, how can you know if Christ really is preparing a place for you? That same trust. Having faith that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” And believing that Jesus really does want to be with you, for forever, the same way a groom feels about his bride.
Kelly-Jayne McGlynn is a former editor at Crosswalk.com. She sees the act of expression, whether through writing or art, as a way to co-create with God and experience him deeper. Check out her handmade earring Instagram and Etsy for more of her thoughts on connecting with God through creative endeavors.