In My Father’s house
Having grown up in the church I memorized many verses in Sunday School. To this day I still remember the majority of these verses, and I even make reference to them while guiding groups at Nazareth Village. As I spent time with groups at Nazareth Village my understand of the parables Jesus taught with expanded. Even helping with some of the chores as a villager at times gave me more appreciation to how they lived. There is always an “aha” moment, and many of the concepts I had formed in my head are challenged.
One of these concepts had to do with my understanding of how life will be like in Heaven. I was told in Sunday School, there, we will be worshipping God forever. As someone who has a wild imagination, I pictures myself at a concert; God is on stage and I am all the way in the back, far from Him. To me it made sense that Heaven will have many people, and only few will have the ability to be close to the Father. But this image I had created in my mind changed as I was leading a group from one house into another at Nazareth Village. I was reminded of a verse in the book of John chapter 4 verse 2, which reads, “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” (NASB).
My active imagination had created a context for this verse, a context influenced by how we live today. Thinking of this verse I always imagined a street with houses lined up on either side, much like where I live, which is different from the first century housing habits seen at Nazareth Village. Back then, the whole family lived in a house comprised of a courtyard, a sleeping room and a storage room. Although it was small in size, it met the needs of the family members. However, once a son got married the house was no longer enough. The son then will build an addition to his father’s house consisting of a small court yard and a sleeping room; this served as a house. But what was unique about this small house is that it is connected via a little passage-way to the father’s house.
What Jesus was describing to his disciples was not difficult for them to understand, since many of them lived in such a manner. But for us, as we lead a different life-style, it is communicating two important facts for His disciples today. The first fact is re-affirming what John mentions in chapter 1 verse 12 that His disciples we are also His children. Moreover, the second fact is that in Heaven we will not be distant from God, we will be living with God in His presence.
(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)