Scripture scholars tell us that it is most likely that Jesus spoke the words in John 14 while He was teaching in Capernaum, a town on the Sea of Galilee, which was the base of Jesus’ preaching ministry. In Capernaum, pilgrims can still visit the synagogue where Jesus taught the doctrine of the Eucharist (John 6), which is located next to a series of primitive dwellings that formed a cluster of homes.
While these homes belonged to different families, their clustered formation gave the impression that they were one large house with many dwelling places, a powerful image for Jesus’ hearers, as He described the Father’s house.
The image of the Father’s house is given even greater importance due to Christ’s promise to go and prepare a place for each believer, and the guarantee that He will return to take every faithful disciple to that dwelling place. The necessary passage from this life to the Father’s house only comes through death — there is no other way to the Father’s house.
Therefore, death is an essential part of Christ’s promise to take us to the Father’s house. When we die, we may choose to think of death as God keeping His promise to us. While many may view death with servile fear and uncertainty, Jesus reminds us to place our trust in Him for He has already made the proper preparations for our arrival at the Father’s house.
These preparations consist of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus in order to make the Father’s house accessible to us. It is only through Jesus, who Himself is the way to the Father’s house that the truth about human existence and everlasting life are realized.
By presenting His hearers with the image of the Father’s house, Jesus reminds us of our need to live with an eye on our eternal inheritance. Jesus challenges us to live transcendently — to trust that we are merely passing through this life and that life in the Father’s house is our true and final destination. Believers must live with their eyes set on heaven while working to make the Kingdom of God a reality on earth. This dynamic tension between living transcendently while trying to perfect the temporal order reminds us that believers are obliged to engage the world and form it to reflect the glory of the Father’s house.
Finally, the image of the Father’s house reminds us that our relationship with God is that of father and child. The Father, who looks upon us as the heirs to His kingdom, invites us to an intimate and filial relationship with Him. The image of Christ’s preparing rooms for us in the Father’s house reminds us that we are not intended to be mere guests or tenants there. Christ’s blood has purchased for us our inheritance and has given us a spirit of adoption whereby we call the Father “Abba!” Dwelling with Him in heaven begins by responding to His grace to invite Him to dwell in our souls on earth.