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I recently heard an apparently true story about a man urgently needing to catch a plane home from a business trip. He was desperate to get home because his toddler grandson lay in a coma, the victim of terrible child abuse at the hands of his mom’s live in boyfriend. The little boy wasn’t going to live; he was to be disconnected from life support. After he died, his organs would be donated so others might live. The man wanted to get home to see his grandson one more time.

While he was on the way to the Los Angeles airport, his wife called Southwestern airlines to find the fastest flight home. As she bought the ticket she explained their desperate situation. Unfortunately, her husband ran into delay after delay – a traffic jam on the freeway, a congested airport, delays in security.

When the man finally reached the gate for his flight, he realized he was 15 minutes late, he was sure the plane had left.

An airline employee at the gate approached him and asked his name and if he was the one trying to get home to his grandson. The man confirmed who he was.

Then the man at the gate said:

“Well, I’m the pilot and the plane isn’t going anywhere without me.
And I’m not going anywhere without you.”

That story reminds me of one of my most favourite Bible passages:

“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.”
(John 14:1-3 New International Version)

Jesus’ promise is loaded with hope, love and acceptance. He is making this promise to his friends who, in just hours while he is in his greatest struggle, will desert him, betray him, deny him. He’s saying, despite all your failures, hang on to me, hang on to me because I want you to be with me. It’s a promise we can personally claim today. Isn’t that pretty outrageous grace?

Because Jesus’ promise can be counted on, we know that he will prepare those places and he will return. The Bible vividly describes this event – Jesus will arrive with all his angels, the dead in Christ will be resurrected, the living in Christ will be transformed and all will be gathered by the angels – he will take us to be with him.

I hear Jesus’ promise echo to you and to me in the pilot’s words:

“I’m the pilot and the angels aren’t going anywhere without me.
And I’m not
going anywhere