We are well into Holy Week as the drama of this event starts to build. Although the story of what’s about to happen, is widely known today, most people, even Christians often ask themselves this question; I know Jesus died for my sins, but what do I need to do to get into heaven?
It’s a common and often debated question, but quite frankly Jesus Himself has answered it many times. Yet we still find ourselves continuing to ponder this question. Take a brief look at Jesus life, his chosen Disciples, and His Words, to find the answer to this question.
Let’s briefly recount the events of Holy Week. Todays is Tuesday, often referred to as Holy or Fig Tuesday. Jesus and His Disciples have entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus has chased the money-changers out from the temple on Holy Monday, and on this day, He will meet with His Disciples at the Mount of Olives where He will pray with them and first indicate/predict His coming death. It is also believed, by many accounts, that this Tuesday is the day Judas entered into agreement with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus.
On Wednesday, Jesus will be anointed with oils by Mary and then Judas will finalize his betrayal plans with the Sanhedrin. Thursday is the day when Jesus invites His Disciples to the last supper, explains the Eucharist, washes their feet, and tells them of the events to occur over the next few days, including the betrayal by Judas and the denial by Peter. It would be on this evening, and early into Friday morning, that Jesus would be betrayed, illegally arrested, convicted in a mock trial, horribly beaten, mocked, and abused, and eventually sentenced to death. Good Friday brings us His actual crucifixion and death. Saturday, he lies in the sealed tomb, under Roman guard, and on Easter Sunday, the greatest event of, and for, all mankind occurred, when Jesus rose from the grave.
Let’s look at the character of the Chosen twelve Disciples. The men Jesus selected to accompanying Him, so that He could teach them, so they could bare witness, and eventually go and teach the Word of salvation to all the world.
Just like Jesus Himself, none of these men were Kings or world leaders. Most had common jobs, were from very diverse backgrounds, had wildly different personalities, and today would be considered unlikely models for Jesus and the Word of God. They did however have passion, dedication, and were good students willing to learn with a thirst for righteousness and a Godly world.
Simon Peter – Fisherman, Married, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional, easily aroused by an appeal to adventure, loyal to the end.
James The elder – Brother of John. A fisherman. Not much is written about James the elder. A man born into wealth.
John – Brother of James the elder, fisherman. He was a man of action; he was very ambitious; and a man with an explosive temper and an intolerant heart. A man born into wealth.
Andrew – Brother of Simon Peter. Fisherman and originally a disciple of John the Baptist.
Bartholomew Nathanael - Scholars believe that he was the only one of the 12 disciples who came from royal blood, or noble birth.
James, the Lesser or Younger – Most believe the half-brother of Jesus, a man of strong character and one of the most fiery type of personalities.
Judas Iscariot - He was a Judean and the rest of the disciples were Galileans. He was the treasurer of the band and among the outspoken leaders. It is said that Judas was a violent Jewish Nationalist who had followed Jesus in hope that through Him his nationalistic flame and dreams might be realized
Jude, Thaddeus, or Lebbeus, son of Alpheus or Cleophas and Mary. He was a brother of James the Younger. A fisherman, he was an intense and violent Nationalist with the dream of world power and domination by the Chosen People
Matthew – A tax collector. the Jews were the most vigorous haters of tax gatherers. To the devout Jew, God was the only one to whom it was right to pay tribute in taxes. To pay it to anyone else was to infringe on the rights of God. The tax collectors were hated not on religious grounds only but because most of them were notoriously unjust.
Philip – A fisherman with a warm heart and a pessimistic head. One of the first whom Jesus asked to follow Him.
Simon, the Zealot, - A reckless person, zealous in good practices and extravagant and reckless in the worst kind of actions. From this background, we see that Simon was a fanatical Nationalist, a man devoted to the Law, a man with bitter hatred for anyone who dared to compromise with Rome.
Thomas Didymus – A laborer. He was a pessimist. He was a bewildered man. Yet, he was a man of courage. He was a man who could not believe until he had seen. He was a man of devotion and of faith
A thirteenth Disciple was added by the surviving 11, replacing Judas Iscariot who had hung himself in despair over betraying Jesus. His name was Matthias. Matthias was chosen by the Disciples, according to Acts 1:24-26. The Bible is sparse on additional details relating to Matthias, but it does say that Matthias was with Jesus since His baptism until His resurrection.
As you can see, these were not model men to serve Jesus, to be His witnesses, and to spread the Word throughout the World. But Jesus knew they had the character to deliver what was needed. Jesus gave them the knowledge, the tools, allowed them to witness His teaching and healing, and sent them out to do His work.
As you can see, these men were everyday people just like all of us. Nothing special about them but Jesus believed in them and gave them what was needed. They really didn’t do anything extraordinary while with Jesus, they just learned and listened to what Jesus taught them. Their extraordinary efforts came after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then they simply went out and spread the good news of what Jesus had taught them. They stayed true to their beliefs, and most of them died a similar death to Jesus for their beliefs.
I’m relatively certain they all are in Heaven along with Jesus and the Father. In fact, Jesus assured them they would meet Him again when their work was completed. They are in Heaven, because they believed, they kept their faith, they spread the Word, and never wavered in these beliefs. I’m sure they weren’t perfect and made many mistakes, but they never lost their faith.
This is exactly the case for us, and I know this because Jesus told us so. Jesus selected hot-heads, anti-government men, a tax-collector who was allowed to steal, and He eventually selected a man (Saul/Paul) who was a murderer. Although not a disciple, Jesus personally selected Paul to follow him and spread the Good News. At the time he was selected by Jesus, Paul had directed, led, and presided over the deaths of many who had been “disloyal” to Rome and the Sanhedrin. But, of course, Jesus knew what He was doing, as Paul has written 52% of the books in the New Testament.
Jesus told us many things that would indicate the way to Heaven, but His words during Holy week, seem to best guide us to the answer to this question.
John 14:5-7 recounts what Jesus told Thomas: Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Jesus went onto to say as recorded in John 14:21: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Speaking to the Disciples, he continued: “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.”
Jesus gave us the Word and how we should understand it. He gave us the Teachers, to write and record what Jesus wanted us to know. He gave us the path, the means, the will, the knowledge, and for help, the Holy Spirit, to keep us on the right path and to guide us. It’s not good deeds, accomplishments, wealth, success, or a brilliantly crafted legacy, that will get us into Heaven. It is Jesus alone….as He Said, He is the way.
Jesus gave us everything we need to get to heaven. After He gave us everything, He then gave us His Life. He knowingly, and willingly, went through the most horrible treatment one could possibly imagine, and then finally gave us His own life, by dying on a cross. Jesus has given us the map to heaven and shown us the way, through Him. One only has to follow Him to be good enough to go to Heaven.