The way, the truth, the life - John 14:1-14
Uncertainty & insecurity are difficult to cope with for all of us.
Worry about our lives, the world, the future, can induce stress that seriously affects us.
Someone has calculated that an average person's anxiety is focused on:
40% -- things that will never happen
30% -- things about the past that can't be changed
12% -- things about criticism by others, mostly untrue
10% -- about health, which gets worse with stress
Only 8% -- about real problems that need to be faced!
It seems however that seldom do we see things in such a clear perspective. So often feelings of insecurity haunt human beings.
This was the experience Jesus' disciples were facing in our Bible reading from John ch 14 (p1082).
Jesus has gathered his disciples together for what became known as the Last Supper (13:1) & to share with them what are in effect his last words. He washed their filthy feet to illustrate to them that they must serve others because he is a servant, but supremely to point them to the ultimate service he was going to perform; his death on the cross to provide washing from the uncleanness of sin & rebellion against God.
The grisly reality of the cross is looming large. His death will take Jesus from his close friends, so he has to warn them; 13;33 "My children, I will be with you only a little longerTheir teacher, their hero their master is leaving them "Where are you going?" they ask (13:36), what will happen to us?
Jesus, who is being revealed in John's gospel (through meaningful signs & his own claims) as the long awaited messiah, speaks words of reassurance; Words which show there is security to be found in uncertainty & anxiety.
We see firstly that through Jesus there is;
1)A secure Future. v1-4
141"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."
Jesus recognizes his disciples insecurity & anxiety & he encourages them not just with an empty exhortation "cheer up", "don't worry" but he points them to the reliable basis of not being troubled in the turmoil "Trust in God" he says. God is reliable, he is in control, working out his purposes.
Have you noticed what Jesus adds? "Trust in God, trust also in me". Jesus is himself the one to trust in he is reliable, he is in control because he is, as John's gospel has already made clear, God become flesh (1:14) he is the one who speaks the words of God & performs the works of God. (5:19f)
Don't be anxious in your uncertainty Jesus says and for a reason;
v2 "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."
Jesus here speaks of heaven the disciples may not be at all clear what is going on but they can be reassured because Jesus is going to prepare a place in his Father's house for those who trust in him. The Fathers' "house", the very best place to be the presence of the maker & restorer of the universe. And this "house" has plenty of space, room for all who are Jesus' followers the future is certain.
But isn't it presumptuous, even arrogant to be certain of a future in heaven, in the Father's house?
Billy Graham in a TV i/v was once asked if he was certain of going to heaven he replied "yes". The switchboard was jammed with shocked complaints at what people saw as the American evangelist's proud self-righteousness surely it would be more humble to say "I hope so". But is that right?
It seems to me that a great many people both inside & outside the Church misunderstand the basis on which a person can go to heaven.
Jesus tells us here; V2 "am going there to prepare a place for you"
What Jesus has been saying in the run up to our passage shows that Jesus prepares a place in heaven for others, by his going there via his own death & resurrection.
Jesus wins for others a place in the presence of the perfect Father God because he is the "Lamb of God" who takes away the sin of those alienated from God (1:29).
Jesus gains free entry to heaven for his disciples as the "gate" by laying down his life (10:9f).
Jesus fits undeserving people for heaven by providing cleansing through his death (13:10).
Do you see the point? A place in the heavenly Father's house is not gained by human goodness, by our efforts or deserving if that were the case any claim to be going there would be proud & arrogant! No, a place in heaven is available to those who simply put their trust in Jesus, because of what he has done in his death & resurrection. Jesus is the basis, not us.
So, v3"And if I go and prepare a place for you [through my death & victory] I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
The disciples are anxious about the fact of Jesus' leaving, but actually it is better that he goes! For if he goes, he will, through his death & victory, prepare the way for them to be sure of eternal life in heaven. Jesus will win this place for them & when he returns ("I will come back" he says) the fullness of what he will achieve on the cross will be experienced by his trusting followers. There is a certain future for those who trust Jesus.
Perhaps you are uncertain of the future, of heaven, uncertain of your acceptance with God if you're trusting in your own efforts to get there you should be uncertain heaven is not for spiritual world cup winners who have got through the qualifying groups & 2nd round & earned a place by their skill, tactics & hard graft. Heaven is for those know they will never win a place themselves but who accept the invitation from Jesus to trust that he has prepared a place, as he died for our sins & rose again.
Jesus reassures his disciples then & now; V4"You know the way to the place where I am going." You know me, so you know the way to the Father's house where I am going & I will take you to be with me.
But they aren't sure, v5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" They don't seem to understand, so Jesus in his continued attempts to encourage them to trust him & bring them security speaks an incredible message about himself, which shows that there is;
2)A secure way to God. v5-10
6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
These words are very familiar to many people they have become the stuff of placard men at football matches & church billboards. We need to listen carefully to them despite the familiarity, for they are stunning, they're shocking & yet to the believer they're profoundly encouraging.
Jesus is the "way and the truth and the life".
The key is that Jesus is the way to God.
He is the way to God because he is the truth of God seen as a person. The one who from eternity "is at the father's side & makes him known" (1:18), the one who is perfectly at one with his Father (as he says to Philip in v9) "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father10I am in the Father, and [that] the Father is in me?" Jesus is God made flesh.
Jesus is the way to God also because he is the very life of God himself. "In him was life" we're told at the start of this gospel (1:4) "For as the father has life in himself so he has granted the son to have life in himself" (5;26) Jesus is the one who proves he is the life of God as the "resurrection & the life" (11;25).
So, it is because Jesus is the truth & the life of God, that he is the way for others to come to God.
All this shows why what Jesus adds in v6 is true; "no one comes to the Father except through me". Jesus is unique, only he can bring people to God & he can do it because of who he is & what he has done.
Inevitably in our philosophically pluralistic world, these words are a scandal. But the logic of them is inescapable there may well be insights & cultural benefits in many other religions & world views, there may be much that can be respected & certainly there are rights & freedoms of expression that should be defended, but the words of Jesus himself are crystal clear - the only way to find a secure knowledge of the true God, is through him. "I am the way and the truth and the life" says Jesus. "No one comes to the Father except through me."
Let me tell you a little parable;
The traveller stood by the signpost; weary & perplexed. Around him in all directions were innumerable paths heading off in every direction. The mist was thick & the sign itself weather beaten & illegible. The traveller asked himself; which way should I go to get to the CITY OF GOD. There are so many alternatives, which one is right?
As he pondered the situation 3 other travellers came up behind him having travelled by the same road.
"Excuse me" the traveller, said to the 1st "I want to go to the CITY OF GOD do you know the way?"
"Huh" said the fellow traveller "You don't still believe in that rubbish do you? These roads all lead no where. All this talk about there being a CITY OF GOD is all so much mythological claptrap. If you take my advice stay here & set your tent by this sign & make the best of what you've got."
The traveller's face fell but it brightened a little as the 2nd traveller arrived.
"Excuse me do you know the way to the CITY OF GOD?" The 2nd traveller shrugged his shoulders uncertainly, "Who can say? I'm agnostic myself; may be this road, maybe that? No one can really know which is the right one, all you can do is to be open minded & tolerant, you make your own mind up as you want, I wouldn't dream of influencing you."
The traveller thanked him but privately he had hoped for more specific guidance.
As the 3rd man approached the traveller he asked again "Do you know the road to the CITY OF GOD?
The 3rd man smiled back benignly "An unnecessary Q my friend all roads lead to CITY OF GOD they only appear to go in different directions. I promise you, back there in the mist they all circle back on themselves & all converge on your desired destination. So follow any as you wish & it will get you there in the end."
The traveller frowned. Was it really likely that roads which start off in such radically different directions should end up in same place? Surely it would be possible to go the wrong way, as well as the right way. But which is the right? He sighed in frustration & bewilderment.
Suddenly out of the mist a 4th man appeared. Unlike the others he did not come up the road the traveller himself had come by. Instead he had come down one of the other paths a steep & little trodden one at that.
"Excuse me" said traveller one more time "Do you know the way to the CITY OF GOD? One person has told no such place exists, another told me to be open minded on the Q & a 3rd assured me that all roads lead there. Can you tell me right way?"
"Indeed I can." Replied the stranger. "I'm afraid the others you spoke to were only guessing. You see they have never been to the CITY OF GOD & so can only speculate about the route. I on the other hand, I live there, the CITY OF GOD is my home. So, come, follow me, I am the way." (p)
Jesus claim to be the way to God, the only way are so important in driving us out to share his goodness with others much is at stake, people need to hear of him if they are to have the chance of the most important thing in the world knowing God. That's why here at St John's we want to encourage each other to share the good news, why we seek to provide opportunities for all kinds of people to have the chance to hear.
But also these truths give us great reassurance as believers, particularly in our insecurity & uncertainty. Jesus is the way to God, so If we are trusting in him we do know God through him.
Have you noticed how Jesus' disciples here are slow on the uptake - Thomas in v4 & Philip in v10? We're not the 1st to benefit from Jesus' patience!! Jesus has to say to Thomas "v7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. You are slow to realize who I am I am the way the truth & the life, so "From now on, you do know him (Father God) and have seen him."
If you know Jesus, you know God, if you've seen Jesus by engaging with his words, you have a clear vision of what God is like.
And that secure knowledge leads us finally to a;
3)A secure Purpose v11-14
Jesus encourages his friends to trust him that they have a secure way to God & reminds them of how his life has pointed them to his true identity; v11 "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles (lit "works") themselves" - the miracles which are often called "signs" here in John's gospel signposts if you like pointing to who Jesus is.
Then he makes clear that as they wait for their secure future to become reality, they are not to be passive & inactive but rather they have a purpose to fulfil on earth. A purpose that is to share in the works of Jesus.
v12 "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing."
It is clear in John's gospel that Jesus' words & works were to point people to who he was so that they might recognize him as the messiah & have eternal life. This work that people might "believe in the one [God] sent" (6:29) was Jesus' work, it is also delegated the work of his followers.
And he adds; v12 "who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."
Now there are those who have seen these promises as a mandate to expect more spectacular miraculous happenings through Christians today than Jesus himself performed. But do we really think "greater things" can mean more impressive happenings than dead people brought to life, extreme weather being changed, paralyzed people walking again? No, Jesus says the one having faith in him v12 "will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."
Jesus was going to the Father after his death & resurrection. Those events change everything.
In the light of what happened that 1st Easter what Jesus did & said during his life on earth becomes so much clearer than at the time. That means "greater works" are possible now as the message of eternal life through Jesus is spread in word & deed.
And after the cross & his rising again, Jesus can be with all his followers anywhere by his HS (as we're going to learn more about in coming weeks). The Spirit's coming means that "greater works" are possible now as the message of eternal life through Jesus is spread in word & deed.
How will these "greater works" of people coming to faith in Jesus, come about?
Through prayer in Jesus' name v13"And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
Here is great assurance for us as believers today. As we come to God in prayer Jesus' will answer our prayers.
And we are to ask in "Jesus' name" that is on the basis of Jesus' death & resurrection (he is the only way to God after all).
Asking "in Jesus' name" also means asking for what is in keeping with all Jesus is & stands for so we pray to God in the name of the one who is the "true light" (1:9) we can't ask for things of the darkness, we pray to God in the name of the one who "was with God in the beginning" (1:2) so we pray knowing he knows how best to answer & what is best to give us.
We are to pray v13 "so that the Son may bring glory to the Father." That was Jesus' purpose on earth, it is the purpose he now (having returned to heaven) shares with us.
Well, at different times & in different ways we all know uncertainty & insecurity in our lives.
Jesus' final words to his insecure, anxious disciples address us & the main point?
Recognize who Jesus really is.
Recognize that through him who goes to prepare a place for us we have a secure future in heaven.
Recognize that through him we have the secure way, the only way, to God.
Recognize that having these through him, he gives us a purpose to see his message spread, as we cooperate with him through prayer.
Jesus is the way he brings us to God that is the only way to a truly secure life. What a relief it is to know that our relationship with Him is not fundamentally dependant on us, but on Jesus the way the truth & the life.
End with another little story;
There is a legend about a man caught in quicksand.
It is no doubt a characterture but it makes the important point;
As the man struggled, sinking nearer to suffocation & death Confucius saw him & remarked "There is evidence that men should stay out of such places".
Buddha came & said "Let that life be a lesson to the rest of the world".
Secularist "You're not really sinking in quicksand you're simply being influenced by out dated religious superstitions think positively & overcome your neurosis."
Mohammed commented "Alas! It is the will of Allah!"
A monk arrived saying "say these prayers & do your best to perform these rituals & God may have mercy on you".
A Hindu priest walked by & said "never mind you will return to earth in another from".
Shirley McClean the high priestess of New Age appeared & offered her verdict; "You will soon truly be one with the universe".
But then Jesus of Nazareth arrived & said to the man "Give me your hand my friend & I will pull you out for I am the way".
When it comes to humanities insecurities the crunch question is; Can we do it ourselves through religion or self actualisation, or, seeing as we can't, is their someone able to help us? In other words is our security based in ourselves or is it based in another who is worthy of our trust?
We are all caught in the quicksand of sin & death. We cannot escape it. All religions don't lead in the same direction. None of the other people mentioned can help or rescue us. At best we have their teachings & writings.
Only Jesus is God come to earth to seek us out. Only Jesus died a death that deals with our fundamental problem of being cut off from God. Only Jesus has been through death himself & can therefore overcome it for us. Only Jesus can stretch out a hand & take us into the presence of the living God. Only he is the way the truth & the life who can give us a secure future, a secure way to God & a secure partnership joining in his work as we wait to be join him in the Father's house forever
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