John 14: 1-14 Who, and what, is the way to Jesus?
Today I begin with a question to each and every one of us (well 2 questions really, posed as one), one which we as Christians should be able to give a straight forward answer to but which we often find difficult to put into words – a simple question: Who, & what, is the way to Jesus?
In John 14:6 Jesus told His followers, “I am the Way, the Truth & the Life; no-one comes to the Father except through me.” But what did He mean by this? As Thomas so quickly points out when Christ says He will prepare rooms for them in His Father’s house, “Lord, we don’t know where we’re going, how can we know the way?”
When you’re trying to get somewhere, what you need is clarity. Nobody is satisfied with vague directions to a location to which they’ve never been, and Thomas here is expressing exactly what probably all the disciples were asking – what is the way to God, to where are we going? They needed to know where it was they were going and how to get there, just like we do today when we are embarking on journeys.
Today we rely so much on GPS and Sat Nav to take us directly to destinations but I wonder how many of you have been led on wrong routes by such devices, ended up at dead ends and had to turn back, making the journey twice as long and more difficult? It has happened to us a few times so now we generally rely on, and have more faith in, a paper map – my husband says ‘Who needs a computerised voice telling you when to turn left and right when a good old map does it for you, and you’re not led in wrong directions by a map.’ However, when we went to Seville a couple of years ago we got lost late at night in the back streets with no proper map, only a mobile phone, and had to rely on ‘Google maps’ to reach our destination; the phone map then was definitely worth following. It’s certainly nice to know the way to go when in unknown territory.
Here the disciples needed to know the way to go on their journey of faith – unknown future territory. What does Jesus tell them? “I am the Way.”
In that one statement is the most loving act in history. Here is a man facing betrayal and a certain painful death, trying to prepare His followers for what was to come. He knows the cross awaits Him in a few hours, knows what it means and why it must happen. He knows they are feeling apprehensive about the future, particularly as He has told them one of them will betray Him and that He will have to leave them, but they don’t understand what He means.
Put yourselves in those disciples’ shoes for a moment. They have worked with Jesus for nearly 3 years, given up everything to follow Him, shared good times, have amazing stories to tell. They saw raging storms calmed with a word. They saw 5,000 men, plus thousands more women and children, all fed with a little boy’s lunch. They saw people instantly and miraculously healed with a word or a touch from Jesus. They’d even seen Him raise people from the dead. They thought He was always going to be with them on earth but failed to understand the meaning of His earthly ministry or why He had to die. Jesus was talking about His death and resurrection but they didn’t realise this when He spoke of ‘preparing rooms for them’ – that He was making it possible for them, and us, to have the relationship with God that He desires us to have.
Just like the disciples, we are human and want to know where we are going before we begin a journey. The disciples wanted to know the next step, turn and ultimate destination of where this journey of faith would take them. When we are going on a journey we generally plan it, thinking about the roads we will travel, how we will get there and how long it will take us. We want the fastest journey, and the disciples were looking for the same kind of information. But Jesus makes it clear – we may not necessarily know the journey or how we will travel, we just simply need to walk in faith, following the signposts to Him and trusting that He is the way.
Last week we heard about the ‘Good Shepherd’ and how shepherds lead their sheep through the gate. Sheep don’t choose their own path to the safety and protection of the pen, but rely on the shepherd to guard and care for them. In the same way, in order to be safe, we have to trust the shepherd and not wander off on our own adventures following the wrong signposts and try to find our own way. That will lead us to danger and pain. But when we follow Jesus, He leads us to exactly where we need to be.
Jesus was saying He is the only way to God, the only way to Heaven; belief in Him is the only way to eternal life. He is our Sat Nav system, our only way to our eternal Father, and our map is the Bible which consistently points and leads us in the right direction to Him as our only hope of forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with God, and a new life that never ends.
Of course, many people try all sorts of ways to get to God without Jesus, they follow all sorts of pathways, pathways which lead them in the wrong direction and often lead to pain – like lost sheep. I’m sure there are many times when we ourselves have wandered away from Christ and times when we have let go of His hand. I know myself there are times when I have lost my way, when the truth becomes fuzzy and life seems difficult, but Jesus is always there waiting for me to take His hand again and lead me in the right direction. That’s what Jesus does – He takes us by the hand and leads us, He strengthens us and guides us personally every day, if we allow Him to. He is ‘the Way,’ the way to heaven.
Christ also told the disciples He is ‘the Truth.’ But what is this truth that He speaks of? Jesus testifies to the truth and teaches the truth because He is the truth. In Him there is nothing false or misleading, or fake or uncertain. Jesus is the beginning and culmination of all that has been true throughout eternity, to seek the truth ultimately leads to Him. When we seek to figure out what is the truth and what is a lie, we can measure it against the words of Jesus, who is Himself ‘the Truth.’
When Christ says ‘I am the Truth’, He means ‘Trust in me, Listen to what I am saying to you and trust me. I am about to pay for your forgiveness with my blood, with my own death. I cannot love you any more than I do and what I’m about to do on the cross is all that is needed to lead you to me. Trust that what I’ve done for you is all you’ll ever need to be right with God.’ In this life, therefore, nothing we ‘do’ will bring us any closer to God because Christ has already paid the ultimate price to bring each and every one of us close to Him through the forgiveness of sins. On the cross, Jesus took our sins on His shoulders and took the punishment for us. We can all therefore have a relationship with God, no matter who we are or what we have done, the barriers have been removed.
Jesus showed us who God truly is – the bread of life, light of the world, the gate, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life. The truth is that God is not distant and unknowable, He is right there/here at work in and through Jesus.
Jesus went on to tell the disciples He is ‘the Life,’ the only way for us therefore to have life is through Him. We need to accept the sacrifice of Himself as a sacrifice for us. There is no access to God independent of Jesus; He is the link between us and God. But He is not speaking of this life. This life serves as a mere drop in the ocean of eternity and serves as the starting block on the journey that leads to the ultimate goal of life eternal.
Scriptures speak often of the life to come after this one on earth, and as we follow the voice of our shepherd, we can grasp what that eternal life is here and now. We can live this life in such a way that we are not chasing things that don’t last but chasing things that do last and have eternal significance. This type of life has eternal impact not only for us but for untold others around us. But part of life is suffering, just as Christ suffered so too we suffer; this journey of life is not smooth and He never promised it would be. He told us we would have to take up our own crosses to follow Him. We will all meet our hurdles, feeling that God has left us at times, and not be sure of who He is or where He is, but Christ promised He won’t abandon us or leave us because that would mean He gave His life in vain.
I have recently been reading a book by Patrick Regan called ‘When Faith gets Shaken’ which seems very appropriate for us at this time. When we are struggling and vulnerable we have to put our hope in Jesus. He writes:
“Life is complex and we are more fragile than we sometimes realise. When I’m in pain, and I see those around me suffering, I sometimes lose sight of God. But when I strip everything back- my past experiences, my frustrations, my fears of being misunderstood- I realise that I need to look again at the person of Jesus. When I see him, I find hope. I remember that He really is willing to get involved in the agonies of our lives and to go through the pain with us. He doesn’t leave us on our own to figure things out and he’s desperate for us to know how much he loves us. When I remember that, I find myself wanting not to abandon ship but to be part of the journey. In the process of that journey, I am slowly learning to let Jesus speak to me about his love for me and for the world. I need to stay as close to him as I can, walking beside him even if I’m walking with the limp of confusion and doubt, because I love him.”
Do you love and know Jesus in the same way? We have to keep looking to Jesus so that we never walk away from our faith. When He refers to Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life, He is giving us a better way to live our lives through Him. He is showing us that through following Him daily in faith, He will lead us to a better, richer, more meaningful life than we could ever find on our own. Without Him there is no way of living.
To sum up, Thomas a Kempis in the15th Century put these words of Jesus this way (put into modern language):
“Without the Way, there is no going; without the Truth there is no knowing; without the Life, there is no living. I am the Way which you ought to follow; the Truth you ought to believe; the Life you ought to hope for. I am the Way unbreakable, the Truth unfailing, the Life unending. I am the Way that is straightest, the Truth that is true, the Life blessed, the life uncreated. If you remain in my way, you will know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free, and you shall have eternal life.”
Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Do you know where He has gone and do you know the way there?