Sunday, April 24, 2005

Sermon - Easter 5 - John 14:1-6

Easter 5 – April 24th, 2005
John 14:1-6
“Which Way?”

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In 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. 3And 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. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I. Introduction –
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, so the saying goes.

An old man lived alone in Idaho. He wanted to spade his potato garden, but it was backbreaking work, and his son, Bubba, who used to help him, was in prison.

The old man mentioned it in a letter he sent to his son by saying, “I’m not sure exactly what to do. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. It looks like I won’t be able to plant that garden this year after all.”

A few days later, he received a short letter from his son, “Dad, For heaven’s sake, don’t dig up that garden that’s where I buried the bodies!”

At 4 a.m. the next morning, a crew of police officers, and the FBI arrived to find the bodies. After digging for hours, they gave up and apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
“Dear Dad, under these circumstances, that’s the best I can do, go ahead and plant your potatoes now.”

Bubba couldn’t do it himself, so he got the garden dug a different way.

We live in a world which teaches there are many ways to do things. Many ways to write a letter, paint a picture, raise a child. But there are some things that doesn’t work with. For some things, there is only one way.
Or, there is the right way and the wrong way.

When it comes to things spiritual, there is really only one way. And that way is Jesus. He says so himself. Let’s get a handle on this beloved passage from John’s Gospel, by focusing on this question, “which way?”

II. Where are we going?
“Where are we going?” So the wife asked her chauffer (who happened to be her husband) as they drove down the road. “Trust me” he said, “This is a shortcut”. “Why don’t you stop and ask for directions!” “Because I know where I’m going”. Yeah. Right.

Everyone wants to go to heaven. But how do we get there? Where are we going? Can we be sure? Do I have to be a good enough person – do lots of charitable, loving things? Follow the Ten Commandments? What if I break one, or two, or a few more than that? How good must I be? The Bible says perfect. How do I do that? Where am I going? How do I get where I want to be?

Often, we are lost. But we don’t want to admit it. Thomas had no problem admitting his confusion, his lack of understanding, his lost-ness. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Sin muddies the waters. It takes us off course. It turns us all around. In fact, according to our sinful nature, our destination is not a very pleasant one at all, “Broad is the way that leads to destruction”, so it is written.

Sin is a road that leads to death. And it is so steeply downhill, this road, that we cannot escape the destination. We are barreling headlong and helpless toward a dead-end, in every sense of the word.

Jesus, who knows our condition well, knows which way we’re going. But which way is Jesus going? That’s important too!

III. Where is Jesus going?
Unlike us, Jesus knows where he is going. Unlike us, he is not lost or astray. When Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, his series of “farewell addresses”, he knew that soon he would be leaving them, and leaving this world. He would be returning to his father, and he would no longer be present among them (at least in the same exact way).

Jesus had a course charted out. He knew the way. And that road, that path, led always to the cross. The way of the cross. That’s Jesus way. When Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for the disciples, he means he is going to the cross. There, at the cross, Jesus pays for our sins and pays our way to heaven by his blood. There at the cross, Jesus builds for us mansions in heaven – and guarantees us eternity with the father. It’s not after his ascension that he goes to prepare a place for us – but it is there in the suffering and dying for our sins that the work is done, that “it is finished!”

In his empty tomb we can see the way it will be for us – as we too will rise from the grave and live. He the firstborn of the dead, he has led the way for us to follow in him.

And yes, though he has now ascended to the Father, Jesus does promise to return for us someday. Either when we too pass through the grave and gate of death – or if we should live to see the day that he comes again in glory.

Where is Jesus going? To the cross for us. To death and to life again for us. To the right hand of the Father for us. Why? For us – to be OUR WAY – truth and life.

Jesus says, very clearly, “I am the way… No one comes to the Father but by me.”

That means there is an exclusivity of the Christian faith that our postmodern culture is not comfortable with. That Jesus claims to be the ONLY way – well, that offends people. People want to respect the other “ways”:

We’ve been studying various other religions in our Sunday morning Adult class. We’ve seen how Buddhism teaches that the ultimate goal is Nirvana where all pain and suffering exist no more. And the way to reach this Nirvana is by following the 8-Fold Path to Enlightenment, and then you reach that place of total nothingness.

In Hinduism, the ultimate goal also is Nirvana, but Nirvana is different. Instead of being snuffed out like a candle, Nirvana for a Hindu is being reunited with the all- pervading force of the universe through reincarnation. Depending on how you live your life determines whether you move up or down the food chain.

In Islam, heaven is a paradise of wine, women, and song. And the way to achieve this blissful paradise is, ironically, to abstain from these things in this world. In addition, a Muslim must follow the Five Pillars of Islam to achieve paradise.

And, of course, Judaism denies that Jesus Christ is Lord. That it is through the following of the Law that one obtains eternal life. But one is never able to live up to the Law 100% so…what do you do?

These so-called ways to God and to paradise completely contradict Christianity. They contradict Christ. Each, in its own way, teaches that the way to get there (heaven, Nirvana, whatever) is through YOUR human effort.

Even many Christians give a nod to the idea that each religion is a different way to God. But if you could get to heaven and to the Father any old way – if the Jew and the Buddhist and the Muslim and the whatever – as long as you really believe SOMETHING. Then why the cross? Why the resurrection? Why did Jesus bother at all? If my own efforts can prevail – or if there is another way – then Jesus was wasting his time and his holy precious blood.

And some Christians get off the track here, thinking there is another way WITHIN Christianity. How many prayers are offered to Mary or some other saint – as if they too are a way to the Father. But doesn’t scripture say, “there is one mediator between God and men – the man Christ Jesus”? (1 Timothy 2:5) Some Christians think that a strong enough commitment to Christ or decision for him is what is needed. But he says, “You did not choose me, I chose you!” (John 15:16).

The truth is: Jesus is the only way. And thank God he has made himself known to us. Thank God he has shown us the way, himself. That he comes to us, still, in his word. That he forgives us, still, by our baptism. That he strengthens us for the journey with his Holy Meal. Through Him, we are lost no longer. Through Him we can see the holy light of heaven at the end of life’s tunnel. In Him, and by Him alone. For His is the way.

That Jesus is the way – provides comfort that cannot be found elsewhere. It’s why he can say, “do not let your hearts be troubled”. Because trusting in God and trusting in him – we know we are in good hands. Trusting in ourselves – well, we fail. We get lost. But Jesus knows the way, for He is the way. Jesus tells the truth for he is the truth. And Jesus gives us life – his own life – that we too might have life in him. That’s the way! That’s the only way. In Jesus Christ. Amen.

V. Conclusion
The many ways of the world may leave us, like the disciples, confused. But Jesus is the Way. Through Him we know the Father. And in Him, we have Truth and Life.

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