The Way, the Truth, and the Life – Sermon on John 14:1-14

The first three weeks of Easter we looked at accounts of encounters with Jesus after the resurrection—in fact, on the day of the resurrection. Last week, we heard from Jesus as he talked about himself as the gate for the sheep, an account that came before Jesus even celebrated the Passover with his disciples before his death. Today, we have Jesus speaking to his disciples, yet again, before he dies, but it seems like a passage that would fit well with something he might say after the resurrection, what with the bit about going away somewhere to prepare a place for us. It seems like something Jesus would say before he ascends back to heaven, even if that’s not where it falls in John’s plotline.

But maybe that’s part of the point. In the arc of John’s gospel, Jesus is clearly speaking of going to his glory at the cross, going to prepare a place for the disciples with the Father by his own loving obedience to God’s will at the cross—preparing a place for us through him with the Father. Those are words for the disciples in John’s gospel, but those words are also for us today. And we know how the story unfolds. We like those who came after the disciples who lived those many hundreds of years ago know what comes afterwards. And Jesus is speaking to us as well. And so these words today speak to all times and all places and by their nature embody the universality and eternity of God’s promise. No place or time isn’t touched by the promise of God, simply another way to say that nothing will separate us from God’s love in Jesus—the very heart of the Easter of the message.

Let us pray. May only God’s Word be spoken and may only God’s Word be heard; in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Today’s gospel is a treasure trove of theological riches. We could mine it for all sorts of deep meaning, and it wouldn’t disappoint. But sometimes, you don’t have to dig too deep in order to find beauty. Sometimes, the real gems are just there, ready to be appreciated and marveled at simply for what they are. Let’s take a moment today to look at this passage for its simplicity, for the beauty it possesses, without hacking at it with a theological pickax or examining it with a historical loupe.

The central part of this passage, for most, is the statement from Jesus to Thomas: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Now—this line is known the world over. And it’s the second part that is troubling for some. It seems to suggest exclusivity for Christians, that those who don’t subscribe to the Christian faith are somehow excluded from the place where Jesus is going to prepare a dwelling with him and the Father.

Without delving too deeply into that quagmire, suffice it to say that determining who’s in and who’s out of heaven isn’t our job. Judgement isn’t my job. Judgement isn’t your job. It’s Jesus’ job, and what he says here is that he is the way to the Father. He’s speaking to his disciples, to us. We, his disciples, don’t come to the Father any way but through him. For us, that is to say, we who call ourselves Christians, don’t come to the Father on our own—not by making sure that we do something particular and not by making sure we don’t do something particular. As disciples of Jesus, as Christians, Jesus is the way to the Father—no other way gets us, as Christians, to the Father. Our hope is built, predicated, supported, foundationed, rested upon Jesus and Jesus alone.

This is important for us to be upfront about because we confess this each week when we say that we believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. When we confess that, we affirm, we make a public statement that we believe that Jesus is the one who exercises dominion, that is to say, exercises control, sway, authority, direction, and supremacy over us. Our commitment is to Jesus, but more important than that, our commitment isn’t to anything else. To be sure, there are many competing factors in our life vying for lordship, vying for control, sway, authority, direction, and supremacy, but when it comes to our own spiritual well-being, our lives of faith, we quickly and easily seem to forget that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We are wholly and completely dependent on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ as the way to the Father’s heart. We won’t reach the Father’s glory without Jesus because he is the way.

So before we worry about whether our neighbor knows Jesus as the way to the Father, let us make sure we who make a public confession of Jesus as our Lord live into our relationship with God as ones who recognize he is the way to the Father and for us, there is no other way—most of all not our own way. We rely on God’s mercy, not on our own understanding on strength. And as for the rest, let it up to Jesus to decide if he’s their way to the Father’s heart or not.

But what does Jesus mean when he says that he is the way, the truth, and the life? He goes on to say that “if you know me,” that is Jesus, who only just called himself the way, the truth, and the life, “you will know my Father also,” and then still further he adds, “from now on you do know him and have seen him.” Clearly this is none other than the mission of Jesus—to bring us into relationship with the Father, God who loves us as children. “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,” we confess, and Jesus himself tells Nicodemus, “for God so loved the world that he sent his only Son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” To know Jesus is to know the Father. To know Jesus is know the way to God’s glory. To know Jesus is to know God’s will. To know Jesus is to know God’s peace. In knowing Jesus, we already have access to the fullness of God’s design for our lives because they are one and the same. Jesus is the true embodiment of God’s way, of God’s truth, of God’s life among us.

But how does that make any difference for us? Recall that Jesus began speaking to us today by telling us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus recognizes that there’s a whole world of things out there that would deceive us into believing something would keep us from God’s tender mercy toward us. But Jesus tells us that knowing him means that we already know the grace of God. It’s ours already. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the living of that grace for us.

But what good is a way if we don’t follow it?

What good is the truth if we don’t believe it?

What good is a life if we don’t live it?

Too often we act as if faith is about life after death. This passage today for Jesus where he speaks of going to prepare a place for us in his father’s house with many dwellings is one of the places in the Bible that is often wrongly held up and clung to by people who reduce their faith to mere eternal life insurance. Jesus didn’t come down from heaven simply so we could spend our entire lives this side of the grave troubled over the afterlife. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly—already now. And what’s more, he tells us, “just as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Just as God sent Jesus into the world that we might come to believe that nothing will stand in the way of God’s love for us, so Jesus now sends us to do the same work. “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do,” Jesus tells us today, “and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” We who know Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, will do the same work that Jesus does. Our mission as his disciples is his mission, and his mission is God’s mission.

God who is love has called us by that same love to relationship with him. This is not love that’s simply goodwill and affection toward those around us, but love that overcomes divisions, mends wounds, doesn’t insist on its own way or understanding, and always thinks the best of other people. We are called by Love who is patient, who is kind, who trusts all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love is the Way.

God who is the Word has fed us with his very own self—his body given up for us and blood shed for us, a life lived for us, the fullness of divine glory given up for our sake so that we come to embrace the God’s will for us, for all people, and for all creation. God has told us his will time and time and time again, he has given us his word in many and various ways, and in the great revelation of his dogged desire for us to believe what he says, he miraculously becomes incarnated as one of us, the very promise of grace and truth in true humanity with us. We are fed again and again and grow in relationship with God and one another when we live into the reality of God’s presence among us. The Word is the Truth.

God who is the Life has sent us to care for all as he has come among us to care for us with his love, mercy, compassion, and grace. We who have been united with Jesus in death are like him no longer bound by it, but are alive to God. Christ is alive—not only bodily in his own self, but in our very own lives. No longer bound to distant years in Palestine, Jesus lives when we reach out with his own mercy. Jesus touches, saves, heals, here and now, in this and every place, when we who bear his name, when we who call ourselves his disciples, when we Christ-ians bring the good news of God’s love into the streets with us wherever we go, beginning first in our own homes, in our dwelling places here and now. Love, drowned in death, shall never die. Caring for all is the Life.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—a merciful and gracious revelation of God’s love, will, and care for us and all things. It’s as simple and beautiful as that.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s