Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Shortly after Lynn and I were married, my job transferred me to the town of Frederick, Maryland. Frederick is about fifty miles from downtown Washington, D.C. On one of our first days off, Lynn and I decided to give ourselves a tour of the nation’s capital. As I drove our car into Washington, we could see the Washington Monument off in the distance. We decided to drive over to it and have a look around. Well, that was easier said than done. Between the various one-way streets and the traffic pattern of downtown Washington, we suddenly found ourselves on a bridge going over the Potomac River into Virginia. Then we were driving along the river on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the Washington Monument was now in my rear-view mirror. So, I turned around at the next opportunity, drove back across the Potomac, and, once again, there was the Washington Monument in the distance. We tried not to make the same mistakes, but, in about ten minutes, we found ourselves driving across the Potomac and back onto the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
We tried several more times. Lynn and I discovered many ways to get around in Washington. Never the less, we did not discover the way that led to the Washington Monument. Instead, we became very familiar with many of the exit and entrance ramps on the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Finally, we noticed a sign to Arlington Memorial Cemetery. We drove right to it, parked the car, and toured the cemetery. As we came back out to the parking lot, we saw these tour buses. These buses gave guided tours of Washington, D.C. Lynn and I purchased day passes and got on one of the buses. Do you know that driver took us straight past the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Smithsonian Institute, the White House, AND the Washington Monument? He went to all those places, and more, and was never lost once. The driver of that bus knew the way.
In today’s Gospel, we heard Jesus say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) With these words, Jesus teaches that finding the way to the Father is a little bit like trying to find the Washington Monument. It can’t be done. It is only by the way of Jesus that we can come to the Father.
The Gospel that we just heard was a few paragraphs from the teaching in the Upper Room on the night that Jesus was betrayed. Jesus made an important promise concerning the eternal destiny of all believers. He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1–3) Here Jesus teaches us that, although our homes on this earth may be very comfortable, they are only temporary. He has promised that a day will come that even though we are dead, He will raise us up to live with Him forever. On that day, He will take us to His home where He has an eternal dwelling for each and every one of us. These lodgings in the Father’s House are far beyond any luxury that we can even imagine while we live here on this earth.
Then Jesus said something that should give great comfort. He said, “And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:4) Now, the disciples should have known the way. For example: Jesus once said, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Matthew 20:18–19) With words like this, Jesus regularly told His disciples about the way He was to go. He would go this way for the life of the world. So that all who believe in Him will have eternal life.
As often as Jesus told them about it, the disciples did not understand. You can’t really blame them. To begin with, resurrection from the dead was extremely rare. Jesus had raised a few people as had some of the prophets. Furthermore, no one in the entire history of the world before or since has come back from the dead under His own power. The disciples did not have the ability to understand that Jesus would rise from the dead after a cruel death on a cross.
I am sure that Thomas spoke for all the disciples when He asked, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5) Thomas was thinking that if He was to be with Jesus, then, somehow, he had to walk the way Jesus walked. He did not understand that Jesus would do the walking for him.
Here is one way that my struggle to find the Washington Monument is very different from the disciples’ struggle. Eventually, I would learn how to drive to the Washington Monument. On the other hand, neither Thomas nor anyone else could ever find the way to the Father’s house. That is what Jesus meant when He explained, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Jesus was telling His disciples and us that He and He alone is the one who is the way. If you know Him, you know the way.
Our natural instinct is to believe that we can and must find the way … that we may even need to make a way. The devil and the world know about this tendency and encourage it. Satan is more than happy to feed our ego and tell us that we can earn our way into heaven, and the world is more than happy to help Satan out. The world sends us all kinds of messages that pump up our self-esteem – that tell us that the good works you need for heaven might be a bit of a challenge, but we can do it. We’re basically good people. Most of us are nice guys. Heaven is within our grasp. We just have to put in a little effort and it will all be ours.
Then there are those who teach that there are many ways and they are all good. I remember working with an engineer from India. He had a full color photograph of a man on his desk. The man looked as though he was in his early twenties. He wore a lumberjack shirt and blue jeans. One day I asked him who that man was. He told me that the man in that photograph was his god. He made it very clear that he worshipped him. He told me that there were thousands of gods like that all over the world and that at some point in your life, you had to choose one and worship him, her, or it. When I told him that my God died for me on a cross and then rose from the dead, he thought I had chosen one of the very good gods and he was happy for me. Unfortunately, he never quite got the idea that the God I worship is the only true God and our only way of salvation. The world wants us to believe that our eternal destiny is like a great religious smorgasbord from which we get to pick and choose. And one religion is just as good as another.
The world’s view is exactly the opposite of what Jesus told His disciples. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). The only one who can take us to the Father’s house is the Son who comes from that house and Jesus Christ is that Son. He is the way to the Father. He is the truth that keeps us on that way. He is the life that is the destination of that way. Without Jesus there is no way to the Father. Without Jesus there is no saving truth. Without Jesus there is no spiritual life. Jesus is not just one of many ways to the Father. He is the only way to the Father. He is the beginning, middle, and destination of our faith. Any religion that is not based on the person and work of Jesus Christ is false and leads to eternal suffering in hell.
At first, this may sound like it is all law and no gospel, but Christ’s teaching really is good news. Jesus Christ did not say we are the way, the truth, and the life. That would be pure law. If it were true, we would all be doomed. Instead, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). It is Jesus who makes it possible for us to call God our Father and have a room in His house.
How did Jesus do that? He left His Father’s house and came to this earth to do the works of His Father. While He was here He took on human nature and lived a righteous life under the authority of the law. He allowed the authorities to arrest Him, torture Him, and put Him on a cross. By doing these things He satisfied His Father’s wrath against our sin. This is how He became the way for us to enter His Father’s house. We have confidence that He is the way because He rose from the dead. This is the reason He could say, “He said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3) His resurrection assures us that we too shall rise from death and that He will take us to live with Him.
What gracious words Jesus shared with His disciples in that upper room on the evening before He went to the cross. His words are full of comfort and reassurance. How gracious it is of Christ to prepare a uniquely perfect room for each and every one of us in His Father’s house. How comforting it is to know that Jesus will bring us to His Father’s house safely because He Himself is the way. How reassuring it is to know that Jesus is the full presence of God with us. Most of all, how wonderful it is to know that Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection mean that His Father is also our Father and His Father’s house is also our eternal home. Amen
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