He Is...We Are To Be: The Way, The Truth, and The Life - John 14:1-14
He said, I AM…
I am the Bread of Life…you can only find truly satisfying nourishment that will quench all thirst and satisfy all hunger in me…
I am the Light of the World…I bring order to the chaos of your life…I shine light into the darkness of your sin and reveal your true intentions…not to condemn you, but in order that you might be saved…I give you life…I gather you with others around Me.
I am the Gate…It is only through Me that you will find truly abundant and eternal life.
I am the Good Shepherd…Hear My call…know My voice…Respond, and I will lead you through myself into the pastures that will allow you rest.
I am the Resurrection and the Life…I am the source of life…don’t look to places of death for living, but look to Me, come to Me, take your eyes off the things of this world and let Me give you new life.
My friends, I am so directionally challenged, as I’ve told you before, and as many of you know, that often times a GPS doesn’t work. Sometimes it is because, even with the turns mapped out, I turn up the wrong street (turning a block too early or too late when the streets are close together). Other times, as happened about this time last year, the GPS has two different locations for the same name (where places have similar or identical names)—and yes, Bill, I know that you spell GPS, M-A-P. More often, as Anita will tell you happens every time my friend Jerry and I ride together, it is because though the GPS is operating flawlessly, the driver is not. Jerry and I will start a conversation and get so involved in the conversation, I take my eyes and ears off the GPS and just drive while we talk. For instance, one time we were talking and I missed the turn to off of 540 to get onto 40. No problem, we thought, the next exit was for Highway 54, so we thought we would take that exit, come up by Chapel Hill and drop him off in Swepsonville before I headed on back to Burlington. We resumed our conversation after taking the Highway 54, driving, and waiting to enter Chapel Hill. The next thing we know, we are crossing over Highway 70 and end up getting on I-85 on the north side of Durham. In all three cases, I end up losing my way because of a lack of precise directions, not following directions, or simply taking my focus off of the directions.
My brothers and sisters, one sad thing about this time of year is that, at least in the United States, it is evident that we, including many Christians, have lost our way. How many of us have seen the viral video that was shot on Black Friday at the Wal-Mart in Moultrie, Georgia? What about reading the article concerning the man in Springfield, Massachusetts, who was took his girl-friend’s two year old son Black Friday shopping and left him locked in the car while he went into K-Mart? The police found the young boy in the locked car at 1:30 am Friday morning, and later found the man, and his new 51-inch flat screen television at home. In San Antonio, Texas, one man tried to cut in line getting into Sears. When he was confronted by another man in line, he punched the guy in the face, only to have the guy in line pull out a gun.
A friend of mine shared it this way via Facebook: “Black Friday, Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.” Of course, with “Grey Thursday” the new shopping day on the market, many folks were doing the trampling on the same day they gave thanks.
Some of us may want to say hey, that was in Georgia, Massachusetts, and Texas, not North Carolina, and there is no guarantee that any of those folks pushing and shoving are actually members of a church anywhere. You’re right, and I can’t guarantee you that any of the folks in the next story are church members, based on anything other than circumstantial evidence. It wasn’t even Black Friday, it was last Sunday. A story was shared with me of a line of folks all decked out in their “church clothes” last Sunday morning waiting for Target to open because Target was to have approximately 150 of the new Wii U game systems. When the store opened, there was nothing to do but watch these “church folks” push and shove their way in line to be able to get their hands on one, check out, and possibly make the 11 am service.
My friends, we’ve lost our way.
“But preacher, I wouldn’t be caught dead shopping like that. I know that there is nothing in a store worth acting that way over.” That’s true, many of us would never get into a shopping conflict. However, how many of us will leave today and if someone cuts us off on the way to the restaurant will curse, either aloud or under our breath, or “give them the bird.” Which of us might put down someone because of the color of their skin while having lunch with our friends? How many of us might participate in some gossip, either spreading it, or simply listening to it, at work this week? Which of us might log into a porn site on our computers later this week? How many of us leave this place of worship and then, later today or later this week, knowingly and willingly, perhaps eagerly, sin? Most likely, every one of us, if we are completely honest, would answer “yes” to at least one of these questions.
As I said, my friends, we’ve lost our way.
Into this world where we may have lost our way, Jesus, the one who came to seek the lost, says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Jesus has gathered the disciples to prepare them for his coming departure—for his death and resurrection. He cautions them to guard their hearts and not let their hearts be troubled. He promises that He is preparing a place for us and that He will return to gather us all. Then he says, “you know the way to the place where I am going.” Suddenly, constantly questioning Thomas speaks the words that all of us would want to speak were we there, “‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’”
Thomas, like Martha, Mary, and all of those who had gathered to mourn Lazurus’ passing had missed the point of Jesus saying, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” was missing the point of Jesus saying, “you know the way to the place I am going.” Thomas’ focus was not on “the way,” but on the destination that Jesus mentioned.
Our way to think about this may result in us wanting to say, “heaven, Thomas. Jesus was talking about Heaven and saying we know the way to heaven.” If we, and I have to admit I was among the “we,” prior to preparation for this sermon, think that the destination is the focus of what Jesus is talking about, then we are misreading our GPS and trying to turn too late. Jesus’s focus for what the disciples’ know is not the destination, but “the way.” Jesus tells Thomas, and the others, you do know “the way,” because you know me, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
“The way,” that Jesus speaks of us not as simple as listening to the computerized voice in our GPS telling us to turn right, turn left, and our destination is on the right. We have to remember that our faith rose out of Judaism, that Jesus was an active practicing Jew, and that we have to hear His words in the context of the Jewish faith. Very often, in relation to Judaism, “the way,” was not used in relation to a literal path one was to walk, but the path of one’s life—it was reflective of a person’s lifestyle—“For the Lord gives wisdom…guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones…Therefore walk in the way of the good, and keep the paths of the just…”[i] and “Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.”[ii] This way, of living for God, stands in contrast, to the alternate lifestyle, “It will save you from the way of evil, from those who speak perversely, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil; those whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways….”[iii] “The way” that Jesus is talking about is about living a life that brings us into a life-giving, life-sustaining, relationship with God.
Jesus makes it clear through the rest of our passage this morning, as He talks about His connection to the Father, that the destination He is talking about is not about getting into heaven, but about having a relationship with God. Jesus tells the disciples, and tells us, “you know the way to have a relationship with the Father. You know that I am one with the Father…you have watched the way I walk…how I live my life, how I interact with the world, how I live in obedience to God…that is the way to relationship with God…so you know the way…”
As Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He is calling for us to live our lives in following Him in order to walk in relationship with God.
Jesus says, “I am the way,” if you walk with me, if you walk in my ways, then you walk in relationship with God, you walk in ways that are pleasing to God, you become joined to God.”
Jesus says, “I am the truth.” We remember that from the very beginning of the Gospel of John we know that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh…that Jesus is God incarnate. When we look at Jesus we are to understand that we are looking at God Himself in human flesh…in our flesh…and as we enter into relationship with Jesus, we are entering into relationship with God…to walk with Jesus is to walk with God.
Jesus says, “I am the life.” Jesus says, “when you walk with Me, you truly live.” All else may seem like life…some aspects of a walking in the ways of the wicked may seem like fun and games and a good time, but they all end in death…when we walk in Jesus’ way, in the truth of His words, we are walking the way that truly is life…the only life that will not end in the grave, but will last forever.
Too often we want to stop and say, “I can’t walk like Jesus…I can’t walk in His way…He is Jesus…I’m no Jesus…He was God in the flesh…I can’t be like that…no one can.” Jesus counters that statement: “Very truly, I tell you the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact, will do greater works than these….” To say that we cannot walk the way Jesus walked is to suggest that Jesus is not the truth…for Jesus said that in relationship with Him, if we walk with Him, we will be able to, through His strength and His grace, to do all that He did, and more.
What does this mean for us as we heed the call to be “the way, the truth, and the life”? It means that we, as the church, are called to be a place that leads folks into a deeper relationship with God…it means the paths we walk, the things we do, need to reflect the ways and work of Jesus…a commitment to the will of God, a commitment to walk the dark and difficult paths, a commitment to reach into the darkness and shine forth a light of hope, grace, and life. It means that we offer folks not the lies of this world that lead only to death, but the truth of God that leads to life.
Have we lost our way?
The grace of God calls us back, allows us to come back, and strengthens us to be back—walking the way of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.