He is…We Are To Be: The Way, The Truth, and The Life - John 14:1-14 (Wednesday Night Reflection)
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 even help. When I met Lee Davis a year ago, he told me it wouldn’t be so bad on the Island, that if I went too far, I would eventually run into water. I haven’t gotten lost on the Island, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t messed up in other places, before and since arriving. 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)—one of those instances, as we drive through DC, gave us a driving tour of St. Elizabeth Hospital. Other times, as happened about one time a few years ago, the GPS has two different locations for the same name (where places have similar or identical names)—and you might find yourself at Baptist Medical Center School of Medicine rather than Baptist Medical Center Hospital. More often, as Anita will tell you, it is because though the GPS is operating flawlessly, the driver is not. I will be having a conversation with someone, either in the car or using the handsfree on my phone and get so involved in the conversation, I take my eyes and ears off the GPS and just drive while we talk. A little over a month ago, when I drove to see James when he went into Duke Medical Center, as I was coming back I received an emergency phone call from a friend in need of some counseling. I figured I could talk and drive…not that hard of a route. The only problem was, rather than use than pay attention to the GPS, I instinctively turned West onto 540 rather than East living me to drive through RDU to get back heading the right direction.
My brothers and sisters, I need Captain Jack Sparrow’s prized possession.
Jack Sparrow’s compass—the compass he usually held on to so tightly—did not point to true north. It possessed the ability to point the direction of holder’s deepest heart’s desire. Often in the series of movies, despite having the compass in hand, it was evident that Jack was lost…his mind often clouded by what his heart’s desire truly was because he didn’t know, or because his thinking was clouded by the constant infusion of rum into his system.
The trouble is, my brothers and sisters, there are many times, even without rum running through our bloodstream, that we are just as confused as to what our heart’s desire truly is, or at least what it should be. There are plenty of times where we are just purely lost.
How do we know we are lost?
We know we are lost when we believe a person’s value or worth is tied to their skin color, ethnicity, language, education, gender, employment status…
We know we are lost when we place “our rights” over the welfare and lives of others…
We know we are lost when we compromise our beliefs in order avoid conflict, secure a job, or increase our income…
We know we are lost when we think that moral integrity is not important…
We know we are lost when we feel that these statements apply to everyone else but us.
My friends, in so many ways, we’re as lost as Jack Sparrow ever was.
Into this world where we find ourselves lost, 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 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 is 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 must remember that our faith rose out of Judaism, that Jesus was an active practicing Jew, 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…” and “Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” 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….” “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 evening, 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 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 will 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 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…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. Those ways may even seem to bring us what we think we want, 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?
We don’t need any mystical compass. We have the grace of God which 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.