Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Sermon: John 14: 1-14 I am the way
How do you cope when it comes time to say farewell? Some people seem to manage ok - perhaps because they have to say goodbye so many times. Others don’t cope just as well. It’s now almost exactly a year since it was announced in Dundonald that Lynsey and I would be saying farewell and moving west, to this lovely county.
The reaction that first Sunday (and for the months until we actually moved) was astounding - lots of questions to be answered - where Aghavea was, how you would get there, would we keep in touch, and so many more beside. It’s hard to say goodbye to people you’ve come to love and ministered to. Yet, we’re really just down the road - quite a few of our friends from Dundonald have made it this far to come and see us and check that you’re being good to us!
There are other times, though, when saying farewell seems to have a greater finality to it. Whether a sudden shock or a long drawn out gradual decline, it’s hard to say goodbye. For the disciples of Jesus, our reading brings a moment of shock, as Jesus announces just before it that he is with them only a little longer. That where he is going, they cannot immediately come. It takes them by surprise, they weren’t expecting this news.
We’ve jumped forward to the evening of Maundy Thursday (having skipped over chapter 13 to which we’ll return on Thursday evening). Jesus is preparing the disciples for all that is to happen the next day, and after. They’re understandably saddened by the news that he’s leaving them - after all, he’s been with them for three years; they’ve seen and done so much together; they’ve been welcomed into the city of Jerusalem.
They imagined that this would be the victory they had long been waiting for. And Jesus is leaving? But where is he going? What is happening?
Jesus responds with those words of comfort that are so familiar from the funeral service: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.’ He’s saying that they need to trust God, and trust him through all that is about to happen.
Next, he gives them this wonderful promise: ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places...’ Jesus points ahead to the many-mansioned Father’s house. He tells us that he goes to prepare a place for us. I wonder if you’ve ever made it to a hotel, only to discover that they’re fully booked; there’s no room at the inn. It happened a friend of mine a couple of years back - he arrived at his hotel in London, but there was no space. He had to travel about 40 minutes across the city to another hotel in the same group.
But Jesus is saying that our space is prepared; it’s certain. Not only that, but he will personally come and take us to be with him. Getting to the hotel when you’re away on holiday can be a bit of a nightmare - you arrive off the plane, and sit on a hot and sticky bus for the trip around a lot of hotels before you come to yours. Jesus will personally escort us, he will bring us to himself, to his nearer presence, to be with him where he is.
As Jesus says that ‘you know the way to the place where I am going’ Thomas jumps in and says: ‘Lord, we do now know where you are going. How can we know the way?’
‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’ Those words of Jesus are words of comfort for the believer, they are also words that silence every other religious claim. All sorts of religious leaders make all sorts of religious claims, but in this one sentence, Jesus declares that he is the only way to come to God.
Jesus says: I am the way. He’s not just a way, not even the best kind of way among others. He is the way. You might have heard the old saying ‘all roads lead to Rome’ - all ways do not lead to God. Jesus is the only way.
Jesus says: I am the truth. He’s not just a truth (in this multi-cultural, politically correct, post-modern world). What he says is the truth; but he himself is the truth - the measure and standard of truth. Any other religious claim is therefore a lie.
Jesus says: I am the life. He is life, and he gives life, real life, eternal, everlasting life. Which must mean that without Jesus, we face death.
‘No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Ask most people today if they think they’re going to heaven, and they’ll say, yes, I think I’m going to heaven. Ask why, and you’ll get a multitude of answers - I go to church; I pay into church; I’m a good person really; I’m decent; I’m better than our neighbours; But none of those answers are right. None of those ways will bring you to God. The only acceptable answer is the only true and living way - the Lord Jesus himself, who on the cross made that way possible as he died for our sins and rose again to give us life.
It is as we believe in God and believe in Jesus, as we accept what he says - that we can’t come to God based on our goodness - but that Jesus is the only way, then we come to know not only Jesus, but also the Father. What Jesus is saying is that to look at Jesus is to see what God is like - to know Jesus is to know the Father.
As Jesus goes to the Father, as he reigns at God’s right hand; he hears and answers our prayers, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. It is as we pray to the risen and ascended Lord Jesus, as we pray in his name and according to his will, that we can be confident of being heard; confident that Jesus will hear and do it.
Farewells can be difficult; but as the Saviour speaks tonight, these words are comforting words. As we trust in Jesus, our future is secure; our eternal dwelling place is certain. We need not fear the future, rather, we await the time when the Lord Jesus will bring us to himself. In Jesus we find the truth and the life, as we walk in his way.
This sermon was preached at the Holy Week service in Aghavea Parish Church on Tuesday 3rd April 2012.