Sunday, May 07, 2017

Sermon: John 14: 1-14 Farewell Discourse: The Way, The Truth, and The Life

For a while, it seemed like ages away. Then, it was ‘next month’. And now, it’s coming very quickly indeed. We really are surrounded by boxes - I just about had a path to the desk in the study to sit down and write this sermon! In the time since our move was announced, there have been two main sets of questions asked. Where are you going? And what happens us?

And when you think about it, they’re the questions that are always asked when things change, when there’s a farewell, of whatever sort. It might be a family member announcing they’re emigrating to Australia; or a colleague handing in their notice; a student heading off to university; or a loved one approaching death. Where are you going - where will you be? what will things be like for you? can we keep in touch? And what happens us - how will things be different when you go? how will we cope?

Where are you going? That’s the question that drives our Bible reading today. Jesus and the disciples (apart from Judas 13:31) are together in the upper room. And suddenly, Jesus tells them that he is only with them a little while - that he is going away, but more than that, that he is going away alone - they can’t come with him (13:33, 36).

By this point, the disciples had been with Jesus for three whole years. They had spent every day with Jesus. They were always with Jesus. But now he’s talking about leaving them? Going away? So where’s he going?

I can remember when I passed my driving test and had my first car. I’d lift the keys, and straight away I’d be asked: where are you going? Answer? Out. Out where? Or away. Away where?

So it’s no surprise that Peter asks that question: ‘Lord, where are you going?’ (13:36) And Jesus doesn’t really answer the question. He says, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterwards.’ As usual, Peter jumps in feet first, and he asks why not? That he would lay down his life for Jesus. Yet Jesus says that Peter will deny him three times that very night.

Where are you going? ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterwards.’ So Jesus is leaving them. Their friend, guide, master, Lord is leaving them. It’s no wonder that chapter 14 begins with those very familiar words, used at funeral services. It’s obvious that their hearts were troubled by this news; that they were nervous, worried about the future; fearful; sad. It’s why Jesus says this:

‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.’ Jesus says, trust me. I wonder if you’ve had anyone this week say those words to you - trust me. They give you a promise and you have to decide if you can believe them, if they’ll actually do what they say they’ll do.

So what is it that Jesus says to trust him about? In verse 2 he gives us a promise, the reason why he is going away. ‘In 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? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.’

Now, whether you’re used to hearing about mansions (as we’ll sing about in our next hymn) or rooms, the idea is the same - lots of dwelling places, lots of space, a place prepared. This past week, we were down in Limerick, attending General Synod. The song might say that it’s a long way to Tipperary, but Limerick is even further, so we were glad to get to our hotel. It was even better to give our name, for the receptionist to tap in the details, and to say, yes, Mr McMurray, your room is ready.

A friend of ours had a quite different experience in London. The hotel had double booked his room, there was no room at the inn, so he had to traipse across London to another hotel in the same company to stay there instead!

That won’t happen to any of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus goes to prepare a place for us. He goes to make everything ready. And then he will come again, and take us to himself, to be with him. It’s the difference between the package holiday, where you get to the airport, and you’re loaded onto a bus, and taken round half the hotels on the island before you finally come to yours; and your friend, the owner of the luxury hotel flying you in his own private helicopter.

Do you see what Jesus then says in verse 4? ‘And you know the way to where I am going.’ But Thomas replies, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way.’ I wasn’t entirely sure of how to get to Limerick - I didn’t know the way, but at least I knew where I was going. But if you don’t know the where, how can you know the way?

Do you see what Jesus says in verse 6? These are well known words, and yet powerful words. How do we get to this place of promise? ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

Jesus says I am the way. He is the route, the path, the direction of travel. Notice that he doesn’t say that he is a way, one way among several different ways. No, he is the way - as he says, No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the only way to get to God.

Jesus says I am the truth. It’s not just that Jesus says true things, he is the truth. As they say in court, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So we can depend on what Jesus says. We can trust his words. We can trust him, believe in him.

Jesus says I am the life. Real life is found only in Jesus. He gives us life, because he is the life. Remember where Jesus is going. He is going to the cross, to die for us, to prepare the way for us to come to God. There is no other way, no other truth, no other life. Only Jesus can show us the Father. Only Jesus can reveal God to us - as John says in 1:18. ‘No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.’

Next week we’ll focus more on what Jesus’ going means for us. But this morning, make sure you know where Jesus has gone. He has gone to the cross, to prepare a place for all who trust in him. He has died and been raised again, to prove that his word is trustworthy, that we can believe him. As we trust him, we can have confidence and hope for the future - that where Jesus is, we too will be.

Jesus is the way. Ask yourself - am I going his way? Am I going with Jesus, or going my own way? Some of my colleagues were chatting so much on Thursday that they missed the way to Limerick, and ended up in Bray. They had to turn around, get back on track - do you need to do that today? To get back to Jesus, and go his way?

Jesus is the truth. Ask yourself - am I living by his truth? Or am I believing a lie? Who are you listening to? Can you really depend on anyone else to direct you?

Jesus is the life. Ask yourself - am I experiencing his abundant life? Am I certain of his everlasting life?

Jesus says: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 7th May 2017.

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