Which Way To God?
Date: 16 Jul 2017
Text: John 14:5-14
In this series of sermons from John’s gospel I want us to think about how we can lead a life Living in Christ. That means a life where we have been reconciled to God and are no longer His enemies. It should follow that if we really do want to do that then we need to come to faith in Him in the first place. In this passage, in fact in a single verse, Jesus tells us how we may come to God. It is important to realise that there is only one way and I hope that by the end of this sermon that may be a little clearer.
In earlier passages in John’s gospel, Jesus has already spoken of being the bread of life (John 6:35) whereby He feeds us both physically and spiritually; and the shepherd of God’s people (John 10:11-18) in the way that He both guides and guards us. Both of these thoughts relate to the way we live our lives and in these few verses we see how we may receive that life, that life where Jesus feeds and leads us.
Coming to that stage in our lives involves our understanding and reacting to this amazing statement that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and in fact the only way to God His heavenly Father. Over the next few minutes I want us to consider that statement as well as Jesus’ comments to Philip and Thomas in particular.
In the passage that we looked at a couple of weeks ago we considered Jesus’ command that we should love one another. However, towards the end of that passage Jesus also told His disciples that He had to go away; He had to leave them to go and prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. He did though tell them that He would come back for them at some time in the future. We left that passage with Jesus’ final thought, “You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:4).
It is as we ponder that comment that we see what may be Thomas’s first signs of doubting. Perhaps he hadn’t been listening properly or perhaps he simply didn’t understand what Jesus had been saying because he came out with that straightforward question, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?” (14:5) Peter also wondered where Jesus was going and so asked Him directly, “Lord, where are You going?” (13:36). At that time Jesus had told His disciples that where He was going they couldn’t follow – yet! Given that brief exchange it seems almost understandable that Thomas was a little perplexed by Jesus’ latest comment. I’m sure that there are many who are like Thomas today; they want to believe but find some of Jesus’ comments to be a little confusing and difficult to understand.
Jesus had already explained what was happening when He said to them, “My Father's house has many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (14:2) Perhaps they didn’t appreciate that at that time He was talking about heaven. Thinking about heaven is difficult for anyone and I should imagine that Thomas was most definitely confused by what Jesus had said. Heaven is a place that is totally beyond our finite comprehension. There is a brief description in Revelation 21 although even with the grandiose description that John gives us I doubt that it does it justice. Most importantly heaven is the place where Jesus lives and where we will go and be with Him come the final day.
Way, Truth, Life
I’m not sure what sort of answer Thomas was expecting. Perhaps he expected something from Google Maps or a guide book; it’s difficult to say! And whilst Jesus gave a fantastic answer I’m not sure that it answered the full meaning of Thomas’s question. It is at this point that Jesus came out with what is one of the most famous verses in the Bible, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6). There you go Thomas, an answer that is as clear as mud! Given that he seems to have struggled with understanding what Jesus had been saying all along I wonder if Thomas fully understood that answer? Jesus had of course been talking of returning to heaven to be with His Father and for others to join Him there, there was only one way to get there and that was through Him.
Reconciliation & The Way
Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus had been talking about the need for sinners to be reconciled to God. He had constantly reminded everyone that they were sinners and, therefore, at odds with God and unworthy of being in His presence. Down the centuries people had tried a variety of ways to be reconciled with God none of which worked; their attempts were feeble and temporary. They tried being obedient; they tried offering sacrifices on a regular basis; they attended the synagogue regularly and observed all the festivals. In and of themselves they all seem to be good things to do. Sadly though, for these people these activities were all temporary and short lived. They soon stopped being obedient and returned to their old ways. They stopped offering sacrifices and started to worship idols. They attended the synagogue for the wrong reasons and generally attended the festivals only for the resultant party! All of this meant that they still needed to be reconciled to God; a step that they were either reluctant to take or didn’t fully understand.
Now Jesus had come to move amongst them and preach the need for repentance for their sins, a step that would bring about the reconciliation that many so desperately sought, although it was a step too far for many of the people.
Repentance always involved a sacrifice of some sort, generally a lamb, and that was something that they had been doing without being truly repentant, hence the constant cycle of sin and sacrifice. Jesus came to be the ultimate sacrifice; the One Who would die to pay the price for the sins of all those who accepted Him as the Saviour Who had indeed died for them. In doing that Jesus became the way to reconciliation with God; there was no other way and there is no other way today despite the all too numerous people and groups who suggest that there are a whole host of ways to God. Jesus makes it quite clear that He is “The Way”, there is no other.
Jesus had also said that He was the truth. What can He have meant by that? We need to remember that there were many false teachers operating at the same time that Jesus was conducting His earthly ministry. They were peddling all sorts of weird and wonderful theories on how people could be with God, none of which were true simply because none of them included any mention of Jesus. Without being reconciled to God people were sinners, sinners who were slaves to sin. Jesus dealt with this issue in His comments to those Jews who believed in Him, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) Jesus went on in this conversation and said to them, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36) Here in these verses Jesus identifies Himself as being “The Truth” just as He did in John 14:6. In order to be free from sin and reconciled to God we need to know, understand and accept the truth and that truth is Jesus Himself. Isaiah had already implied as such when he said of Jesus, “He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone.” (Isaiah 53:9 - NLT).
If we want to be reconciled to God and forgiven our sins then we need to totally accept that Jesus is not only the way but also the truth in all that He says and does.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour we receive not only forgiveness for all our sins but also the future gift of eternal life spent with Him. Now that may seem a long way off but we needn’t worry since by knowing Jesus our life here on earth lived in Him will improve beyond all recognition. Jesus gives us the life that we most desperately need.
By dying on the cross of Calvary in our place, Jesus paid the price for our sins. He died, was buried and on the third day rose from His grave and in doing that He defeated both sin and death once and for all. By accepting Him as Lord and Saviour we also defeat death and consequently we will live for ever with Him. Yes, we will die physically but we will never die spiritually and when we do die physically we know that we will go to live with Jesus in heaven for all eternity.
Towards the end of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of Himself as being the narrow gate and road through and on which we all need to walk. He said in that sermon, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14). Sadly, as Jesus said at the end of that verse, very few find Him as the way to life, real life. If we want to live a real and full life then the only way that we can do that is by coming to faith in Jesus and then by living in Christ.
Earlier in John’s gospel, John 11:25-26, there is a conversation that Jesus had with Martha. Martha had told Jesus that she knew her recently deceased brother Lazarus would rise again at the resurrection. Jesus replied, “’I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” Jesus is the life; do you believe that?
Jesus’ comments don’t end there though, important though His comments were. He went on to make the very important point that, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (14:7). At this point the disciples had been with Jesus for quite a while. They knew Him well enough to have given up everything to follow Him and yet they didn’t really know Him. They may have known Him as a man and as a friend but they didn’t fully appreciate or understand the full significance of just Who He was. In John 1:18 the Apostle wrote, “No one has ever seen God, but the One and Only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” Perhaps Philip wasn’t aware of that or didn’t understand it since He asked Jesus to show him the Father!
I suspect that Philip isn’t on his own in not fully appreciating that Jesus is God just as our Father in heaven is God. The disciples were the ones who were with Jesus and therefore knew the Father through Him. Jesus certainly seemed a bit taken aback by Philip’s question since He replied that, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9b). Jesus then proceeded to try and explain to Philip and the others that “it is the Father living in me, who is doing his work” (14:10b) before adding, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (14:11a). Some of that may be difficult to fully understand but put simply, what Jesus was saying was that He could only do His work because His heavenly Father was both in and with Him. Without the power given to Him by His Father He couldn’t do anything.
If we want to live a life in Christ then we have to be reconciled to God by coming to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. These famous verses in John 14:6-7 make it very clear that the only way to come to God is through Jesus; there is no other way. A wonderful translation of this verse by the Bible Society in their New Testament puts those verses this way: “I am the road to follow, the truth to trust and the life which can never die. I am the only way to God. To know me is to know Him. If you look at me, you’re seeing God Himself”.
If we want to lead a life in Christ then we need to understand that Jesus is the only road to follow; He is the only truth we can trust and the life that He has to offer is a life that will never end. Just think about that and decide for yourselves if Jesus is the Way that you want to go. If you do decide to follow Him and follow a life living in Christ, He will never let you down.