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The Way

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We've been going through the Gospel of John, a series we've entitled The Word Became Flesh. Today we come to a portion of Jesus' communication with His disciples in the upper room on the night in which He was arrested where He is trying to, I guess, bring them down to street level, to show them both that there are things that are going to take place that they don't understand and that will not only confuse them, but will tend to bring fear into their lives, while at the same time, telling them again and again to simply trust, and that "These dark events are actually the proof that I am the Messiah and the proof that your faith has not been misplaced."

We end chapter 13 of John by seeing Peter make that bold announcement. He says, "Lord, I'll lay down my life for You." And Jesus says, "Your faith has not come to that level yet. Your head knowledge is not quite where your spiritual maturity is. And in fact, Peter, you'll deny Me three times. Every time you're put at risk for saying you believe in Me, each and every time you will in fact deny Me. And there will come a day when you'll follow after Me, when you will do the very things I am about to do, but tonight will not be one of those nights."

Well if Peter, the leader, the outspoken one, is shown to not be as strong in his character or as strong in his faith as he thinks he is, what about the remaining disciples who are there? Judas has left. Already doubts have come into the hearts and minds. This Paschal meal has turned into something that is very confusing to them.

And so as we transition into John 14, Jesus, again in light of the prediction of Peter's denial, wants to reassure not only the disciples that night, but all of us, that what we simply need to be assured of is our faith and our trust in Jesus. We live in a world…Really I guess for our era it began back in the Sixties when the petals were flying off all the flower children, the cry that all religions are the same became the mantra. It's not a new one, by the way. Really that phrase came back from 1795 when a British poet, William Blake, uttered those words that all religions are the same.

We live in a day today when we try to reconcile Islam and Hinduism and Confucianism and Christianity and Buddhism as all different paths to the same God, all headed to the same place. The differences, they say, are only in the foothills of this one mountain, and that whatever path one chooses, they'll all arrive at the peak. It's the world's way to try to simplify and try to make same all of these different religions.

It's interesting to me that we don't do that with economies. We don't say that Communism and Capitalism are really just the same thing. We don't try to reconcile those two. We don't need to even argue about it. We're quite aware of the differences in those different economic systems. Or politically, we don't just say that Socialism and Democracy or Marxism and Monarchy that all of those are just really the same thing. They're all governments after all, and they're all headed in the same direction. No, we understand there are fundamental differences between all of those forms of government. Oh, there are similarities, and yes there are similarities in the different religions. There are some ethical similarities. All the religions teach not to kill your brother. There are some similarities for sure, but my friends, they're not all headed in the same direction, and they're not all the same despite what the philosophy of today suggests.

No more than you would say, "Well language is language. All languages do the same thing, don't they? They all have nouns and verbs and pronouns and adjectives, and they're all just communicating. It may sound different, but really languages are all the same." Well that's abstract, but try just generally talking about language when you go down to Mexico, or you go to Moscow, or you go to Beijing. You're going to find out that there are fundamental differences in language. And you can't just say, "Well I have a language, and you have a language, and we'll just all speak together, and we're all going to be communicating the same thing," because no that doesn't happen!

The difference between abstract and reality is a stark difference. And as it is with language, as it is with economies, as it is with political systems, so it is with religions. My friends, they're not all headed to the same place. They're not all headed in the same direction.

If there were two religions that were closely aligned, we would say that it would be Judaism and Christianity, but Jesus is telling His Jewish disciples on that night that not every direction is the same direction, that in fact, there is only one direction. And my friends, the startling and revolutionary and politically incorrect thing to tell you this morning is that there is only one way to God. There is only one way.

John writes this gospel toward the end of the first century. It's the last of the gospels written. He has spent many decades after Jesus made these words, after He said these phrases we're going to study this morning. And John, after many decades of reflection, still has this same conclusion that Jesus is the only way, that Jesus is the only correct and proper way. In fact, John so writes his gospel, it is as though…and I'm serious with this…that you would have to be an idiot not to read the Old Testament, and not see Jesus in it, that that is exactly what Judaism was pointing to, that that is what the true Scriptures were saying, that Jesus is simply the revelation, the manifestation, the culmination of all the Scriptures have ever spoken of.

And that is what Jesus says on this night. That is how He chooses to try to calm the hearts of His disciples. They're confused. Their religions have taught them that a Messiah would be an earthly Messiah, that He would come riding on a white horse. He would overthrow Rome. He would set up Israel in its secure borders. And they're discovering that their Messiah has quite a different agenda.

And so Jesus, in John 14, says, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me." Now both of those words, believe, there are in the same verb tense, and basically what Jesus is saying…They both should be taken as imperative commands. He is saying, "Believe in God. That is what you're to do. Your hearts are troubled. The cure to a troubled heart is to believe in God. And believe in God, believe in Me! Believe in the things you have believed in, and let that faith settle your heart."

The word for troubled here is the word for agitation, like the agitator on a washing machine. Their hearts, their minds, their souls, their consciences are just being agitated with the events as they are unfolding. And Jesus knows how agitated they will be over the next few days. And Jesus says, "Don't let your heart get so stirred up. Don't let it be so troubled."

My friends, when we allow the events that happen to us in life, the inevitable traumas and tragedies and difficulties and disappointments that happen to us, let's not let our hearts get troubled. You're a mother here this morning, and you have that one child who didn't come with you, wouldn't come with you. Maybe you don't even know what they're doing this morning. Don't let your heart be troubled. You're here today, and you're thinking, I don't have a picture-perfect, Norman Rockwell family at all. This day is quite different in the way that it approaches me than it seems to be approaching everyone else. And Jesus says, "Don't let your heart be troubled."

You don't know what you're going to do because you don't have another paycheck coming. You weren't able to buy your mother anything because you can't even pay your light bill. Don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God! The only time when it matters for you to believe in God is when the storms come. It's when times are difficult. That is when you need to realize and discover that your faith is genuine, that it is real. "When the immediate, physical things seem to be destructive in your life, when it seems that your Messiah is being arrested, when it seems that all you have given up is all for naught, don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, and believe in Me," Jesus said. "Believe in Me."

And Jesus gives them such a powerful reason for that. In verse 2, He says, "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." The word mansions there comes from the Latin Vulgate translation of the Greek, mansiones, which means rooms. And the Greek word, which is mone, is the word for rooms.

When He speaks of the "Father's house," we like to think of acres and acres of trimmed lawns and everyone having their own home because that is our version of the word mansion. More likely, what the Greek is telling us is that the Father has a large home, and we all have rooms in His home. It's not that we're going to be on a street a half a mile away from God, or 50 miles away from God. We have a home with God, and our home is with Him. Jesus says, "I go to prepare a place for you."

Now I've heard many sermons…I've preached a few of them myself. I think naturally when I hear these words that Jesus today is up in heaven with hammer and nails, and He is building and preparing, and it's taken 2,000 years. Man, what a fancy house that is going to be! But that is not what He is saying. Now it is going to be glorious! Okay? But the language tells us it was glorious the night He said it. Heaven has always been glorious.

When Jesus says, "I go to prepare a place for you," He is talking about going to the Cross. You see, that is how He prepared a place for you. It wasn't that He had to go build something. It's already built. It wasn't that He had to go design the Father's house. It's already existing. In fact, we learn the Temple is just a foreshadow, Hebrews tells us, of what is the reality of heaven. Those things were already there. But what Jesus was going to do that could on one hand be so troubling and so confusing is He was going to die for them because, my friends, it is only the death of Jesus that prepares a place for you in heaven.

It is His act of sacrificing His sinless self that enables you and I to have presence with God. So Jesus says, "I'm going to go." And remember what He said in chapter 13? "Where I go you cannot follow Me now, but you'll follow Me afterward. I'm going to prepare a place for you, disciples. And listen, if this were not true, I would have told you. What I've been telling you all along and you just selectively didn't understand is that what I am going to do enables you to have a place in the Father's house. I'm going to prepare a place for you."

Jesus says in verse 3, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." A lot of interpretations on this, and I've studied this a lot this week, but the conclusion is the conclusion most all of us have. He is talking about our future glory in heaven. He is not talking about when He is resurrected and He appears back with the disciples for 40 days. He is not talking about when the Spirit comes on the day of Pentecost. No, what He is saying is that He personally will come and bring you to the Father's house.

Isn't that something? We talk about angels. We talk about walking the golden streets. We talk about all kinds of ways to enter into heaven. But Jesus says, "I'll come and get you." In 1 Thessalonians 4, in that section 15 through 18, Paul, in trying to comfort one another, in trying to settle the hearts of these Thessalonians who are undergoing such persecution for their faith, as the disciples were about to, he can think of no greater thing to comfort their hearts than to say, "Hey, Jesus is coming back! 'For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.'"

This is something Jesus is going to do. It's a servant's role, by the way. A servant's role to open the door. A servant's role to lead you to the guest of honor. And the God of glory is going to do that for each and every one of you whose hearts are not troubled, but who have placed your faith in Jesus as your Messiah.

Jesus goes on in verse 4. He tells His disciples, "And where I go you know, and the way you know." Now Jesus isn't being cryptic here, and He is not saying something that maybe some of the disciples heard and the other ones didn't. But that seems to be the impression. That is why "Thomas said to Him…" in verse 5, "'…Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?'" Jesus said, "Where I'm going, you cannot follow. Not now. You'll follow later. And now Jesus again reiterates a few verses later here, and He says, "Where I go you know. I'm going to prepare a place, and you know where that is. You know where I'm going. Where I'm going you know, and the way to get there you know."

Thomas says, "How do we know this? We don't even know where You're going much less how to get there!" And then Jesus makes this statement in 14:6…this statement that violates what William Blake said, that violates what Gandhi tried to proclaim, that violates what every rationalist thinker and philosopher and professor of religion tries to say today if they say that all religions are the same. Jesus said to these Jews, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

We don't know the way. Jesus says, "I am the way." And by so doing, Jesus is saying it's not that Jesus is blazing the trail. Jesus didn't show us how to get to heaven. He didn't show us the way, the path, the steps to take. He is the way to heaven. He is not the trailblazer to heaven; He is the trail! He is the way to heaven. That is why He says, "You know the way if you know Me. You don't have to know a catechism. You don't have to know steps one, two, three, and four. You don't have to obey the most important commandments at least. You don't have to give so much. You don't have to attend so much. There is not a way. There is not a how. There is only Jesus!"

Jesus is the way. He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one…" no Jew, no Gentile, "…comes to the Father except through Me." Well, preacher, that is pretty exclusive. What about these people who live out here, and they don't hear about Jesus? What about these folks over here, and they've never heard the gospel presented to them? That doesn't seem fair! You know what is fair? What is fair is that God would just destroy this earth with a fire and start over. That is what is fair.

What is fair is that He just destroys Sodom and Gomorrah without letting Lot get out. That is what is fair. What is fair is that God wipes us all out because we've all fallen short of the glory of God. But what grace does is grace allows us to find the way by finding Christ.

You know, that complaint in your heart about those who haven't heard the gospel, the Bible speaks to that. It says that heaven itself declares the glory of God. It says that that person living out there has seen in nature itself evidence that there is a God, and that our God is quite powerful, and that He can burden an individual to bring that oral message. And it may be that that complaint in your heart is simply conviction in your heart. It may be that that family member, that school-age friend, that tribe over in that other area, it may be God beginning to prick your heart to go and to personally bring the message to them!

That is what happened with the apostle Paul. He was headed for Rome when God sent him someplace else. He wanted to go to Spain when God sent him someplace else. And God may be telling you the very people you think God is being unfair to, that is who He wants you to speak to. That ought to silence that argument unless you feel and understand that conviction.

Jesus is the way. He is the truth. He doesn't just teach the truth. You understand? He is the truth of God. He is the physical manifestation. He is, if you will, the narration of God. He is everything about what the Bible says. In other words, the Bible taken as a whole is Jesus. It's about Jesus. It points to Him! That is why Revelation is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. He is the culmination of what started in Genesis. He is the truth.

And He is the life. He is not a way to find a better life. He is not an optional way to have a good moral life. He actually is resurrected life itself. He is the resurrection. He is the Author and Finisher of life itself. He is not just a philosophy or a meditative way to think about life. Really, Christ is life, and without Christ, you don't have life. You have existence, but really death is all that you have without Christ.

Don't let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe in Jesus. If it were not so, He would not have lied to us. He went to the Cross, He went to the tomb to prepare a way for you. He didn't just lead in the discovery of a way to God or to heaven. My friends, He is the way. He is not just telling us some things that are truth. He is the embodiment of truth. And He doesn't just have a life. He is the life. The Author of life tells us what life is and how to live it. The way, the truth, the life.

The way. If you don't know Him as Savior, if you've not thought it necessary to single out Christ among all the religions, I'm going to tell you that Jesus and Christianity and the Scriptures make no bones about it. "There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved," than the name of Jesus. And, my friends, it is your acceptance of His gracious gift that is the way to the Father's house, and it is the way to life now. It is the way to discover the truth now that will make the difference in all the turmoil that so agitates our hearts.

Would you give your life to Him? Would you obey Him? Would you just choose to follow Him, to accept the commands He has given us, realizing He has done this for our benefit? Would you follow Him? Follow Him in baptism? Follow Him in service? Follow Him in reaching that neighborhood, that family, that tribe who doesn't yet know the gospel? Would you accept that as your invitation from the Spirit of God to get involved in service and work and proclamation? My friends, how sad to hold this treasure and to keep it locked away when God has given us this truth to be shared.

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