Sermon May 18/ John 14:1-14/ Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life/ Vicar James Preus
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 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? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask meanything in my name, I will do it.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Jesus says: “Believe in God; believe also in me.” There are two ways one can interpret such a statement. Either Jesus is just an ordinary human-being, who perversely tells his disciples to commit idolatry by telling them to believe in him the same way that they believe in God. Or Jesus is the true God, the Son of God the Father. And Jesus is saying to truly believe in God is to believe in Jesus. Of course, this second option is the correct one. Jesus is the true Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds. Jesus is equal to the Father in respect to his divinity and he is inferior to the Father in respect to his humanity.
Jesus makes a crucial point in stating both “believe in God” and “believe also in me.” You cannot truly believe in God without believing in Jesus. Many people claim to believe in the true God and to serve God, yet they actually do the opposite.
There is a radical Islamist group known as Boko Haram that has wreaked havoc on northern Nigeria for the past five years. The group terrorizes villages, killing civilians, and the Nigerian government has been largely ineffective in snuffing their terror. You might have heard of this group recently on the news as on April 14 this year they kidnapped over 200 school girls from a village in northern Nigeria. Most of these girls are Christians. This past Monday Boko Haram released video allegedly showing 136 of the over 200 kidnapped girls covered head to toe in traditional Islamic garb. (I heard about this on the radio and looked it up on the internet to see it myself). The group claims that the girls have been converted to Islam. The video even shows one girl say: “Jesus is not the Son of God.” Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, defends his actions by referring to the Quran saying: “There are many verses in the Quran that allows the seizing of slaves. Abduction of slaves is allowed.” In another video released by Boko Haram, Shekau is quoted: “…to any unbeliever…kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill! This war is against Christians, I mean Christians generally.” Abubakar Shekau and the rest of the Boko Haram gang think they are serving God! Shekau states in a video that they follow “solid footsteps.” The footsteps they follow are not the footsteps of Christ and so they are not the footsteps of God. Not everyone who claims to believe in God or to serve God truly serves God. Only those who believe in Jesus know and believe in the true God.
Now while Boko Haram is an extreme example of those who claim to believe in God, while they reject Jesus, there are many more subtle examples. It is quite popular to be religious. It is even more popular to be spiritual. You likely won’t get into too much trouble if you say “I believe in God.” You’re more likely to get into trouble if you say: “Jesus is the only way to heaven.” Many people claim to believe in God and to serve him. They attempt to serve God by doing valiant deeds: giving to the poor, working constantly to give their family the standard of living they deserve… recycling… People try to get close to God by immersing themselves into nature or consuming as much wisdom as their brain can hold. And, as we have seen, people even try to serve God by kidnapping and killing people. All these ways of believing and serving God have one thing in common: they’re the wrong way, because they exclude Jesus.
Now many will say: “What’s the difference? With Jesus or without Jesus, it’s the same thing.” But Jesus makes all the difference. Jesus does not demand that we work to earn our way to heaven. God did not send us Jesus simply to show us how to behave to get into heaven. If we could obtain eternal life by our own works, then God would have left us with Moses and the Ten Commandments and never bothered to give us Jesus. But we cannot earn our way to heaven. We need to be rescued from our sin, from the law, from hell. St. John says in the introduction to this Gospel: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
God sent Jesus to set us free from sin and death and to give us eternal life. Jesus makes all the difference, because Jesus rescues us from our sin, from the law, and from hell. God had compassion on us poor sinners by sending us Jesus to do everything for us. When we look at Jesus we see the compassion of our heavenly Father. We see God’s love for us. Without Jesus we are lost. The difference between believing in God and Jesus and believing in just God is the difference in believing in the truth that will set you free and believing in a lie that will enslave you.
The context of our Gospel text places us in a tense situation. The anxiety in the air is palpable. Jesus had just told his disciples that one of them will betray him. He told Peter that he would deny him. In just a few hours Jesus will be arrested and brought before Pilate. Jesus just told Peter: “Where I am going you cannot follow me now.” The disciples can feel the anguish radiating from Jesus and they are in distress. Although Jesus knows the burden he must soon endure, he looks upon his disciples with compassion and comforts them: “Let not your hearts be troubled.”
Jesus tells his disciples and all who put their trust in Jesus that he goes to prepare a place for them. I am sure many of you have lived in your home for quite some time now. Many of you are not kept up at night wondering where you will live. However, there are also many, including our brothers and sisters in the faith, who are not certain where they will live in the near future. Finding and securing a place to live is stressful. This is a common problem among our shut-ins. As people get older their bodies and minds begin to fail them. Eventually even living in the home where they abided for decades becomes too difficult. In this city there is a shortage of space in care-homes, so finding a safe place to live is challenging. And our sisters in Christ held captive by the Boko Haram also long to return home and be held in their parents’ arms. With these things in mind, having a secure place to live is a true luxury.
Jesus knows our need for a place before we do. More certainly than God will find an earthly dwelling for those seeking safe lodging, Jesus prepares a place for us! Jesus, right now, is preparing a place for you to live for eternity. As a couple who prepares a nursery for their expected child, Jesus prepares an eternal abode for those who trust in him. How will we get to this heavenly home Jesus builds for us? Through Jesus! Jesus is the Way, the Truth, andthe Life!
How is Jesus the Way? Jesus is the way to eternal life in heaven, because Jesus blazed the trail for us. Between us and eternal life stood an impassible sea of sin and death with insurmountable mountains of judgment on either side. We were like the Israelites blocked by the Red Sea with Egyptian chariots closing in. As Moses divided the Red Sea through God’s command, Jesus removed the sea of sin and death and leads us past judgment unscathed.
Jesus fulfilled his Father’s will by fulfilling the law and taking all of our sin upon himself. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection he has removed everything that stood between us and eternal life. Jesus shows us the way. Not the way I might give directions to someone for the best route from Mayville, ND to Regina, SK. Jesus doesn’t show the way by demonstrating how to fulfill the Law (although he certainly teaches us how we ought to live). Jesus obliterates all obstacles and leads you by the hand to your eternal home.
This is not a physical journey, although we must travel his road while we are on this earth. The way we travel is a spiritual journey through faith. We know the way to heaven by trusting in what Jesus has done for us and what he continues to do for us through his gifts to the Church. Our journey begins in Baptism. Through God’s Word and water Jesus dwells in our hearts through faith. God creates faith through his Word (that is through his message of the Gospel). Faith receives the promises of God and clings to Jesus as the true and only way. God’s Word then causes faith to grow and get stronger. So the Word of God that creates faith is received by faith and also causes faith to grow! The Word of God gives us Jesus. Faith receives Jesus and rejects everything that is not Jesus.
The devil builds fantastic four-lane highways to lure you from the true path. The world adores these fresh black tops with newly painted lines. But these ways so noble in their works, so elegant in their wisdom, so heavily traveled yet meticulously maintained, are false ways. There is only one true way to eternal life. That is the way Jesus Christ paved by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. We travel this path by dying with Christ in Baptism and trusting in his promises through faith.
What is the Truth? Just as Jesus is the Way, Jesus is the Truth. There is only one true Way. All other ways are false. Few statements sum up the Truth as succinctly as Luther’s explanation to the 2nd article of the creed:
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death, that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
This is most certainly true.
This Truth is the only “solid footsteps” that leads to eternal life.
How is Jesus the Life? Jesus is alive. Jesus tells us: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus will not take us to a land of the dead, but a land of the living. Jesus died for our sins, reconciled us with the Father, devoured death, and he draws us to himself to live with him. Jesus, our truth and our way, leads us to eternal life. The Law kills, because the wages of sin is death. All who attempt to reach God through works of the Law will die. The Spirit of Jesus gives life to all who hold Jesus in their hearts through faith.
Jesus is the only true way to eternal life. This is not a condemning law. This is life giving gospel. Jesus has done everything for us. He has paved the way to eternal life. Jesus prepares a place for us to live. When we look at Jesus through faith, we see the compassion and love of our heavenly Father. Through faith Jesus dwells in our heart and we dwell with Jesus and God the Father. Through Jesus, we have eternal life and an eternal resting place with God.
Let us pray:
In suffering be Thy love my peace,
In weakness by Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
O Jesus, in that final hour,
Be Thou my rod and staff and guide,
And draw me safely to Thy side!
1 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 6:23
1 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:11
LSB 683 “Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me” Stz. 4. Paul Gerhardt; tr. John Wesley