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John

The Way, The Truth, The Life

John 14:1-7

It is his last night before the Crucifixion. Jesus has much to say, and says it in a memorable way.

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God£; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know£ my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.

Trust

Chapters and verses in the Bible are a wonderful idea. They aid in memorization of the Scripture, provide ready reference points for scholars to debate, and in general help catalog and make useful the Bible. But the very act of dividing the Bible into chapters and verses also carries with it the risk of missing important connections. Such is the case here. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” says Jesus – but the circumstances are lost in the chapter heading.

The phrase is not a random one, nor the start of a new lesson from the Master. It is a reply – to the look on Peter’s face when Jesus tells him that he will deny the Lord three times that very night. No doubt Peter was very upset by that prophecy – but he dares not deny it. The Lord has been right too many times.

Therefore, our Lord comforts Peter with the instruction. Now, if the leader is going to fall, what then of the lesser disciples? Were they not thinking through the possibility of their denial? If so, then, we can see the worry that Jesus is soothing. He tells them not to worry; he is preparing a place for all of them. They saw the night ahead as one which would make or break them; Jesus sees them all falling away – but ultimately turned back to him. Many rooms for many disciples; it is a comforting thought.

Do not let your hearts be troubled

We sometimes think that our worries are inevitable and inescapable. But Jesus makes it clear: worrying is a choice. We let our hearts be troubled. We have a choice about it.

This is true, but most of us think we know the intelligent choice when it arrives. Consider, however, the ultimate in trouble: death. If you are a Christian, death holds no terrors, for you know that your Lord has conquered death. You are not afraid of death, for “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

Now, if that is your great fear, should you not trust your Lord with the lesser fears as well? Will you remain serene in the face of death – and panic at losing your car keys? What is there to fear?[1] Is there anything which can separate us from God’s love?

Going away

In his comfort Christ tells them that he is going away. That’s not very comforting. We can imagine how that felt to the disciples; they must have felt as if he were abandoning them. But he gives them good news:

  • He’s not going because his lease has expired. He’s going for the purpose of welcoming them into new life. (More on this later)
  • And, if he is preparing a home for them in the new creation, he tells them he will not fail them there either. He will come back to get them.

As we shall see, we benefit from both his coming and his going. He tells them that they know the way to these “many rooms.” How often we know something – and forget that we know it. This is why preachers do so much more reminding than instructing. The worst of it is this: how often we forget our Lord, and attempt to tackle the world on our own. No wonder he calls us to assemble each week.

You will note in this passage, and those to follow, that the ones putting the questions are disciples from the outer group. It’s as if Peter, James and John have nothing to say. It’s not that they are bashful. But these men have seen the transfigured Christ, the Jesus in power. When he speaks of going away, they have a better understanding. So it is that the ones who ask the questions are men like ourselves, who have not seen – but believe.

The Way

The phrase, “the way,” is most commonly used in the physical sense.

  • There are no freeway signs at this time. The way would be unmarked; you have to find it by inquiring – and trusting those who point you.
  • You can’t see the end of the way – it’s just a path through the brush. It leads somewhere.
  • There is danger on the way (remember the Good Samaritan on the Jericho road?)
  • Usually, there is only one true way; the others all lead to a different destination. Picking the right one at the start of your journey is therefore most important.
  • Most of all, it is a journey – an adventure. We still look at it this way today.

The parallel to Jesus being the way is quite accurate:

  • You still need to trust those who point you on the way. The government puts up no signs directing you to God.
  • As long as you are in this life, you will not see what the end will be. You must walk by faith; there is no other way.
  • Danger you will have; false paths, false guides and the things of this world to consume you.
  • There is only one right path. It’s true – no one comes to the Father except by the Son.
  • It is a journey, not a destination. The adventure is in the going and doing, not in the arriving. We are just poor, wayfaring strangers.

If this is so, then finding the way – the right way – is of utmost importance. How do we do that? By seeking the truth.

The Truth

One of the most frequent phrases found in red letters in your Bible is this: “I tell you the truth.”[2] Telling the truth; caring for the truth and living it are a part of Christian character. As your mother told you, character counts.

Truth – for those who do not love Jesus

I submit that you can tell a disciple of Jesus from the pagans of our world in a simple manner: the pagans handle the truth quite differently.

  • They suppress the truth – and earn the wrath of God.[3] There is a reason that Christianity is the suppressed religion on our state’s college campuses these days.
  • They exchange the truth – for a lie of their own choosing.[4] The Dalai Lama is welcome to speak in our colleges; Mother Theresa is not. God in return abandons them to their lusts – so that they will fall victim to their own depravity.
  • They reject the truth – and so earn the wrath of God.[5]
  • They add to the truth – regulation upon regulation.[6] By imposing such a burden they hope to create a substitute for what God has already completed.
  • They learn about the truth – but never do it. Even inside the walls of a church building, there are those who have listened to a thousand sermons – and never really heard.
  • Worst of all, they claim to be without sin – and deceive themselves. How often have you heard someone tell you that God will always take a man of good works into heaven? I’ve been pretty good; why would I need a Savior?
Truth – for those who do love Jesus

How, then, can we see the children of light and the truth they proclaim? The Scripture gives us a few guidelines:

  • Love rejoices in the truth.[7] When the truth is revealed, are we overjoyed – or looking for another excuse?
  • The children of God say nothing against the truth – they only speak for it.[8] They praise truth, and always speak it; they also reverence it.
  • The children of God obey the truth.[9] It is their rule and practice of life. This is a witness to others as well.
  • The children of God speak the truth in love. Truth is not a bludgeon for the head but a balm for the soul.
  • The children of God bring back the wayward by the truth.[10] Those who stray are retrieved not by having a good time, but the loving application of the truth.
  • The children of God are purified by obeying the truth.[11] Obedience restores the relationship with the Father.
  • Finally, the children of God are firmly established in the truth.[12] Truth becomes a habit; obedience becomes a habit; love becomes a habit – and wonderful are such habits.

Jesus tells us he is the truth. God is his attributes, and we see God in the flesh here.

The Life

Interestingly, the word used here is not the one for spiritual life, but physical life. In this we see a shadow of things to come at the Resurrection.

Life – in this life

The Old Testament taught us that “life is in the blood.”[13] This is the reason that Christ, in establishing the Lord’s Supper, told us to drink and remember him - ”this is my blood”. Hardened hearts are needed to reject this life.[14] The word means biological life – which is why the Scripture reveals to us that we reveal that life in our bodies:

The Holy Bible, New International Version

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

2 Cor. 4:7 through 2 Cor. 4:12 (NIV)

The Life to Come

All this points, of course, to the life to come. If there is no life after the grave, then we are fools indeed. But Jesus tells us that he is indeed the resurrection and the life.[15] The Resurrection is not only proof of God’s power in Christ, it is the first sampling of the resurrection to come when Christ returns to claim his own. The things we do in this life are of little importance if they relate to the body now – but of great importance as they relate to the body forever.[16]

What then should we do? It is a matter of knowing where to put your treasures. We are counseled to lay up treasure in heaven – knowing that when we die what we have here will be ours no longer.[17]

The Life Approved

John gives us a vision of the life approved by God:

The Holy Bible, New International Version

2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4We write this to make our£ joy complete.

1 John 1:2 through 1 John 1:4 (NIV)

See how simple it really is:

  • What you see and know, you testify.
  • You do so in fellowship with all Christians as well as with God.
  • In doing this, you make your joy complete.

Summary

We should walk away knowing who is the way, the truth, the life. But what can we do about this truth in our daily lives?

The Way
  • Recognize that this is a journey, not a destination. Never be content to be what you are, but move further on.
  • Trust in Christ. He who triumphed over death is your guide.
  • Overcome the dangers along the way by trust and obedience.
The Truth
  • Always uphold, and never deny, the truth. No matter how inconvenient this will be.
  • The truth is not a bludgeon; handle it with love.
  • When you know the truth, be obedient to it.
The life
  • Reveal the life of Christ in your own body. Chastity, for example, speaks loudly in these times.
  • Lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth.
  • See your Lord in all you do; testify to his goodness to you; and rejoice.

[1] Most of us would answer, “public speaking.” But are all of us called to that?

[2] The King James translated this as “verily, verily, I say unto you”

[3] Romans 1:18-20

[4] Romans 1:25-26

[5] Romans 2:8

[6] 1 Timothy 4:3

[7] 1 Corinthians 13:6

[8] 2 Corinthians 13:8

[9] Galatians 5:7

[10] James 5:19

[11] 1 Peter 1:22

[12] 2 Peter 1:12

[13] Leviticus 17:11

[14] Ephesians 4:18

[15] John 11:25

[16] 1 Timothy 4:8

[17] 1 Timothy 6:19

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