Sunday, March 17, 2013

I Am The Way, The Truth And The Life (John 14:1-14) Refracted Glory: Jesus revelaed in the I AM saying s of John's Gospel (Part 4)

When I’m looking for a destination these days, I usually consult a map.  Not a paper one. It’s usually Google maps on my laptop. Once I’ve found the route I want, I’ll click on the screen and move to street view so I can see an image of the place before I set out. IF I’m in doubt I’ll print off the map or the directions that Google map provides.   Of course some of you will tell me that I’m so out of date so last decade so naughties as you type where you want to go into your GPS’s and your smart phones.  While we can  get so much help in terms of geography it’s not so easy in terms of biography. To head through life… is it? But in the reading we had today Jesus gives his followers a sense of our final destination, our ultimate home.


Jesus comes from before a time of reliable maps and even reliable roads, if you wanted to make a trip you usually had to trust a guide, a human guide. The best way to cross deserts and wildernesses was to have a guide who could be trusted,  who had gone before… This is the background to Jesus saying “I am the way, the truth and the Life. More than Just the guide Jesus actually says he is the route home. “No one comes to the father but through me.” 


In the prologue to his gospel John says of Jesus… “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, he pitched his tent. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” I am hoping that as we explore the “I Am” sayings in John’s gospel that just like the different colours when light is refracted through a prism that we might catch something of the deep and wondrous dimensions of the Glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The definition of Glory we are working with is the weighty reality of all someone is… and in Jesus the weighty reality of all that God is, is revealed to us. In his “I AM’ statements we capture some of the meaning and mystery of Jesus divine nature. My prayer is that we may capture a fresh vision of the Glory of God revealed in Jesus, and that would fill us and inspire us, and overflow to the world around us.


I’ve skipped one of Jesus “I am” sayings not because I don’t want to deal with it but, like a film might use a flashback to make a point in the narrative, we’re going to look at Jesus saying I am the resurrection and the life the week after Easter. It seems to fit.  And keeping with the idea of movies I’m going to give you a quick montage, in this case a word montage, to put Jesus ‘I am the way the truth and the life’ into its gospel context. Jesus had raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, and after that had come to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, the crowds John tells us had heard of the sign Jesus had performed and so they came out to greet him, singing, praising God.There is an expectation that now Jesus will be made king, he will be recognised as the messiah that the Jews were waiting for. But Jesus talks about his death and betrayal. The religious leaders argue about what to do with Jesus. Before the festival Jesus sits down to a meal with his disciples. He surprises them by doing the most menial of tasks, washing their feet. He uses it to tell them to love one another. Again he talks of his death and betrayal. But also says that now he will be glorified, now the weighty reality of who he is will be revealed, but he must go away. Pater questions that and says he will stick with him even if it means his own death, and Jesus responds by telling Peter he will deny knowing him three times before the night is over.


That brings us up to the reading we had for today.  In the midst of all that is going on and before the trauma and grief of what is to come Jesus comforts his Disciples. It’s a very human Jesus but the comfort comes in Jesus pointing to his divine nature and mission. His disciples are good Jewish men they believe and trust God and now Jesus asks them to have that same trust in him. They have been following him on a very rocky journey that is about to get real dark and Jesus tells them about the final destination.  In his Father’s house there is plenty of room and he is inviting them to come and dwell with him there. He is preparing a place for them there, and will come to bring them home to be with him and the Father.  Paul Metzger talks of the comfort he felt during his college years knowing that  he was always welcome to come back home. That in holidays and breaks, no matter what the time there would be a light on and a warm welcome. His parents would be up to greet him with an embrace, a meal would be on the table and his room would be ready and waiting.  Maybe we are used to hearing this passage read at funerals because it is an expression of hope in eternal life with Jesus, for those who put their trust in him. While he has pitched his tent with us on our journey through life and human history the invitation is to have our permanent dwelling our destination with Jesus at his dad’s place.


It is in his death and resurrection that he has prepared a way for us. Jesus is very forthright, this is not just some hollow pie in the sky when you die promise he is using to get them through a rough patch, a sugar coated placebo to dull the pain of what is to come, he tells his disciples ‘if this wasn’t the case I would have told you’. There is a sense that Jesus would have said hey guys you know that stuff you are talking about and believe in heaven and eternal life well, can I just say don’t get your hopes up. Rather in the shadow of the cross he points them to the end of the story, he says the porch light is on and you are welcome at my Father’s house.


Now as a New Zealand male I find it hard to identify with what Thomas says in response. He asks for directions, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, how can know the way? “It’s helpful for us to see Jesus dealing with the questions and struggles of his disciples. I find myself in the same place myself, and it’s good to know that questions and doubts do not drive a wedge between us and our God, rather they can be the starting point of a quest for truth, with the one who himself is the truth. Jesus does not give Thomas a map but rather points to himself “I am the way, the truth and the life no one comes to the father but through me.’


The way home the way to the Father is not by following a set of instructions and rules, it is in knowing and trusting Jesus Christ. The final destination is not following a carefully laid out route of rituals and rites, right behaviour and right choices, it is putting our trust in Jesus. It is in Knowing and being known by Jesus.


Jesus is the way echoes the I am statements we have already explored, the good shepherd, the gate, but now in the very shadow of the cross when it may seem that the way comes to a sudden dead en, that Jesus is saying that the cross is the way because it is Jesus giving his life for his sheep, forging his way through all that we have done as humanity, that separates us God. He is the way, it leads through the grave and into new life in a resurrected Christ.


Jesus is the truth, Philip’s response to Jesus saying is to ask for Jesus to show us the father. We seem to have a movie kind of focus this morning, it’s kind of like Philip wants to have an encounter with God like Moses and the elders, like Isaiah in the temple, that the heavens would roll back like a curtain and with all the special effects and splendour they would see the glory of God. But Jesus is the truth, the truth about who God is, what God is like. Jesus is quick to point out that if you have seen him you have seen the father. The truth about God is that he had just washed the feet of his disciples. Again in the shadow of the cross, amidst the lies that people would tell about Jesus the truth of God is revealed in his willingness to lay down his life for his sheep.


Jesus is the life, in the very face of death Jesus is saying that real life, abundant life, life that goes beyond the grave and into eternity, that overcomes sin and its effects is to be found in him.


As I mentioned before Philip asks Jesus to show us the father and it’s interesting to see that even at this juncture in their journey with Jesus the disciples don’t fully get who Jesus is. It has led some scholars to talk of the difference between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith, that after the resurrection the disciples had read back into Jesus words a sense of his divinity that wasn’t there. But our reading this morning leads onto Jesus teaching on the Holy Spirit where Jesus tells his disciples that the Spirit will lead them into all truth and bring to mind what Jesus has said. It is as the spirit led them to reflect on Jesus words and signs in light of the crucifixion and resurrection that understand who Jesus is.


But Jesus pointing to believing in who he is, is not only about the future, it’s not just like an insurance policy for when you die, rather it impacts on life here and now. Jesus says that we will do the same things he has done, in fact even greater things. We will perform signs that point people to Jesus, we will do things that show the way, truth and life we have found in Jesus. The word greater often causes people difficulty but the reality is that as Jesus will no longer be restricted to a physical and temporal location, a specific time and place, that his presence in us brings life and wholeness and new creation wherever we are. In Christ God is with us and because it is God’s very character to bring healing and wholeness salvation and new life, reconciliation and justice, God will do it through us. The fact that this is not our ultimate home does not mean we don’t get involved in this world, but rather it invites us to see the whole of our life here as mission, as  journey following Jesus and doing the things that Jesus does.


Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life.

It’s part of his words of comfort to his disciples. Today do you need to hear those words of comfort. Are you facing grief and sorrow confusion and difficulty, hear Jesus words ‘do not be troubled, trust God and trust also in me’. The porch light is on at our father’s home and Jesus is our trusted guide to lead you through and lead you home.


Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life.

Are you wrestling with questions and doubt, find comfort in what we have heard today, they are not the opposite of faith, apathy is, just as with the disciples, they are opportunities for a deeper self-revelation of who Jesus is… of the weighty reality of God. I love the idea of a question being the quest-I-on, quests are not safe journeys they are fraught with danger, but Jesus, the way the truth and the life can be trusted as guide.


Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life.

It’s not fashionable these days to ask if people are sure of their eternal destination, if you were to die tonight where would you spend eternity, but we cannot look at this passage without talking eternal destinations, Jesus is straight up about the reality for those who believe in him that they are welcome for eternity at his father’s house, and that the only way to get there is through Jesus, is by believing in him, as God’s son, is through the cross and the resurrection. Please if you have not come to put your trust in Jesus Christ today do not leave without talking with someone you trust.


Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life.

Maybe this morning we find our lives consumed by worries about this world, our home here, maintaining our standard of living, getting a head. This passage today invites us to look beyond that, yes we need shelter and food for the table and… the list goes on, but believing in God and believing in Jesus invites us to see them as a temporary stop on a pilgrim path. It gives us the assurance that we can look at an alternative vision for life, outside the advertising soaked, profit driven western materialistic dream that is so pervasive in our society. It invites us to rather focus on the things that Jesus did that he says we will do also, Care for the poor, pray for the sick see healing and wholeness come, welcome the outcast, see the oppressed set free. It is the way that goes through the cross, because it is costly, but it is one that will bring truth and life to the people and world around us that God loved so much that he came and dwelt and died for.

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