Fifth Sunday of Easter
The Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Sermon Text.:. John 14:1-12
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
The greatest threat to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these last years of the twentieth century is the teaching called "monism." Monism is a way of looking at things that has slipped into our thinking from eastern religions which says that everything ultimately gets bundled all together into one thing, that all paths lead to the same place, all worship leads to the same god, all religions lead to the same salvation. Only the names have been changed. Monism is the driving force behind modern American pluralism that says, " It matters not what you believe so long as you believe what matters."
Monism is the underlying reason that every religion, except one, is openly taught in our public schools. It's why our children can be taught Buddhism, Hinduism, native American spiritism, and whatever other -ism there may be in the name of cultural diversity, except the one faith which confesses a crucified and rissen carpenter from Nazareth to be the Savior of the world to the exclusion of all others. That is the only faith not tolerated in the public square.
Part of what is so scandalous about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it is so inclusively exclusive. It is inclusive in the sence that Jesus Christ died for all people without exception. His death is the sufficient and atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. That means you can walk up to any stranger who happens to cross your path and say, "Jesus died for you and for your sins and for His sake you are forgiven," and you would be telling the absolute, unconditional truth. It doesn't matter wheather that person be;lieves or not. The statement remains true. "Jesus Christ died for you." You can apply the blood of Jesus Christ to the most horrible of crimes, and it would be washed white as snow in the eyes of God. That is how inclusive the Christian faith is. There is no sinner so bad nor sin so awful that Christ didn't hang on the cross for it.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is also exclusive in the sense that there is no name on earth, other than the name of Jesus of Nazareth, in whom there is the certainty of life and salvation. There is only one sacrifice for sin, and that sacrifice is the body of Jesus crucified on the cross of Calvary. That rules out all other gods and all other ways of salvation. There is only one God, the Triune God revealed by Jesus Christ. Ant there is only one salvation, the salvation given through faith in His blood.
As long as you preach a generic gods for generic virtues, you will pose no threat, you will offend no one, you will chalenge no cherished beliefs, you will ruffle no feathers. You can preach family and fatherhood and few will object. You can proclaim virtues and denounce vices and most will defend your right to your opinion. The apostle Paul didn't cause riots in Thessalonica by preaching family values and fatherhood.
Paul caused riots for preaching crucified and risen Jesus as the Christ of GOd. Preach Jesus Christ crucified and risen for repentance and forgiveness in His name and you will draw fire. Had St. Paul subscribed to the monism of this age, he would never have even troubled the synagogue with his message. The Jews were religious people, after all. They believed in God sincerely and ernestly desired to please Him. If Paul had believed that all religious roads lead to the same place, he would not have made it his weekly Sabbath practice to go to the synagogues and debate from the Scriptures that this Jesus, who is Mary's Son and God's Son is the Christ, the Savior.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. While the world teaches that there are many ways, many truths, many lives, Jesus teaches that there is only one. The definite article in front of the words Way, Truth, and Leave leave no room for others. Jesus is not one way among many ways. He is not one truth among various truths. He is not one life, among many lives. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the only way to God the Father, the only Truth who guides us into the truth by His Word and Spirit, the only Life that conquers death and brings eternal life through His suffering, death, and resurrection.
Jesus is the Way. Thomas wasn't quite so sure of that. "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Thomas needed to know where he was going before he could know the way. That's how it works when we navigate. We need to know where we are going before we can determine the path we are going to take to get there. You usually don't get on the freeway first and then figure out where it is you want to go, unless you are only going for the ride. Ordinarily we decide on the destination first, then we plan the way to get there.
But when "there" is the resurrection to eternal life with God, things are different. Only Jesus has a clear view of the destination. He alone died and rose from the dead. There is no one else like Jesus. We don't naturally know the way to eternal life. Only Jesus does, and He reveals that way to us by way of the cross - suffering, death, resurrection. And we are not in the driver's seat of our lives. God is. And He knows where He wants to take us. Jesus knows the way to eternal life. He's in the driver's seat. Left on our own, we'd wind up in the ditch, or spin around heading south instead of north. We are born headed the wrong way, hell-bound children of wrath instead of heaven bound children of God, turned away from our Father's house instead of pointed toward it.
Jesus does more than show us the way, He is the Way. He is the path to the Father. He is the highway to heaven. Our good works, our sufferings, our holiness, our prayers are not the way. Jesus' good works, His suffering, His holiness, His prayers - these are the way. Jesus is more that a way-shower. Moses is a way-shower. The Law shows us the way to live before God and our neighbor. But Jesus is the Way. "No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man." Jesus is the only bridge across the gap from death to life, the only path through the wilderness, the only ladder that spans earth and heaven. He is the only mediator between God and man, the One who joins heaven and earth, God and man, together as one in His own body.
The OT temple gave us a picture of that. In the temple there was a heavy curtain separating the people from God's presence in the Holy of Holies. The curtain stood at the threshold between earth and heaven. It was the only way into God's gracious presence. To enter into the presence of God, the high priest had to part the curtain and go through it. When Jesus was crucified, that curtain was torn from top to bottom, indicating its obsolesence, that it no longer stood at the threshold of earth and heaven. Now the crucified body of Jesus joins heaven and earth together so that there is now a new and living way to God through the curtain of Jesus' crucified and risen flesh. We have access to the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. We enter eternal life with God through the Son. That's what it means for Jesus to be the Way.
All other ways lead to hell and darkness and damnation. On every other path we will never be certain if we have done enough, if we have been perfect enough, meditated enough, prayed enough, done enough good. On the Way called Jesus there is no such concern. He was made our sin so that we might be His righteousness. Walking on the Way named Jesus by faith we are perfect. His righteousness covers us. His cleansing blood forgives us. The good works we do are not to get to heaven but as a thankoffering to God and a service to our neighbor because we are heaven-bound in Christ.
Jesus sets us on the Way in Baptism where He joins us to Himself, to His death and resurrection, so that the life we now live we live by faith in Him. We are like the children of Israel, whose backs were pressed up against the Red Sea and Pharoah's army was hot on their heels and who crossed the parted Sea on the narrow way of dry ground. The enemy pursues us constantly. The Way called Jesus is not the way of an easy and carefree life. Jesus is not a detour around suffering, pain, and death. He is the only way through it all to eternal life. Every other way in this world that promises life is a counterfeit way that ultimately winds up in death. Only Jesus promises a death that ends up in life.
Jesus is the Way and the Truth. Truth is more than an abstract concept or idea. Truth is real, flesh and bones real, as real as the baby born of Mary and the man who hangs dead on a cross. Jesus is the Truth. He is the Truth about ourselves, the Truth of who we are. The Law tells the truth. It exposes the Lie of our sin. It mirrors back to us the truth of our rebellion, our self-centeredness, our hatred, lust, anger, greed. The Law shows the impact of the Lie on our lives. We see the truth of our death apart from Christ. The Law tells us the truth but Jesus is the Truth. Jesus is the truth of who we really are, of what God intended when He created us. To look at Jesus is to see the truth what God intended when He made man from the mud in the beginning. The truth is that it is not human to sin. Sin is inhuman, anti-human, unhuman. Jesus is human without sin. Looking at Jesus we can be proud to be human.
Jesus is the Truth about God. He reveals the Father's love to us. He shows us who God truly is when God is for us. Jesus speaks the words the Father gave Him to speak. He does the works the Father gave Him to do. He shows the Father's heart, His will to save us. To see Jesus is to see the Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father. There is no revelation of God, no vision, no dealing with God in His mercy and love apart from Jesus Christ.
Philip wanted to divorce Christ and the Father, to see the Father apart from the Son. "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Philip here speaks for every religion in the world that would deal with God apart from the God-man Jesus. Even the apostle Philip, who had seen Jesus' miracles and heard His teaching was tempted to go around Jesus to get to the Father directly. Philip reminds us of how deeply ingrained this tendency of the old Adam in us is, to go around Christ to the hidden God. We too seek God outside His Word, apart from the Sacrament, apart from the Church. We imagine that God walks with us and talks with us directly, without means. That His Spirit whispers in our hearts, as if our dear Lord Jesus never took on a body. We look for God everywhere but where Jesus has promised to be-in Baptism, Absolution, and Supper.
But Jesus directs Philip, and us, back to Himself in the flesh. In Christ is where we must be found in order to be saved. Jesus is our Way, joining us to His death and resurrection through faith in Him. He turns us away from ourselves and points us toward the Father through Him. Jesus is our Truth, guiding us and sustaining us on our way to eternal life.
The Truth of Jesus is the food by which we are fed as we walk on the Way. Jesus' words are truth. When we hear His words forgiving us our sins, we are hearing the saving truth about who we are in Him. Though we are sinful to the core of our flesh, we are nonetheless God's children through faith in Jesus. We have been died for, atoned for, forgiven, cleansed. That is the Truth to which we cling when everything else in our lives testifies against. When we look in the mirror and say, "You can't possibly be a child of God." When we look at the mess of our lives and the awful consequences of our sin, when we see all that we have done to ourselves and to one another and are tempted to doubt and despair, we have this Truth who is Jesus who conquers the Lie of our sin with His blood.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Life. Life is the destination of Jesus' being the Way and the Truth. He brings us to the end of our life and gives us His eternal life. Jesus came that we might have life. To believe in Him is to have life even though we die. He speaks the words of eternal life. Already we have begun to die in Holy Baptism. Already we live in Him. We continue to die until we reach our grave. And yet we alreday live, having been raised with Him. "I no longer live," writes St. Paul, "but Christ who is in me lives. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."
We want life more than anything. There are many things that hold out the promise of life new drugs, new diets, new disciplines. We chase after things that offers life. Here Jesus would tear and turn our hearts from everything that promises life and pin them entirely to Himself alone. Only He is the Life. Only His death conquers sin, death, and the grave. And now He wants to overcome our death with His life.
Jesus is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life. He is the only Way from death to life, from hell to heaven, from the devil to God. He is the only Truth that overcomes the Lie that kills us. He is the only Life that is eternal life. All roads, except One, do lead to the same place. Death and destruction. One road leads to eternal life with God. Jesus. Walk on Him by faith. Learn Him. Live Him. He is your Way, your Truth, and your Life.