SERMON from 4-15-12: I AM The Way, and The Truth and The Life

John 14.1-14

 

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. 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, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place 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 know me, you will know 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 we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? 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; 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; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

 

I AM The Way, and The Truth, and The Life

 

I know we have some teachers and retired teachers here this morning, so you might remember this. Unless this is still a thing, in which case more of you might remember. How does Sesame Street demonstrate the difference between a group of things? Your clue is…it’s a song.

 

“One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong.” Oh, how simple things once were.

 

Well, looking at the things we refer to as the “gospels”–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–John is the thing which is not like all the others. Let me take this opportunity to encourage you to crack open your Bibles later today–and a couple of times in the coming weeks–and read through John. It will add to what we are doing.

 

Anyway, John’s gospel is different. When I am studying the New Testament in seminary, they refer to the first three gospels as the “synoptic gospels.” Anyone ever heard them referred to as that before? This means that so much of the account of the life and ministry of Jesus links up with so much else in the other gospels, that we can say that they are similar.

 

There is even a theory that says that there was an earlier “source” for these gospels. This theoretical source is called “Q.” Just “Q.” When I asked my buddy about it, he called “Q” the Santa Claus of biblical scholarship. I thought it was funny, then I cried because I realized just how huge nerd you have to be to appreciate like that as much as I did. But I digress…

 

The point I am trying to make is that John is wholly different from the other gospels. This is not to say that it is not as good as the others, but it is different.

 

Have you ever been flipping through your channels on a Sunday afternoon, looking for something to watch? All you want is some background noise to fall asleep to, and you stop on MSNBC. In fact, all weekend long, MSNBC stops telling you the news and starts showing you prison documentary TV shows.

 

Now, there is a big difference between watching these prison TV shows and watching, say, The Shawshank Redemption. The TV show might give you a lot of good information about what it means to be a prisoner in the American prison system, but the movie is an altogether different understanding of what it means to be in prison.

 

Now, there is a big difference between reading the first three gospels and reading, say, John. The synoptic gospels give you a lot of good information about what it means to be a child of God who is a dedicated disciple of Jesus Christ, but John is an altogether different understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

 

For example, the idea of love as Jesus is reported to have talked about it and acted in reaction to it is not something that is exclusive to this gospel or the other. However, the command to love as Jesus loved is nowhere more prominent or important as it is in John.

 

The other thing you may already know about John is that it contains what are otherwise known as the “I AM” statements of Jesus. John’s gospel is the only place where we see Jesus talking about himself like this. Jesus makes claims about himself all throughout the gospels, but John does it differently.

 

This, and the next three Sundays, I will be preaching on these so-called “I AM” statements. Today, we will look at “I AM the Way, and the Truth and the Life.” Next week, it will be “I AM the Vine”–to be followed by “I AM the Good Shepard” and “I AM the Light of the World.” I think it’s only appropriate that we take time–after looking at the last week of Jesus’ life over the last couple of months–that we look at the rest of his life.

 

Jesus said, “I AM the Way, and the Truth and the Life.” He said this during a discourse he was sharing with his disciples shortly before he was to be crucified. I do not know who said it, because the author I read it from didn’t know where they got it, but I firmly believe that “a text without context is pretext.” What does that mean? It means that you if you are using a text for some purpose–without caring about the context in which it was used–your pretext is harmful to the way you will use that verse.

 

I don’t consider myself a chauvinist–though a true chauvinist wouldn’t–but there are times when my wife and I will be discussing something that we disagree about. At which point, I will quote to her 1 Timothy 2:11. Which says, “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission.” It always goes over nicely. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a teenager–mindlessly flipping through the pew Bible for something to read while the pastor bored me.

 

The problem with using that scripture in that fashion is…it’s wrong. That’s not exactly what Paul is saying in the letter he is writing to Timothy.

 

Jesus’s claim in this morning’s passage isn’t necessarily poorly understood outside of its context, but it is more enlightening when we understand it in context.

 

That one sentence says so much on it’s own, right? That sentence–when it stands alone–makes it seem as if Jesus is drawing a line in the sand. It’s as if Jesus could have just said, “I AM the way, and the truth and the life…so deal with it.” Place the emphasis on just the word “the,” and you have Jesus saying something like, “I am THE way, and THE truth and THE life.” That sounds totally different, right?

 

This interaction is happening between Jesus and his disciples–his friends. This is a friendly conversation. Easily enough, “I AM the Way, and the Truth and the Life” can sound combative. Jesus is saying it much more like, “I AM the way, and the truth and the life…I am in my father and my father is in me.” This is’t a discourse on letting people know that if you don’t believe these things about Jesus, then blow it out your nose. It’s Jesus, reiterating to those who doubt, that the same things that are true about my father, are true about me.

 

There are two people who make a cameo appearance in this passage. Thomas–a notorious doubter–is up to his old tricks. “How will we know the way to this place you are going?” he says. The place being heaven, or communion with the father at the completion of life. To it, Jesus replies, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life. If you know me, then you know the father.”

 

Phillip is being kind of redundant. He thinks that all they need to do is see God to know what it is they need to do once Jesus is gone. He wants assurance that they have been taught well enough to carry on without him. Jesus says, “you’ve seen me!” This conversation Jesus has with his disciples is nothing more than the disciples showing us that doubt can happen to the best of us. That–pardon the pun–”blessed assurance” that we like to sing of can be so very difficult to rely on. Jesus is saying, “if you want assurance, trust in the fact that I am the way, and the truth and the life. Live life like I did and love people like I did, and you’ll be fine.”

 

Still, that wouldn’t be enough for some of us. How many of us have ever–or still are–looking for that “magic bullet” that will tell us that we are gonna be just fine. We constantly look for that spiritual “cure-all” that will finally ally our fears of doing anything to run afoul of God and his good graces.

 

It doesn’t exist. It’s not there. If we haven’t found it yet, we won’t. The doubt, fear and uncertainty we feel every once in a while–or maybe all the time–is just a fact of this life.

 

So, this is what we do. We listen to Jesus–who says he is the way, the truth and the life–and trust that following his teachings and living life as he did (as we read about in the scriptures) will lead us to that “abundant life” he talked about. So, the song we should sing isn’t Blessed Assurance, but maybe more like Trust and Obey. Which is exactly what we are going to do to for our closing hymn today. So, let’s stand and sing and make this our song–for this and every day.

 

AMEN

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: