The Third Sunday After Easter May 15, 2011
Acts 6:8-12; 7:2a, 51-60
1 Peter 2:2-10
436, 206(1-4), 433(1-5), 207(1-2)
Grace, mercy and peace be multiplied to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Fellow Christians:
Suppose you wanted to drive to Denver or maybe Indianapolis. How would you go? What route would you take? It depends, doesn’t it? There are actually many ways to go, some better than others. It also obviously depends from where you are starting. Maybe that’s partly why mankind has such a hard time believing that there is only one path to Heaven. In our experience there is almost always a whole variety of ways to get where you want to go and since folks are coming from different backgrounds and cultures, it just stands to reason that there must be more than one path. But that’s just not so with Heaven. There is only one narrow path.
So just how do we go about finding that path? It’s the same way a little child finds Grandma and Grandpa’s house: we stick close to someone who knows the way. This is exactly what our Savior would have us learn from today’s text. That text, found in John’s Gospel account, teaches us that it is good and acceptable to be the little children of our Lord Jesus, for He Himself is “The Way.” There is, in other words, no other hope for mankind. We have one chance for Heaven, and one chance only, namely, to remain connected by faith to Jesus Christ. Our text is found in the 14th chapter of John.
[Jesus said], “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
Here ends the very Word of God. These are the words of God, not of man. That is why we can with full confidence base all that we think, say, and do—in fact our entire eternal future—upon these words alone. With such confidence in the power and blessing in these holy words, we pray: “Sanctify us by Your truth, O Lord. Your Word is truth. Amen.”
It is shocking to see or hear just how easily folks today are persuaded that Jesus was actually something other than what He said he was. For example, entire church bodies today claim the Bible as their only source and guide, but they still deny that Jesus is Himself true God. Why would anyone follow a man who could not be trusted to tell the truth? In the very first verse of our text Jesus Himself says, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me.” The Bible clearly forbids the worship of anything created—even the worship of the holy angels (cf. Revelation 19:10, 22:8-9)—and yet Jesus tells his followers to believe in Him as they have believed in the Father! He goes on in our text: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him…He who has seen Me has seen the Father…Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” [vv.7ff] If Jesus is not true God then He is a terrible blasphemer and the Jewish leaders had every right—even the duty—to seek his death. If Jesus was really just what the modern, liberal church of today claims He was, then the Jews did the right thing to Him.
Jesus, however, is not what the world has made Him out to be. He is infinitely more, as He Himself told us. Not only is he “one with the Father,” He also says of Himself in verse 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This is a description of much more than a good role model for society. It is hard to imagine how this statement could be any stronger. Jesus pronounces an eternal death sentence on every man, woman, and child outside of the true Christian Church. Jesus tells us that every Muslim, every Hindu, every Buddhist, every follower of the Jewish faith, every New Ager, every deist, theist, atheist, agnostic, every follower of Confucius, everyone who practices Voodoo and witchcraft—all are going to Hell. No one goes to Heaven except those who believe in Jesus Christ, those who trust Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sins. That is what our Lord clearly tells us in our text.
Do you believe His words? Stop. Pay attention. Think this through because it is vitally important. Do you really believe that these words are true and accurate? Because if you do, the ramifications are staggering.
Christians absolutely need to learn this immutable, rock-solid truth from the Savior. All who die outside of the Christian faith will go to Hell. This is God’s declaration. Every single man, woman, and child has one hope, one chance for salvation. “No one comes to the Father except through (Jesus Christ).” [v.6]
The great tragedy is that Christianity is failing miserably in sharing this truth with the world. Even in our own circles we can give the appearance that we are somehow ashamed of the Bible’s claim to exclusivity. We have come to believe that showing love to our neighbor means lying to our neighbor, pretending that everything is in good order when things are anything but. Think of it this way: Imagine yourself lost in the desert, almost dead from lack of hydration. Suddenly you come to a cool clear spring of water. It looks and smells good and pure and sweet—just what you need to survive. Near the spring sits a man, a stranger, who knows what you do not—the well is poisoned. He knows that this is the last thing in the world that you want to hear. He also knows that you would be bitterly disappointed if he told you the truth and that he would like nothing more than to make you happy. He would then much rather tell you that the water is as good and pure as it looks.
What would you want him to tell you—the truth or the lie your flesh would like to hear? Would you want him to tell you what is true or what you wish were true?
The same answer holds true spiritually. Mankind would love to hear and believe that what they feel is right and good truly is right and good. A rather terrifying number of false teachers are telling these poor souls exactly what they want to hear: “There are many paths to God. We all believe in the same God. We just give him different names. The important thing is that we all love each other.”
Do not apologize for the truth that Jesus reveals to us. It is His truth, not yours. Mankind desperately needs to hear that there is only one path to God. That way is Jesus—simple faith that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins and that His payment is our own personal possession the instant the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts.
John recorded the seven great “I am” statements of Jesus. In chapter 6 Jesus calls himself “The Bread of Life.” In chapter 8, “The Light of the World.” In chapter 10 he calls himself “The Door” and “The Good Shepherd.” In chapter 11 He is “The Resurrection and the Life,” and in chapter 15 He is “The Vine.” Here Jesus says of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” It is an interesting fact of Scripture that God (in this case Jesus) is equal to each of His attributes. This is true because He possesses each attribute to an infinite degree. For example, God is not only loving, God is love. God not only acts righteously, God is righteousness. So also in this passage from our text, Jesus does not just show us the way, He is the way. Jesus not only speaks the truth, He is truth. He not only shows us the way to life, He Himself is life.
Look again at Jesus’ words in our text. Notice that Jesus says, “I am the way…” We are not saved by a principle or spiritual force. We are saved by a person—the God-man Jesus. Each time you are tempted to look to something other than the cross of Christ and the empty tomb for your comfort, return instead to these simple, powerful words: “I am the way.” If Jesus had said, “This is the way…” we would be justified in looking for something to do, or a certain way to act in order to be loved by God. On the contrary, we are told that Jesus Himself is the way and with Jesus it is always a package deal. Either Christ paid for all of our sins, or Christ paid for none of our sins. Either He paid the sum total (the big ones, the little ones, and even the ones we don’t know about) or He paid for none at all.
Thomas gave a logical response in our text, didn’t he? Jesus told them that He was leaving and that they should follow. Thomas, speaking no doubt for all the rest, told Jesus that they did not even know where He was going, how could they know the way. Like riding in the car when you are young, you do not have to know where you are going to be led by Jesus. It is a simple matter of keeping Jesus constantly at your side, consulting Him at every bend or turn in the road. We do not need to chart our own course when we go where Jesus leads. We simply need to keep Him in view at all times. This is really only possible when you remain in His Word, speaking to Him also through your regular prayers.
“One Chance, One Way”—what do those words mean to you? Take a walk with me for a moment, backwards in time, in an effort to see more clearly. It is January, 1978. The hometown crowd has filled the gym. We have the ball, but the scoreboard says that only 15 seconds remain and we are behind by a point. The play is designed to go to our best shooter, who is having a great game. But he is wisely double-teamed which, in turn, leaves a rather diminutive guard temporarily unattended. In front of the screaming hometown crowd, as time expires, he launches the open 13 footer from just inside the top of the key. One chance, one chance only, one way to win. As the ball arcs gracefully through the air, the buzzer sounds, and the net barely ripples as the ball passes cleanly through.
Now, no matter how many times I care to tell that story, it will never change the way that game really ended. What really happened is that the ball hit the back of the rim, then the front, then the back, the front, the back, spun around…and fell out. We lost by a point and several of my teammates looked at me like I had just backed my pickup over their grandmother. With therapy I got over the trauma in just a few short decades. The point is that changing the story doesn’t alter the reality. The chance to win was lost, never to return.
With a high school basketball game this is obviously of no significant consequence, but what about life itself and the one chance for eternal salvation in Heaven? That is the one aspect of our existence which we absolutely cannot afford to lose, cannot afford to throw away that one chance. Contemplate for a moment the magnitude of the question at issue here both for the believer and for the unbeliever: eternity in either Heaven or Hell.
Our text, last of all, gives us a startling and wonderful promise: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” [v.12] Some will try to convince you that this passage means that true Christians ought to be able to do the same miracles that Jesus performed. Jesus, in fact, promised that we would do greater miracles! How is that possible? Which of us can walk on water, feed thousands with next to nothing, raise the dead? As amazing as these feats are, you can now do greater! These miracles, done in the physical realm, were always temporal. Those who were fed became hungry again. Those who were healed eventually grew old and feeble. Those, like Lazarus, who were raised from the dead, eventually died again. Not so with the miracles in which you and I can now play a role. Those miracles have eternal consequences because you can be the instrument in helping to turn a human being from Hell to Heaven. Now there is a miracle!
When Jesus performed physical miracles He demonstrated God’s omnipotence and goodness. You can demonstrate to all mankind the full love and grace of God the Father in Jesus Christ. You can show them the one way, the one chance.
How we ought to celebrate on a daily basis the fact that we have found the one path to Heaven. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Think of it! There is but one chance for eternal life and it has been revealed to you!
Rejoice, but consider also with great sobriety this last question: “What if your friend, your neighbor, your loved one has only one chance to learn of this same solitary path—and you are that one chance?” Such questions put life on earth into its proper perspective, encouraging us to set aside the fluff and nonsense of this temporal existence and be about our Father’s business—pointing out that one chance, one way to all who will hear. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.