Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Is Jesus the Only Way?

John 14:1-14

We live in an age of multi-culturalism and moral relativism. One of the mantras for our time is to say that there is no such thing as universal truth. There is no one right way. We all find our own truth. We all find our own way. And it is an act of intolerance to say to someone else, “My way is right and your way is wrong.”

And then we find Jesus’ claim to be an exclusive way by which people can come to God. It has been a rallying cry of Christians to show the superiority of their faith. And it has also been a sore point for those who believe in the idea of moral relativism and who view Christians as arrogant.

Some in the church have even felt the pressure to back off from Jesus’ exclusive claims or to soft-pedal them. Some have bought into the idea of Unitarianism, the belief that all religions are basically the same and all are equally valid paths to God. Others take a more moderate approach and say something like, “Well, yes, Jesus is the only way to God, but a faithful Buddhist can still be saved by Jesus through their Buddhist faith.” This is called the idea of an “inclusive gospel,” versus an “exclusive gospel” in which everyone outside of Christ is “excluded.”

But what I want you to see in this passage is that if Jesus is the Son of God in human flesh, then his claims are not arrogant, but rather they are logical and reasonable conclusions from his identity.

Let’s go back and start from the beginning of this text. This is part of Jesus’ farewell to his disciples in the Gospel of John. It’s the eve of his crucifixion. He is about to die, and their faith is about to be shaken. He is trying to build up their faith for the trials of the next few days.

He says to them, “Believe in God; believe also in me.” Now that alone is a remarkable statement. For Jesus to equate faith in himself with faith in God in the context of a Jewish community was nothing less than blasphemy. Jesus could not have made such a claim at the beginning of his time with his disciples or they never would have followed him. Only because they have grown to trust him could he make it now.

“You know the way to the place I am going.”

At this point Thomas speaks up. Thomas, from what we know of him, was very honest. He never disguised his thoughts from his words. But he was also something of

a pessimist. He was troubled by the difficulties of life. “We don’t even know where you’re going, how can we know the way?”

And Jesus makes this most remarkable statement: “I am the way.” In Hebrew thought, the word “way” often referred to “the way of God” or “the way of righteousness.” For example, Psalm 27:11 says, “Teach me your way, O Lord.” But Jesus doesn’t say, “I’ll show you the way.” He says, “I AM the way.”

It’s the difference between saying to someone, “Where is the post office?” and they say “Well, first you turn here and then you drive four blocks and so on,” versus them saying “Follow me. I’ll take you there.” Remember what we talked about last week: Jesus is the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd leads his sheep. The sheep follow him and he would guard the way to the sheepfold at night to keep them safe. Jesus is the way. Only through him do we come to God.

He continues: “I am the truth.” Again, truth had a particular meaning in Hebrew thought. When they spoke of truth, they usually meant moral truth more than intellectual truth. Truth is morally good in Hebrew thought. And just as following someone requires a person, so also learning moral truth requires a personal relationship. Anyone can teach us facts, but only a moral person can teach us to live out moral truth.

And Jesus says, “I am the life.” Jesus is life because he alone has triumphed over death. And he presents us with the possibilities of abundant life that can only be realized through him. Jesus lived a life that was fully integrated with God. And if we are united with him, if we become one with him, then we can also live a life fully integrated with God and experience all the joy and wonder that such a life can give.

You see, Jesus is not simply offering us a recipe to follow. Jesus is offering us a relationship to have. He doesn’t show us the way. He offers to come into our lives and lead us in the way. He doesn’t just tell us the truth. He offers to come into our lives and lead us into the truth. He doesn’t just tell us how to have life. He is life, and he comes into our lives and gives us an abundance of life that is only possible when we are united with God, the author and giver and sustainer of life.

Jesus goes on, “If you know me, then you know the Father.”

Now Philip speaks up. Now if Thomas was an honest pessimist, then Philip seems to be a plain realist. He needs to see things. He longs to see things for himself. “Just show us the Father, and that will be enough.”

And Jesus makes a claim that might be even more radical than the last one: “If you have seen me, then you have seen the Father.”

On what basis could Jesus make such incredible claims? How can he offer to be the way, truth, and life? How could he claim to be the only way to God? How could he say that to see him is to see God?

He can only truthfully make these claims if in fact he is the Son of God. If he is the eternally begotten Son in human flesh, then he can make unique and exclusive claims. If he is the sinless Son of God in human flesh, then he alone has knowledge of God that is unstained, untainted by sin. All others who have made claims about God, people like Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, etc, are affected by sin. Their knowledge of God is corrupted by sin. Only Jesus has perfect knowledge of God. Only Jesus perfectly reflects the image of God in which human beings were created, but which is broken in all who have sinned.

And only Jesus can serve as a perfect representative between God and humanity. He represents God perfectly because he is God. But he also represents humanity and the struggles of humanity perfectly because he is also fully human.

In the Old Testament book of Job, there’s a wonderful line where Job is musing about the problem of his relationship with God. He says in chapter 9, “God is not a mortal like me. If only there were a mediator who could bring us together.” Jesus is that mediator. He is God, but because he is also fully human, then he is not so high above us as to be unapproachable to us.

And as the one person who brings humanity and God together perfectly, Jesus shows us the possibilities of a life that is fully integrated with God. And if we unite ourselves with him, then that full integration of our lives with God is also possible for us, complete with all the benefits that come with it.

The first promise of a life fully integrated with God is the promise of an eternal home with him. We can have eternal security in Christ. “There are many rooms in my

Father’s house.” There is no lack of real estate in eternity. We don’t have to worry that somehow it is out of reach for us in Christ.

“And if I go, I will come again to take you to myself.” We often wonder what heaven or the resurrection life will be like. And the truth is that we don’t have a whole lot of information about it from the Bible. There are some mysteries. But this much we do know: If we are with Jesus in eternity, that is all we really need to know about it!

But the other promise of Jesus in this passage is that if we unite ourselves with him, then God will work through us in powerful ways just as he did through Jesus. Jesus even makes a remarkable statement that if we have faith in him, then we will do the same kinds of things that he did and even more.

That might not seem possible, but it’s true because Jesus also works through everyone who is united to him. We can see in Scripture that it was true. At the end of his earthly life, Jesus only had 120 followers. But when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, 3000 were added to their numbers. And the Church has certainly done many more remarkable things since.

Tremendous power is available to us when we pray in Jesus’ name. Jesus again makes this remarkable statement that we can ask for anything in his name and he will give it. But of course, we need to remember that asking in Jesus’ name means asking in keeping with his character and his purposes, not with our desires. This is not carte blanche for us to say or think that we can get whatever we want through some magical prayer formula!

If Jesus were simply another religious teacher, just another good man, then he could not legitimately make such extraordinary claims or offer such possibilities. But if he is the Son of God, he can. It’s up to us to decide if we can “Believe in God and believe also in him.”

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