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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

“The Way, The Truth, and The Life”

Fifth Sunday of Easter

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:1-14

The disciples looked up to Jesus. He called each of them and they followed Him. For the better part of three years, they listened to Him and learned from Him. Over and over Jesus tried to prepare His disciples for His coming suffering and death. But they didn’t really understand what He was talking about. They were confused and worried about what was going to happen.

Jesus could tell that they were concerned about the future, so He tried to reassure them. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled,” He said. “Trust in God; trust in Me. There are lots of rooms in my Father’s house.” But they still had to know that before there would be Heavenly rooms there would be misery. As we say today, “No pain – no gain.” No triumph without trial. No crown without a cross. Jesus’ cross. Love always requires sacrifice, and Jesus was about to make the supreme sacrifice. But they didn’t understand what He was going to do or where He was going to go. Probably they all wanted to ask the question that Thomas asked: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way?” The disciples wanted to know where Jesus was going, and how they could go there too. And Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” If they wanted to go to the same place He was going, all they had to do was follow Him.

“I’m the way to God,” He said, “I’m the truth about God, I’m the embodiment of the life God promises, and the means by which you can have eternal life.”

He doesn’t describe Heaven; He doesn’t give a formula for attaining eternal life; He doesn’t give a set of teachings to be mastered in order to gain entrance into the presence of God. Instead of these things, He offers to be our guide.

This is one of the big differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. After giving the Ten Commandments Moses told the people: “So, be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” The way to God was through obedience to His commands.

The Lord spoke to Joshua in much the same way: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”

The Lord promises Joshua that if he will meditate on the law day and night and “be careful to do according to all that is written in it” then “you will be prosperous, and successful.” (Joshua 1:6-8)

In the Old Testament, then, the Law is the map that guides God’s people through life. In the New Testament, the map is replaced by a living guide who knows the way, and personally leads us!

I’ve travelled enough in foreign countries to know the difference between a map and a guide – and a guide is a whole lot more reliable!

The first time I tried driving in a foreign country with only a map was in 1988 when Carol and I went to visit Martin Luther’s Reformation sites, which are almost all in what was then called “East Germany.” We flew to Luxembourg, rented a Volkswagen Jetta at the airport, got out our map, and off we went. We found most of the places we wanted to see, but not without wandering around, going ‘round and ‘round on “rotaries”, making a U-turn across the median on the Autobahn, and a few other interesting moves.

Probably the most memorable was our first night in East Germany. We found the city of Erfurt all right, but we drove all over town and couldn’t find our hotel. It was by the train station in the Centrum – the center of the city – but we couldn’t find it! I drove all over the place, even into the middle of the city square, where I noticed there were no other cars! So, I drove down what looked like a street, with railroad tracks down the middle of it. We noticed that everyone was staring at us. I realized that I was driving down the tracks! So, I turned around and was glad I did when I saw a giant headlight in the rear-view mirror! A commuter train was about to run over us! So, I drove up over a curb, back up onto the central square and let it go by.

A young man ran over to the car and said something in German. I told him I didn’t speak German; did he speak English? He said, “You can’t be here!” We’d already guessed that! And I asked him how to get to the Erfurter Hof hotel. And he showed us where it was.

A map isn’t always good enough for me. I need a real person to show me the way. God knows that about me – and about all of you, too – so He sent Jesus to be the Way. He’s with us now – and will be forever. Being lost is no fun! Being found is wonderful! It’s great not having to travel through life alone.

I read about a first-grade class whose teacher asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. She heard things like “I want to be a nurse like my mother” and “I want to be a carpenter like my daddy,” and even “I want to be a teacher like you.” But when the shyest, quietest little boy in class had his turn, they were all surprised. He said, “When I get big, I’m going to be a lion tamer.” And he told them how he would work in a circus and would go into cages filled with ferocious lions and tigers with his gun and his whip and his chair – and he’d make all those animals jump through hoops of fire and obey all his commands. And then he noticed the wide-eyed look on the other kids’ faces and he realized what he was saying. “Well, of course,” he added quickly, “I’ll have my mother with me!”

The source of his courage was his mother; the source of ours is our Heavenly Father and His Son. They’re with us now; they’ll be with us in the future. The Son is the Way into that future, so we have no need to be afraid. He’s also the truth, and the life. When we believe Him, we believe the truth; when we live for Him, we live life as God intended it to be lived.

It's no wonder, is it, that Jesus’ words in our Gospel lesson are read so often at funerals. For those who are in Christ Jesus, they offer assurance that we can face our future with hope. Our Lord has arranged for our eternal well-being. If we know Jesus, we know the Father; and knowing Him we have found the Way to eternal life. That’s why we’re not afraid of tomorrow. But some people are – I suppose because they’re afraid of God. Because they don’t know Him and His love.

The disciples still had some of this fear, didn’t they? They were still confused. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and we’ll be satisfied.” Jesus must have been a little frustrated when He answered, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still don’t know me?” It’s almost like Jesus is saying, “How many times do I have to tell you the same thing before you believe? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father!”

There’s more to knowing Jesus than just knowing about Him – where He was born, what He said and did. To really know Jesus means that He lives in us, and walks with us, and leads us in His way, and we walk hand-in-hand with Him.

When I was about ten years old, I took a piece of wood and a chisel (which I wasn’t supposed to touch) and I started to gouge it out to make a boat. Well, you know the chisel slipped, and you know I cut myself – a good three inch cut in my hand and thumb. After we got the bleeding stopped, my dad said we had to put Merthiolate in it so it wouldn’t get infected. That stuff burns! He asked, did I want him to take cotton, and put it on a little at a time? Or just pour it all on at once?

My mother said she’d hold my hand, so I said, “Pour it all on at once.” He did – and she squeezed my hand tight – and I survived. I still have a little scar to remind me of what happens when you disobey – and to remind me that it helps to have someone hold your hand afterwards!

So it was for the disciples. The time was fast approaching when they would split up and travel to the far corners of the world to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus wouldn’t be with them physically. He wanted them to know, though, that they wouldn’t be alone. His hand would still be holding theirs. And that made all the difference in the world. “Put you hand in mine and walk with me,” Jesus says. “I won’t let you go. I’ll show you the way. I’ll do more than that – I’ll be your way – your way to a rich life now, and your way to eternal life with the Father.”

That’s an offer we can’t afford to refuse – and an offer we need to share with those who don’t know the Way to God. May He help us share the Good News that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!


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