John 14.1- 7
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 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? 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. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life.
I know a lot of people who want the greatest amount of reward for the least amount of effort. They have a faulty perception about how much they deserve based on how much they work.
Its like the guy who lets his grass grow and grow until you can barely see his porch because he only wants to have to mow it once. Or like the woman I recently saw at Food Lion who was using every single finger and both elbows to carry all of her bags to the car instead of making multiple trips. Or like the foolish pastor (cough *Me* cough) who believes that so long as he picks a scripture and prays about it, that God will give him a sermon to preach that will having people jumping and shouting “Amen!”
Sadly, I have come across a number of people (even myself at times) who want God without Jesus. We believe on some level that so long as we show up to church, and live a decent life, that we are doing all that the Lord would have us to do. We want salvation without suffering. We want love without expectations. We want resurrection without crucifixion.
Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him.
The disciples are confused. Jesus tells them that he will go and prepare a place for them because there are many rooms in his Father’s house and they know where he is going. Then Thomas asks the question that all the other disciples are thinking: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus responds with hopeful and frightening words: I am the way.
The destiny in store for Jesus is likewise laid up for his friends, and for us. Those who want to save their life will lose it. If we want to experience the presence of God here and now, we can only do so by following the way, by following Jesus.
Sam Wells, the former dean of Duke Chapel, was appointed to a new church, and wanted to experience every single aspect of its mission. For the first few months he spent a couple of days each week going through the ins and outs of the church as if he was not the pastor; He toured the preschool like a prospective parent with a three-year old; He went to weekly prayer services and sat in the back like a stranger might if they randomly walked in off the street; He stood in line at the food pantry and patiently waited for his turn to receive some food.
One of the last things he needed to experience was the homeless shelter. He had heard that it was frequently attended because they gave out the best food and had the nicest provisions and he wanted to see it with his own eyes and taste it with his own tongue. So, for a few days before the experience, he stopped showering and shaving, he found some of his oldest and rattiest clothes, and prepared to spend a night with others in the basement of the building.
He began by waiting outside in line with everyone else. He tried to keep a low profile, but most of the people spotted his costume immediately. For whatever reason they welcomed him into their little group anyway and spent most of the night talking and learning about one another. He asked about their pasts and what had led them to where they were, most of them had normal lives until some unforeseen circumstance sent them out to the streets.
However, before the night ended one of the men shared an important perspective with the pastor. “We don’t come here for the food or for the warmth,” he said, “we come here because this is the only place where we can be with other people like us. Sure the food and shelter is nice, but the community is what we really need.”
I don’t think Sam would necessarily put it this way, but I believe he encountered the living God in those homeless men and women precisely because he was acting like Jesus. I don’t think Sam actively went out with the hope that he could walk around like Jesus, but in meeting the people where they were he followed the way that Christ set up for us.
Sometimes the hardest part of being a Christian is recognizing that we cannot have resurrection without crucifixion. More often than not we need to crucify a part of our lives before we can meet and encounter the living God.
Maybe we need to crucify our false assumptions about the poor and how they wind up living on the streets. Perhaps we need to crucify our ridiculous prejudices toward people who are of a different sexual orientation. Maybe we need to crucify our faulty self-perceptions. Perhaps we need to crucify our selfish desires to crave our passions. Maybe we need to crucify a program in our church that is no longer giving life to anyone involved. Perhaps we need to crucify our willingness to hold on to a grudge from the distant past. Maybe we need to crucify our love and obsession with money.
Jesus is the way and we have been given the precious opportunity to follow him, even to the cross. If we want to encounter the living God, we can only do so by crucifying our brokenness and seeking out ways to be resurrected here and now. Amen.