I Am the Way
Bible Text: John 14:1 – 31 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: John – Encountering the Word | John 14:1 – 31
I am the Way
Wouldn’t it be better?
I won’t get you to do a show of hands, but I wonder how many of us have every found ourselves thinking “I wish Jesus was still here with us today”?
Wouldn’t it be better for us as Christians, to be able to see Jesus, and hear him teach?
Wouldn’t it be easier for people to find out about Jesus, and come to know Jesus, to say nothing of the fact that if Jesus were present physically, wouldn’t it help Christian people remain strong and faithful in their relationship with him?
You might have heard the analysis this week, that the Prime Minister’s popularity with the electorate goes up when she leaves the country!
Distance makes the heart grow fonder! They say!
But there’s always some pessimist, or maybe realist, who says, actually, “Distance makes the fond heart wander!”
Wouldn’t it just make it a whole lot easier to be a Christian, if Jesus were still on the earth?
Or maybe, you’re not a Christian, and you think, “Well, actually part of the difficulty in me becoming a Christian, is that I can’t see Jesus,
It’s hard to entrust your entire life, to someone you’ve never laid eyes on!
Wouldn’t it be better, for people like me, if Jesus was still here on the earth?”
Maybe you’ve asked those sorts of questions, or know people who have.
Jesus is going away 1- 4
And if these are significant questions for us, who have never known Jesus to be physically present with us,
Imagine how troubling it must have been for Jesus’ original closest disciples, the 11 as they are in John 14.
All they had ever known, in terms of their relationship with Jesus, was his physical presence with them.
What must it have been like for them, to hear Jesus say that he was going away?
Read from verse 1 with me, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 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?
3 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.
4 You know the way to the place where I am going.
Jesus is going!
What fear and confusion, that must have set into the hearts of the disciples,
He’s spoken of betrayal,
He’s spoken of denial,
And now he says, “I am going away.”
Jesus’ going is not a reason to be troubled
But Jesus’ going is not a reason to be troubled
Did you see how Jesus opened this section? Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
Every good Jew knew that he or she ought to believe in God, trust in God, there’s nothing new there. What is new, what is significant, is that Jesus equates trusting in God, with trusting in himself.
There’s nothing wrong in asking someone to trust in you,
We get in a plane, and we trust the pilot knows how to fly the thing.
We get our car serviced, and we trust that the mechanic can put it back together with no pieces left over
But this command from Jesus, this juxtaposition, you believe in God, believe also in me, is nothing less than a claim to divinity.
Tuesday morning we woke to the news of the bombing of the Boston Marathon. In those first few hours, there were so many conflicting reports.
Different media outlets saying different things.
People on social media saying other things.
But when the Governor of Massachusetts got on the TV, and said “This is what we know,
This what we want you to do, ”
We know that he’s the one who represents the people,
Who has the connections and the understanding, so we can take his word for it.
If Jesus, is equal with God the Father, the God of the Old Testament, if he tells his followers not to let their hearts be troubled, as he departs from them, and goes to the cross, then surely we have reason to hear and believe.
If God himself, says we have no reason for our hearts to be churning like the whirlpool at the bottom of a waterfall, it’s that same word as we saw last week, then surely we can depend on that.
Surely he has the resources and power to give this assurance.
The degree of confidence that we have in something, is tied to how dependable we think that person or object is.
When you go to the doctor, why do they have all their certificates and degrees lined up on the wall?
So that you have confidence in them, and will therefore do what they tell you to do!
The 5 degrees on the wall are to convince me that while she looks like a 16 year old, she does actually know what she’s talking about, and I can trust what she says!
God has shown himself to be utterly trustworthy and dependable.
I have every reason to believe his words.
So when believing in Jesus is put on the same footing as believing God, and when we’re told that that believing in him is the corrective, to a troubled heart,
That believing in him is what makes sense of, the horror of his trial and crucifixion,
I don’t conjour up a picture of Jesus in my mind and think, “Do I imagine that Jesus is trustworthy or not?”, I turn to the picture of God in Christ presented for us by the eye-witnesses, and I see, Here is the reason I need not be troubled,
Here is the reason I need not be afraid, at Jesus’ absence from the world,
Here is the reason that I can see the cross, not as an abject failure, but as an essential part of God’s plans for rescuing his creation,
Here is the reason I can go on in the faith, even though I’ve never seen my Lord face to face.
My heart is not troubled, because I trust in Jesus, as he’s presented to me in the Scriptures, God with us.
I’m not suggesting it’s an instant solution,
If you have a headache, you take a tablet and 10 minutes later your headache’s gone, maybe.
It might not be like that here, but we know what the corrective is.
Trust in Jesus,
Depend on Jesus’ dependability, when he says we need not be troubled by his absence.
It’s better for Jesus’ disciples for him to go away
In fact, it’s actually better for Jesus disciples, that he goes away.
because Jesus is the way to the Father 5 – 14
Let’s read again from verse 2, Jesus says 2 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?
3 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.
I read those words, and I picture a huge hotel, and there are many rooms, and I can’t help but think of Jesus a bit like the hotel’s housekeeping staff, preparing the room for his disciples!,
Making the bed,
Putting those little bottles of shampoo in the bathroom!
But it’s not that Jesus is saying to his disciples, “I’m going to go to heaven, and when I get there, I’ll set to work, preparing rooms for you, ready for your arrival”!
No, it is by the fact of his going, that he prepares a place for us.
Jesus secures the way to Father, through the going that he speaks of here.
The going is not in order to prepare, the going is the means of preparation.
That is, through Jesus’ betrayal, and crucifixion, and death and resurrection, he makes it possible for us to be with God.
He makes it possible for us to dwell with God,
He makes it possible for to, did you grasp the wonder of the picture, to live in God’s house!
In John’s gospel, any time we hear Jesus speak of his going, he’s always talking about the cross.
See the problem that Jesus is about to deal with, is not the problem that happens why I go away on holidays: We tend to leave in such a hurry, that we come back, open the door, and the house is a mess! And I think “Someone trashed our house while we were gone!”
Jesus’ didn’t leave his Father’s side in heaven in such a hurry to come to earth, that he didn’t quite have time to get the eternal home ready for his followers,
No, the problem is that we have no place in heaven!
The problem is that God’s pure and holy character demands that we not be there!
The problem is that we have all declared independence from God, and gone our own way,
And lived in God’s world, but treated God with the utmost contempt, pushing him to the edges of our lives and beyond, living as if he doesn’t even exist.
And the problem is that living like that, means we face God’s just and righteous anger, and we deserve spiritual death, and separation from God and his blessings forever.
But it’s better for Jesus’ disciples, the he goes away, because he is the way, he opens the way to Father.
He is the way for sinful, rebellious people, to receive a welcome into God’s eternal dwelling.
See verse 5, Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
If people who have lived in God’s world, with no thought for God, are to be welcomed by God, then someone needs to pay the penalty for their sin and rebellion.
God can’t just look the other way, as people ignore him,
Live their lives in selfishness and evil,
Blow up the Boston Marathon,
Bomb cars on the streets of Baghdad,
Or whatever similar but smaller selfishness and hatred goes on in our hearts.
But in dying in our place, taking the death and separation from God that we deserve, Jesus removes that stain of sin that would see us forever cut-off from God
A friend of mine who’s a pastor, was asked to read some verses from this chapter, at an interfaith service, where different religions were represented, and he was asked to read up to verse 6, but only the first 12 words of verse 6.
Because to say that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life might sound fairly innocuous, but to say, no one comes to the Father except through me, well that is a claim of exclusivity, isn’t it?
Jesus says his going, to betrayal, crucifixion, resurrection, is the only way, that people can be welcomed into God’s presence.
Outside the cross of Christ, there is little real hope that can be offered to troubled hearts.
How are we equipped to stand firm in the faith?,
To trust in God and his faithfulness,
To look at the pain of our world, and know that something better is guaranteed, and that those who pursue evil will one day face the due penalty for their actions?
Is it not only because of the cross of Christ?
The cross, where we see that God will not tolerate sin.
The cross, where we see that so great was God’s love for the world he made, that he would not even spare his own Son, in order to open the way for us to come to him.
It’s only when we have a deep and abiding appreciation of Jesus’ death, that we can experience or offer any real hope or comfort.
About 12 months ago, the ABC released a CD called “Hope”, and the songs on it were all about hope.
The ABC describes the list of contributing artists as “a who’s-who of Australian and international celebrities”, in fact perhaps a more accurate description of the artist list, of this CD on the secular ABC Classics label, is that it is overwhelmingly dominated by Christian artists!
And that is entirely natural, since people who have been challenged by the reality of the cross, more than anyone else, have reason to hope.
because Jesus’ going will make the Father known 7 – 11
And so, not only is Jesus’ going better for the disciples because it opens the way for them to be welcomed by God,
Jesus’ going will also make the Father known.
See from verse 7, From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 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’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?
Jesus’ going away, makes it possible for his disciples to know the Father. That’s not to say that the Father is unknown, verse 9, Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
But Jesus’ going is the means by which the Father will be made known even more clearly than ever.
Right at the end of this section, Jesus says to the disciples, verse 31, the prince of this world comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
Only by Jesus going, can the world learn that Jesus loves the Father, and is absolutely obedient to his Father’s will.
We wouldn’t know that Jesus is completely, deliberately, painfully obedient to his Father’s will, without Jesus going to the cross, would we?
Often, when we think about the cross, and speak about the cross, we do it in terms of its relationship to us,
The impact it has on us,
What is achieved for us on the cross, like we were just speaking about, opening the way to the Father,
The place where our sin is paid for,
We see the cross as the great display of God’s love for us.
And all of those things are true,
But they are only part of the picture.
Jesus goes away to the cross also, because he loved his Father, and above anything else, longed to do his will.
And the cross is the great revelation of the Father isn’t it?
Without the cross, we can’t say that we know the Father.
Without the cross, some of the most important pieces are missing from our understanding of God.
God’s hatred of sin,
But in going away, going to the cross, Jesus makes his father known.
We see that Jesus’ sacrificial action in the cross is the Father’s sacrificial action in the cross.
Jesus’ didn’t sneak around his Father’s back to the cross, take away our sin, so that God has to kind of grudgingly welcome us in.
Jesus goes to the cross, because his Father commanded it.
Jesus’ going, to use the language here that speaks of the cross, it doesn’t just fill in a few gaps in our understanding of God,
The cross illuminates almost every aspect of our picture of God. It is, if you like, the final piece of the puzzle, but the final piece that makes all the other pieces make sense.
Does my sin matter to God?
Does God have an opinion about the way I live my life?
Do I matter to God?
Can my efforts and good works, and religious devotion offset in God’s mind, some of the things I do that I know aren’t right?
What does God think of the world?
What does God think is the problem faced by the world?
What will God do about the Christian who is repeatedly caught in the same sin?
If God could do something to help me, what would it be?!
How could God possibly welcome me, with the life I’ve lived, and the way I’ve treated people?
All of those questions about God, are answered at the cross.
Jesus’ going, reveals the Father.
because Jesus going means the sending of the Holy Spirit. 15 – 27
But Jesus’ imminent departure, is good news for his disciples for another reason also, and that is, Jesus’ going, is necessary for the sending of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s read from verse 15, If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth
And then down in verse 25, “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit can only begin once Jesus has gone through the cross, to his Father.
He says explicitly in chapter 16 verse 7, Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you;
Jesus has to go away, but Holy Spirit down in verse 26, is he going to have to go away at some point?
No! He will be with your forever Jesus says in verse 16.
And the Holy Spirit isn’t some sort of consolation prize.
I don’t know if you’ve ever gone to the theatre, or to a musical, and just as the house lights go down, somebody comes over the PA, and announces “Ladies and Gentlemen, in tonight’s performance, the leading role of whatever, is going to be played by the understudy Joe Bloggs!”
And you hear this collective sigh of disappointment from the audience, because they didn’t come, and pay their money, to see Joe Bloggs the understudy, they came to see the star!
But let’s notice a few things, that show us the ministry of the Holy Spirit is nothing like that of a mere understudy, but in fact these points that Jesus makes about the Spirit, each show us that the Spirit continues the ministry of Jesus himself.
The Holy Spirit is another advocate like Jesus
First of all, the Holy Spirit is another advocate, just like Jesus.
See verse 16, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate
The implication is that Jesus’ disciples currently have an advocate, that is, Jesus himself, but when Jesus goes, the Father will send another advocate.
Jesus had conducted his earthly ministry, teaching, leading, strengthening, correcting, and now he has to go away,
But his going opens up the way for this other advocate of the same kind to be sent, who will have this same kind of ministry among Jesus’ disciples.
John, who’s writing, later on in the New Testament, uses this word advocate, to describe what Jesus is doing in heaven, in the very presence of God.
Both the Son and the Spirit exercise this ministry for the disciples simultaneously;, Jesus in heaven, the Spirit on earth.
The Holy Spirit is the means of Jesus presence with his disciples
The Holy Spirit is also the means of Jesus’ presence with his disciples.
See the Spirit is another person, of the Trinity, the one God in three persons, but did you notice that Jesus can say verse 17, you know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
And there’s some discussion among the scholars about whether Jesus is speaking about his return, or about when he sends the Spirit, but the coming of the Spirit is at the very least in the background of what Jesus is saying, if not front and centre, since Jesus says verse 20, On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you
When do the disciples grasp these things that they have not understood all along?
They don’t have to wait for Christ’s return to understand all the things they missed along the way.
It’s when Jesus pours out his Spirit on them, that they realise these things.
And even though it’s the Spirit who is sent to those, to anyone, including today, who love Jesus and keep his commands, in verse 24 Jesus is able to say that to those people, both he and his Father, will come to them and make our home with them.
Is the Son sent from heaven again to make his home with people?
Does the Father leave heaven, come to his people and make a home with them?
No! But the role of the Spirit is so closely linked to the ministry of Jesus, that Jesus can say through the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in and with God’s people, he and his Father can make a home there too.
So the sending of the Spirit in Jesus’ name verse 26, is a means of Jesus coming to his people,
Here was a presence to make up for Jesus absence,
It doesn’t mean though that the Spirit’s ministry is identical to Jesus’ ministry, the Spirit didn’t become a man and suffer and die, for example.
The Spirit shares in the ministry of Jesus, continues the ministry of Jesus, but we mustn’t ever think that the two are identical, or that their roles are identical.
The Holy Spirit is an advocate
So let’s finish by thinking about the Spirit’s role, especially in terms of his relationship with the ministry of Jesus, and also in terms of that description, the advocate.
The old King James translation used the word comforter here. He will give you another comforter.
Today that sounds a little odd, doesn’t it?
A comforter is a kind of blanket isn’t it?!
But we actually get some help from the 11th Century Bayeux Tapestry.
Many of you will be familiar with it, and its depiction of the Norman conquest of England.
There’s King Harold getting an arrow in his eye, and over on the Norman side, is a bishop, wielding a club over some poor Norman soldiers, and the caption, embroidered above in Latin, reads, “Here Bishop Odo, holding a club, comforts the young troops”
Leaving aside for a moment, the seeming incongruity of a bishop of the church wielding a club in battle, what’s interesting is, the caption, “Bishop Odo, comforts the young troops.”
Judging from the picture, the comfort the bishop offered wasn’t touchy-feely, platitudinous kind of comfort,
It was tough, stirring, “get up there,
Look where you’re going,
Ready yourself for the task at hand!” kind of comfort.
So the Advocate, spurs on, encourages, exhorts, teaches, testifies.
And it’s a word with legal connotations also.
If I was living in the first century and I was hauled before the courts, accused of driving my chariot too fast down the streets of Littlehampton, I might call on an advocate to speak on my behalf. Someone who could tell the court what a nice guy I am, and why I didn’t deserve to get sold into slavery for breaking the chariot speed limits.
The advocate brings all their resources to bear, for somebody elses’ benefit.
And did you see what it looks like for the Holy Spirit to act as the Advocate for Jesus’ disciples? Verse 26,
26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
The ministry of the Advocate parallels the ministry of Jesus:, Teaching the disciples and reminding them of the things that Jesus had said.
Even the title given to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, is a reflection of Jesus’ own identity as the truth.
So in just the same way as Jesus repeatedly said that his teaching wasn’t his own, but that he spoke the words of his Father, so here the Spirit will speak the words of Jesus,
teach you all things
remind you of everything I have said.
The Spirit continues the revelation of God and his character and purposes that Jesus began, but he continues that work, not by adding new teaching, but by taking what Jesus himself taught and ensuring that the disciples understood it rightly.
See this isn’t a verse about how Christians today are taught by the Holy Spirit, it’s a verse about how these first disciples, who got it wrong so often when Jesus was teaching them, eventually came to get it right!
And that is very important for us, who rely on the written eye-witness testimony of these disciples.
How do we know they got it right, when they wrote it down?
How do we know that by the time they came to putting all the events of Jesus’ life and ministry down on parchment, that they actually understood it? Because we know for sure they didn’t understand it when it happened!
How do we know, that these disciples who wrote and influenced the rest of the New Testament, how do we know they all didn’t just forget one really important bit!
How do we know that just as he was being taken up to heaven Jesus didn’t shout down to them, “Oh and if you give 15% of your income to the church you’ll be guaranteed entrance into heaven”?!
How do we know Jesus didn’t say that, and they just all forgot about it, because they were so overcome, watching Jesus go up to heaven?
Or a bit more seriously, how do we know that we’re not missing out on something, that Jesus longed for us to know,
Maybe he wanted us all to be wealthy,
Maybe he wanted us to have perfect health,
Maybe verse 6 isn’t even what Jesus said? How do we know there aren’t other ways to God?
How do we know?
Friends, this is how we know.
This is our assurance, that these eye-witnesses through whom we have heard the message of Christ, got it right.
It’s through the Spirit, that they come to understand the revelation that Jesus brought.
See Jesus going, it’s not just good news for the 11 disciples is it?
Jesus’ going, is good news for us.
Jesus’ going, which so troubled their hearts, was in fact for their benefit, and for ours.