Jesus is the Way

March 13, 2016 Speaker: Matt Benton Series: God Quest

Passage: John 14:1–14:6

So today I’m going to keep it light and funny off the top, ok? At least until we get into the meat of the sermon.

If you don’t get that, go and listen to the first few minutes of last week’s sermon on the podcast.

So one of the things about modern technology that I love is that is has completely eliminated the need for me to ask directions. Now, I’m a guy so its not like I was going to ask for directions anyway, but cell phone companies have made it such that I never, ever, have to ask for directions. That is, while my phone has battery.

The downside to that, of course, is that we never actually know how to get anywhere anymore. If I know that I have a GPS and navigation tool always at my disposal, I never have to know the exact way to get to Potomac Mills. Side note, I need a program on my cell phone that if I ask for directions to Potomac Mills on a Saturday it just says No. Anyways…

Here's when this becomes a problem in Northern Virginia…

A couple weeks ago I had to be in McLean for a 9 am meeting on a Wednesday morning. For reasons passing understanding. I promise I won’t complain too much about having to sit in rush hour one time since I know that’s everyday for some of you. But I typed in the address of the church where the meeting was and my GPS spit back two route options. The first involved I-95, I-495 and I-66. No.

The second involved going through Manassas and heading up 28 north. I tried that one before. No.

Now I’m lucky enough to have lived here my whole life, before cell phones made it so that you didn’t know to know directions, so I took some backroads and made my own route. Take that siri. But it got me thinking about all the different routes you can take to destinations. If we were to leave from here to have brunch at one of the many different restaurants over by Potomac Mills, there are a number of ways we could take to get there. Which one is quickest? Which one is best? How would we know which one to take?

Some of us might just trust our phones to know the best ways. Some people, like my dad, invents strange routes with various “short cuts” and far be it for anyone else to tell them their route is not superior. And some of us might just take whatever route seems easiest, or the one that we know, without any thought to other possibilities.

Our spiritual journeys can be similar, right? For all of us in here there are equally as many routes that we took to arrive here, spiritually speaking, to this place, wherever we are with God. Some of us took a very straight route, from our baptism as infants to growing up in the church to never leaving. Some of us took some detours, maybe in college we dropped out of church for a while, but have come back. Some of us might have taken random twists and turns and feel incredibly fortunate that we ended up here. Some of us might feel lost, not sure where we are or how we got here.

For the last few weeks at Spirit and Life we have been trying to be deliberate and intentional about minding where we are on our spiritual quest. There are a great many things that could keep us from fully embracing God. Maybe we aren’t sure about the Bible’s reliability. Maybe we think science stands in the way of faith. Maybe we aren’t sure about Jesus. Maybe we have suffered some tragedy and can’t understand how a good God could allow for that. We’ve addressed those topics over the last few weeks in the hope of removing whatever obstacle is keeping you from God. If this is your first Sunday with us and you’re interested in those topics, I invite you to check out our sermon podcasts on our website or iTunes. You can binge listen during your commute.

Today we arrive at the final week of our sermon series which will talk about the way to God. Is Jesus the only way to God? That is the question that is before us this morning.

But it is also an invitation. If at the end of the sermon you are convinced that following Jesus is the way to God, that conclusion is itself an invitation to follow. And in the next two weeks we will see what following Jesus looks like as we retell and experience Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ life that culminates in the crucifixion and resurrection.

But back to our question.

Today we conclude this memorable series of messages with what may be the most prickly question people ask about the claims of the Bible, and Jesus, and Christianity: “How can you say that Jesus is the only way?” It sounds so … exclusive. So narrow. So intolerant. So … mean. It may be the most unpopular thing Jesus ever said. But He did say it, so it would make sense for us to take a look at His words and see if it’s as bad and as bigoted as it sounds.

I’d like to ask you to turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John, chapter 14, the passage we studied at the beginning of this journey, way back, five Sundays ago.

John 14 starts out like this.
John 14: 1-6
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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.” —John 14:1–6 (NIV)

There it is. That’s the statement that gets people all worked up. That’s where so many people—our friends, our neighbors, even our own family members—get offended and upset because Jesus seems to be counting them out, excluding them. But that’s NOT because His words are insensitive intolerant, or incorrect. It’s because they’re not understood. They’re not read properly. They’re not studied in context. Because I believe, completely and wholeheartedly, that the soul who understands what Jesus is saying, who fully grasps the full import of His words, will respond not by getting offended but by getting excited.

1. I should realize the intention of Jesus’ words.

If you turn back just a page, just a chapter, in John’s Gospel, you’ll get a better sense of Jesus’ intention. If you’ll look at chapter 13, you’ll see that John, the Gospel writer, places these words of Jesus in the context of the Last Supper in the upper room the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and tried. He has washed His disciples’ feet. He has dropped the bombshell news that one of them is going to betray Him. And He has told Peter that he will soon deny even knowing Jesus! After all that, He says,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

In other words, “Don’t be so sad. Don’t be upset. I’ve got good news too.” And in the midst of this good news, He says,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

In other words, Jesus’ intention is NOT “So sorry to tell you this, guys, but I’m the only way to the Father.” It’s exactly the opposite! It’s “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” It’s “Trust me.” It’s “Good is going to come from this.” It’s “I’ve got you covered.”

There’s a quote I love from a movie I’m not going to name. Just…because. But anyways, the main characters are taking a short cut on an incredibly back road, unpaved, one lane, in the middle of the woods. And one of the main characters is starting to get worried that this road will not lead them anywhere and voices his concern. Another character, the navigator, says in response, “It’s supposed to be a challenge, that’s why they call it a short cut. If it was easy it would just be the way.”
The way is supposed to be easy. The way is not supposed to be challenging. So it is with Jesus.
Jesus did not intend His statement about being the way to the Father as bad news … He intended it as really, really good news. He did not speak those words as an affront but as an assurance! He did not intend speak that way to be condemning; He intended to be comforting! I hope you can see that, because that’s so important to understand.

People who take offense at Jesus’ words—or more often, with how we Christians relay Jesus’ words—tend to hear them in a tone, in a context, that Jesus never intended. He intended His words as a message of hope, not hatred.

But that’s not all. I want something else to happen for you today:

2. I must recognize the inclusivity of Jesus’ words.
To understand this, I need to put what Jesus is saying here in some historical context. You see, the disciples, like Jesus, were Jews. And for Jews, there already was a way to God. The way to God for Jews was Torah. It was following the Law. It was obedience to the commandments and it was ritual Temple sacrifice when the Law was transgressed. Except no one could keep the Law. No one was able to fully live up to the standards set by Torah.
If we understand that historical context, Jesus’ words become radically inclusive. For two reasons. The first reason is that Torah was for Jews, yet Jesus is for all. The second reason is that keeping Torah is really, really hard. No one could do it. Following Jesus, well that we can do.
Somehow, over the years, Jesus’ words “I am the way and the truth and the life” have gotten twisted around in Christians’ mouths and in non-Christians’ ears to sound like Jesus is a bouncer at some exclusive nightclub. Like He’s saying, “Only the right sort of people can get past Me. You? You’re the wrong religion; get outta my sight. And you there. I don’t like your looks. See ya!” And so on. But that’s a slander, a slander against our Lord! And sometimes we church folk participate in it, and sometimes we let it happen … but I hope that won’t happen again, not among us.

Because when Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” remember that His intention was to comfort His disciples, His close friends. His words are not exclusive; they’re inclusive! They’re not intended to keep anyone out; they’re intended to bring everyone in!

Jesus is the way, not only for Peter, James, and John but for you and me. … Jesus is the way, not only for people raised in the church but for people who wouldn’t know a baptismal from a bathtub. … Jesus is the way, not only for Americans, or Westerners, but Africans and Asians and Australians. Jesus is the way, not only for people of my race, or your race, but for people of every race, every tribe, every clan, every language, every accent. Jesus is the way, whether you’re single, married, divorced, or too old to remember. Jesus is the way, whether you’re an ex-con, an ex-smoker, or ex-president. Jesus is the way for everyone, whatever your history, whatever your baggage, whatever your economic status, whatever your IQ, whatever whatever whatever. …

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, Jesus is the way. It doesn’t matter what route you took to get here or how long it took you, Jesus is the way. It doesn’t matter how bad your past has been or how messed up your present, Jesus is the way.

As Greg Koukl explains in the video that accompanies this week’s group study, it’s not at all like God is looking down on all the people of earth and saying to some over here, “You’re out” and to others over here, “You’re out.” On the contrary, Jesus is opening His arms to everyone on earth, saying, “Come on in! You, over there, I want you! Come on in!”

Which leads us to just one more point I’d like to make from those verses in John’s Gospel. I hope everyone here realizes the intention of Jesus’ words in John 14:6. And I hope we all recognize the inclusivity of His statement. If so, then I want one more thing to happen for you today:

3. I will respond to the invitation in Jesus’ words.

Listen one more time to the words of Jesus in John 14, and listen to the invitation that is inherent in what He says:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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.”

Notice that He doesn’t say, “I can show you the way.” He doesn’t say, “I will lead the way.” He doesn’t say, “I will give you directions, I will draw you a map.” He says, “I am the way.” He is not only the way TO heaven. He is the way OUT of darkness, the way OUT of sin, the way OUT of emptiness. He is the way of freedom from guilt, of deliverance from shame and death and despair.

I invite you to respond to the invitation in Jesus’ words and find the object of your heart’s quest in Him. Wherever you were born, whatever you’ve done, however badly you’ve blown it, whether or not you’ve got issues—and we’ve ALL got issues!—Jesus extends an invitation to you today. You don’t have to apply, you don’t have to qualify, because the invitation is universal … exclusive … it is for everyone. It is for you.

All you must do—all you CAN do—is confess your sin, accept that through His death and resurrection you are forgiven by God, and commit to following Him day by day, as He enables you. No matter what others may say, no matter how unworthy you may feel, Jesus will not bar the door against you. On the contrary, HE paid your entrance fee. HE took your hazing. HE underwent the initiation … you need only to accept.

If you are here today as a skeptic or a seeker, meaning you’re open to God but you haven’t yet committed to loving Him and following Jesus Christ, I say to you today, in Jesus’ name, you don’t have to get your act together, you don’t have to figure things out, you don’t have to pick yourself up or clean yourself off. … He’ll take care of that. You can just come to Jesus, in simplicity and humility, and he will welcome you in.

We are at the end of our quest in one sense, but today can be the very start of your own quest. Your own spiritual quest following Jesus to God and to life. All you need to do is take one step towards God.

And if you are here today and have been following Christ for many years, you don’t get off easy here. Because we all have that next step to take on our journey. Maybe it’s joining a small group. Maybe it’s committing to serve in your church. Maybe it’s giving a little bit more of your life to Jesus. Maybe there’s some sin in your life, some habit in your life that you can’t break, that you need to confess of, experience God’s forgiveness and to be healed. There is some step that you need to take. And as we close out this series and we close out this sermon I want us to take a few moments in silence to talk to God, to have God tell us what that next step is, and to commit to taking that step. Let us go before the Lord in prayer.

More in God Quest

March 6, 2016

The Question of Suffering

February 28, 2016

Who is Jesus?

February 21, 2016

Creation