May 10, 2020 Yes, I am Everyone’s Way
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
One of our LCMS pastors from MN was invited to speak at a men’s retreat at a camp a few years ago. And even tho he had been to Camp Courage several times, and had a map in the car, he had the hard time finding it. He saw the sign that read Co.Hwy 7, & that’s what he wanted, so he made the turn; and drove & drove, but didn’t see the camp. Several miles later, he turned around and headed back down the road to see if he had missed it. Nothing!
So, now came the part that’s humbling for all men; he had to stop at a local gas station & ask for directions. (many of us men believe that we were created with an infallible internal compass) So, he stopped at the convenience store on the corner where he first turned on Hwy 7. Frustrated, he walked in & said, “Where in the world is Camp Courage?” He explained that he had turned on Route 7, just as he was supposed to do, but there was no camp. “Oh,” said the clerk, “yah, we get people in here all the time who make the wrong turn. They should move that sign. The real Route 7 is another quarter mile up.” “So, this isn’t Route 7?” Dean asked. “I’m not sure what number it is,” the man said, “but, …whoever put the sign up is sure helping our business. What can I get you?” So, Pastor Dean had been misled. After a cup of coffee & a donut, he was on his way with new directions, and not long after, arrived at the camp. Just about every time he tells that story, someone jokes with Rv.Dean Nadasdy, & says “You can’t find a camp you’ve been to before, and we’re supposed to trust you to tell us the way to heaven?”
We’ve all had the experience of getting lost; and it compares to the experience of millions of people wanting to know the way to heaven, and finding themselves /misled, /or lost, /or frustrated, /or driving in circles, /or listening to directions, but are not sure they can trust what they hear. For those of us who have heard Jesus’ directions & trust Him, His words from John 14 fill us with courage & peace. He said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms …I go to prepare a place for you. // … “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Let’s ponder why He needed to say these things, and what it means for us, & for those around us.
We need to be patient with people who doubt Jesus’ words. All of us have a natural doubt; our human reason resists faith in God’s words. Even Adam & Eve were tempted by an alternate route to the truth. So, we all start out lost in a world filled with alternate roads to life; and the deadly thing is, all roads =except one= do NOT arrive at the Lord’s Camp. Except by God’s Spirit & grace, we would disbelieve all three of those things Jesus said: the way, the truth, & the life. Our lostness is one of the two great truths of Holy Scripture.
Minnesotan cartoonist, Charles Schultz, spoke a truth in one of his ‘Peanuts’ cartoons where Linus says, “Charlie, do you want to know what the trouble with you is?” Charlie says, “No!” After some awkward silence, Linus says, “Well, the trouble with you, Charlie Brown, is that you don’t want to know what the trouble with you is.” The truth is, none of us really want to hear what our big trouble in life is; the universal human trouble is: we are off-course. We are lost in the dark, separated from God, & from true life, & locked out of heaven. And besides that, we -naturally- don’t feel we need to ask for directions = to a camp, to a church, to a store, …. or to heaven.
Like Pastor Dean, we can see all kinds of SIGNS to follow; fake & misleading signs. One sign says, ‘All roads lead to heaven.’ Another says, ‘Doesn’t make any difference which way you turn. Just be a good person & you’ll get there.’ Another says, ‘Just put the peddle to the metal now, ‘cause this life is all there is.’ Another says, ‘as long as you’re better than Hitler, you’ll be fine.’ Those fake signs are only wishful thinking.
So in our day & culture, even WE can be tempted to believe that what Jesus really said was: ‘I’m like the main way, but since I love everyone, so all nice people get to come in to my home.’ We are tempted to think that, because even we don’t like the idea that billions of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, those with earthy-natural-based religions, & those nice people who don’t care about spiritual things are all lost, hell-bound, & won’t make it to heaven.
When Jesus says, “I am the way,” He really does NOT mean ‘A way,’ like – He is one of the ways among many. Because that’s NOT what He said. As the only Son of the Heavenly Father, & the only one sent & assigned to that cross on calvary, He really DID say, “I am THEE way. No one comes to the Father except thru Me.”
Just as there is a fake Highway 7 in central Minnesota that keeps people away from Camp Courage, so there are fake ways to heaven, false roads that can send people off on wild goose chases, and spiritual time-wasters; they all end-up as dead ends. And Jesus really does mean ‘dead.’
When Jesus says, “I am the way,” He builds on centuries of His own Biblical law and prophecy pointing to the ONE way of salvation as presented to the whole world thru His chosen people = the Israelites. He spoke thru the prophet Isaiah 700 years before He arrived in Bethlehem. Isaiah wrote about the Way of Holiness; in that way, the trusting traveler would not be lost. That one way of faith was made by the one holy Messiah, the suffering servant of God, who died on the one cross, and rose-up from that one tomb, & who alone is the Right-Hand-Man of the Father. After Pentecost, the Apostles proclaimed Jesus as Christ-alone; and for a time, before the believers were called ‘Christians’, they were called followers of ‘The Way.’
So what else does Jesus mean when He says, “I am the Way?” It’s not just the way of ‘love’ or ‘peace’, because every religion teaches that. And, it’s not really ‘directions’ written down, so that -if we follow them closely- we will arrive at the goal. It’s more than that.
He means to say there is one way to heaven, and HE is that way. The one & only way into God’s holy heaven is living a perfect & sinless life, and fulfilling God’s demand for holiness and righteousness. That’s not something we can do; but, Jesus has done that for you.
He came among us -as one of us- and was tempted in every way; except He never sinned against God-the-Father. According to God’s promise, now His perfection is counted as ours, and we trust Him to cover us with His Robe of Righteousness. This trust in His promise is called ‘the righteousness of faith.’ The one Father gave His one Son to the world so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. That is the one simple soul-saving gospel for young & old, for people of all nations, tribes, languages & cultures; that makes all humans equal under the same saving gospel. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ, and are baptized in Him, will be saved. Jesus is The Way.
Jesus is also The Way in another sense. He has also become The Life of us. That is, our faith in Him becomes our motivation for living our life now in obedience to the Father in holiness and righteousness. That means living according to His commands & rules.
It is sin & disobedience that ripped all souls away from God, and -in sin- we stand condemned. Now that Jesus has restored us to God thru His forgiving death on the cross, we cannot just return to those ways of sin & disobedience; but rather we walk with Him = who has become our new life. He is not only our ‘way’ out of death, but is also our ‘way’ in living life. He’s our Savior, teacher & Lord. The person who thinks that -since Jesus has forgiven us- now we can live any way we want, is not a believer according to The Truth. The true people of God in Christ are those who walk in the holy ways of Jesus = because He is the Way and the Truth.
So, these few words of Jesus are full of /meaning, /comfort, /instruction, /daily- purpose, /& courage for us. There is no other way to heaven, and there is no greater way to live on earth than the Way & Truth that is Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t come to just give us directions; He came /to substitute for us, /to rescue us & hold us safe, /to teach us & bless us, /to walk with us & lead us home to heaven. He is our all-in-all. I know it bothers our human pride to hear that we’re so spiritually weak that we can’t get there on our own; & it bother’s people to hear Jesus’ exclusive claim to be the only one & that Biblical Christian faith is the only true religion; but just because it’s bothersome doesn’t change the truth of it.
That reminds me of author Alex Haley, the writer of ‘Roots,’ who kept a certain strange picture in his office; it showed a turtle on a fencepost. He liked to say, “If you ever see a turtle on a fence post, you know he had help getting there. Anytime I think to myself, ‘WOW, look at what I’ve done’, I look at that picture and say, ‘Alex, you didn’t get on top of this fence post on your own.’ This is a Christian truth. We are forgiven, and on the road to heaven because we’ve been lifted-up, redeemed, & placed into God’s good graces by Jesus, the world’s only Savior & Road to heaven.
One of the reasons this John 14 passage is chosen for the Sundays of Easter is because, just as Jesus proclaims “I am the Way,” He also proclaims “I am the Life.” He alone took the Father’s fight against sin & evil to the gates of hell; He alone faced death and conquered it. He alone did battle with & conquered the Prince of Darkness, and He descended into hell =not to suffer= but to make sure it was clearly understood by the spirits in prison that He is the Victorious Warrior of Heaven.
Many in this world like to picture Jesus as just a gentle teacher, like a kindly Mr.Rogers, meek, quiet, who wouldn’t argue or fuss or hurt a fly. If that’s true, why were the demons deathly afraid of Him? Why did He chase out the animals from His Father’s house & overturn the tables of the money-changers? Why did He confront the pharisees, point out their errors, & condemn them as poisonous snakes & hypocrites? And when it came to facing the cross, why did He not run away or faint in fear? Instead, He faced His betrayer, His lying accusers, His Roman torturers, and the divine wrath of His father. The real Jesus is the Lord of Life. The real Jesus went thru hell to open up heaven to us.
And what is the true Life that He offers us == a bed of roses ? The life He offers is anything but easy; but it is real, true, satisfying, and forward-looking. He has told us that we can’t be friends with this world; the world will hate us because of Him, but not to worry, He has overcome this world, & offers us a better world to come. As His people, our life now is one of identifying with His cross, a life of picking-up our own cross, and following Him in holy living; serving rather than being served; losing our little desires now in order to gain a lasting treasure. Jesus has shown us The Life by living IN the world, but not being OF the world.
He showed us /daily prayer, /weekly worship, /struggling against temptations, /helping others, /and being a faithful witness to those around us. Jesus disciples have a life of sharing with others the blessings we have, and sharing the courage & peace of knowing the One who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life for ALL people.
There are many in this world that are not sure how to get to heaven; they’ve heard of so many different routes, and have seen many different signs that claim to point in the right direction. But our Creator has made Himself known; and He desires that all people come to a knowledge of the truth. So He sent The Son of Heaven to take away all doubt and fear. Thanks be to God for the Good News. Jesus is the Way.