In “preaching study” posts, I’m really interested in fostering a “community” approach to study and prep for the message, so please interact as much as you like. All Scripture quotes are from the TNIV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
As I mentioned before (here and here), I’m preaching our contemporary service for the next few weeks on Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life. This week is about Jesus as the Way. I’m working from John 14:1-7.
In the earlier study post, I thought about the following regarding Thomas’ exchange with Jesus in vv5-7:
Thomas seems to make the assumption, usually a correct one, that knowing the destination, the aim, the end result, the where, is the first thing to cover. If we know the where, we can figure out a way to get there. All that stands between our cleverness and resourcefulness in nailing down the way is clear, direct communication from Jesus about the where, the destination.
Right now I’m pursuing the question, “When is the way is the where?” One way we might say it is to emphasize the journey over the destination. That’s close, but I’m not sure that’s exactly what I’m trying to get at here.
In much of evangelical Christianity we’ve emphasized that heaven is the point of salvation. It’s what we’re saved for. But the Gospels, while they seem to have an existence with God after death in mind, emphasize the Kingdom of God as the point of salvation. Jesus preaches a Kingdom of God that is near, and even within. Revelation speaks of a new heavens and new earth. These hardly suggest that salvation is exclusively, or even first of all, about the afterlife. In fact, the whole of the NT witness seems to bundle anything about life with/in God in an afterlife with life with/in God in the present, earthly existence. In other words, heaven seems to be included in, but not the point of, the Kingdom of God. Further, we pray as Jesus taught, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom seems to be spanning earth and heaven and connecting them under the rule of God.
I think we see, upon rereading our bibles, that while Thomas (like us?) is more interested in the where, the destination, Jesus is teaching, perhaps subtly, that the Way is the Where and that he is the Way.
“If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” (v7)
Is not much of heaven knowing and being known, and in the midst of that loving and being loved, by the Father?
John Calvin said, “True knowledge of God is born out of obedience.” I think John Wesley would have agreed with this. Discipleship, apprenticeship, following and learning life from Jesus, imitating Jesus, gives us deeper knowledge of God than we had when we where only thinking about God or having feelings toward God. When my wife and I had our first child (we’re on number three now), we were told over and over that having children would change our life. We genuinely knew that was a deeply true statement. But our experiential knowledge of it is much different–richer and more robust–than our theoretical knowledge of it, correct though it was.
Plus, I think touches on a Wesleyan emphasis on sanctification or holiness—our growing into the likeness of Christ. Our becoming persons who love God and neighbor, whether that neighbor is friend or enemy, near or far, like us or very much unlike us. Love in action will not be cookie cutter–it will not look the same in every circumstance. But it will still be love, and not something else.
This is the difficulty of the Jesus Way. Jesus went to places and among people that we aren’t interested in going to or among. We don’t like “those people” but Jesus seems to love them and be quite interested in saving “them” too. Jesus isn’t terribly impressed with our tribal, national, familial, cultural, denominational, political, ideological borders and boundaries and shibboleths. He wasn’t in his own day. He didn’t mind upsetting polite society in order to push the kingdom agenda and as a member of polite society, why do I act as though I think he would behave any better today?
We’ve tended to emphasize the “the’s” in John 14:6: “the way and the truth and the life.” (emphasis mine)
Perhaps we’ve done so in order to emphasize that other people are “other” to us. I’m not denying the exclusive claims of Jesus, but aren’t we avoiding what the “the’s” are there for by emphasizing them? Jesus isn’t the way before he is the Way.
We’re saved from a life that is characterized by alienation from God and others (and therefore even our own selves) and animated by sin into a life that is characterized by imitating Jesus, living the Way of Christ. And since we’re living in the Jesus Way, we find ourselves in the where of relationship with the Father. Is this not heaven? Is this not the destination, the goal?
What happeens with our lives when the where we were interested in nailing down (“Lord, we don’t know where you are going…”) is the way that we’re interested in only secondarily (“…so how can we know the way”)?
Stories of people living, embodying, the Jesus Way?