EASTER 5, A – May 14, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Psalm 30; Acts 6 & 7; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

     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.” (John 14)

 

This thought struck me the other day: Jesus wasn’t just focusing on heaven when He said to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He was also talking about living and pleasing God on this earth. For, you see, Jesus had just said He was going away, and Thomas wondered where. Was it somewhere in Israel, or somewhere else? Jesus also had an earthly place on His mind: a hill called Calvary, where in just a few hours He would go to bear our sins and end the separation from God that they bring. And so, He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” for life on earth, and not just in heaven. Let’s think about how this pertains to living your life here and now.

“I am the way.” Did you know that before believers in Jesus were called Christians they were called, “people of the Way”? We heard this morning in our reading from Acts about Stephen being killed for his faith in Jesus. Those who stoned Stephen laid their garments at the feet of a man named Saul, and afterward he went out to arrest people belonging to the Way. (Acts 9:1-2)

“I am the way.” The way of Jesus, of believing in Him and following Him, doesn’t mean sinlessness and perfection and everything going great. Stephen and his fellow believers had their sins and struggles! But, it did mean a changed life; and we see this in Stephen. He spoke frankly of sins, urged people to turn to Jesus for forgiveness, and at the end saw Jesus with His life awaiting him. In your own life:

1)    Begin by admitting your own sins and asking for forgiveness. Don’t be afraid or unwilling to do so. This is the first, and most important, part of the way of Jesus!

2)    Then, strive against them. Don’t say, “Well, we’re all sinners” – as if it doesn’t matter – and just give into them. You are Christ’s! You have received His victory over sin! Fight against them!

3)    And then, above all, forgive those who sin against you. This way is far different from the way of the world. The world says, “Don’t forget; get even.” The way of Jesus says, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Set it aside, Lord, and then help me to do so, also!

 

“I am the way,” Jesus says. I am the forgiveness of and victory over sin. His way, the victory of His forgiveness, is to be in our hearts, upon our lips and in our hands, especially as we deal with those who sin against us. This is the way of Jesus.

“I am the truth.” There is truth: truth that is real, and is independent of us. It exists. It is Jesus, His words and actions. And, like His way, Jesus’ truth encompasses sin and its forgiveness.

Jesus spoke the truth when He said that God is not some unknowable being but is seen and known in Him. “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” To this, Philip responded, “Lord, show us the Father.” How this bothered Jesus! “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? How can you say [this]? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” Jesus spoke the truth and pointed out to Philip his sin. And then, He pointed Philip to the evidence for this truth about Himself: in His works. “The Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”

That Jesus is the true God and Savior isn’t just an idea or a concept. It is seen in His life. It is the same with the faith in Him. Faith that is true is seen in one’s life, for Jesus is not dead, but living. As His Father lived in Him and brought forth His works, so He lives in the people of His way and brings forth their works. “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do,” Jesus says. God and His Son are seen and known in you! They are especially seen in the mercy and forgiveness you show because of Jesus. That is the point. That is the truth.

Martin Luther said of this: “Every individual Christian is a [person] such as the Lord Christ Himself was on earth; he accomplishes great things... He can help and benefit everybody; he does the greatest works on earth. He is also regarded more highly by God than the entire world is. For his sake God gives to the world and preserves for it all that it has. If there were no Christians on earth, no city or country would enjoy peace; yes, everything on earth would perish through the devil in a single day. That grain still grows in the field; that people recover from an illness; that they have their sustenance, peace, and protection – all this they owe to the Christians.” (LW 24:78) You who follow Jesus, the truth, bring His saving truth and presence into the world! Others may not believe this, and you may wonder about it yourself at times, especially when you see and feel your sins. But, hang onto what Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do.” Jesus is the truth and speaks the truth!

Finally, “I am the life.” Jesus speaks, not only as God, but as man. As man He is what God intended us human beings to be, and as you believe in Him and come to Him to receive Him, you are made new in Him. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!” exults Peter (1 Pet. 2).

So, what does this mean for your life and how you live it? Well, consider this about Jesus: He spent only about 9% of His life in those great public works of preaching and teaching, helping and healing, and above all dying and rising for us. What did He do the rest of His life? Well, we know little, but certainly He did such ordinary things as loving and honoring His father and mother; going to the synagogue and temple to worship God; learning and practicing carpentry, I suppose, as this was his father’s trade; attending the occasional wedding and other celebrations; eating and drinking, playing and working. In other words, He mostly lived an ordinary life, like everyone else! He did so with love and thanksgiving for God, and His Father was pleased.

If Jesus, the true Son of God and Son of Man and the way, the truth, and the life could gladly live this way, can not we, His believers, do this, also? Why berate yourself, or others, because of sins and failings, or even for not doing enough? God knows your sins and failings better than you do; but, “His anger is but for a moment. His favor is for a lifetime!” (Ps. 30:5) And Jesus: He didn’t just endure being with His disciples, or with people in general. He loved being with them, for He loved them! He loves you, also. He went to the cross to prepare a place for you, and rose to life again to take you to Himself. He lives within you to fill you with His holy life!

With His life; His truth; and His way. “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2) Thanks be to God! Through Jesus Christ, our way, our truth, and our life. Amen.