Let me state something that seems obvious but is less obvious than you might think: The central focus of Christmas is Jesus. As you look around you might think that the central focus is Santa Claus, decorations, gifts, family or maybe you might think that Christmas is really all about ME! Christmas, rightly understood puts the spotlight on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Because of this fact we have been spending our time during this season of Advent looking at Jesus. We want to know who He is and who He claimed to be by His own words. Our focus has been on the seven “I Am” statements Jesus makes in the Gospel of John.
- I am the bread of life
- I am the light of the world
- I am the Gate (or door)
- I am the Good Shepherd
- I am the Resurrection and the Life
- I am the Way, the truth and the life
- I am the vine and you are the branches
This evening we look at the sixth of these bold statements. It is found in John chapter 14 verse 6.
The setting is the upper room on the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas. Jesus was talking to the disciples who already had their heads spinning from what had happened at the meal. Jesus had washed their feet, announced that he would be betrayed, Judas had departed (the disciples thought it was to attend to business but we read that it was because Jesus had identified him as the betrayer), and Jesus had announced that their most outspoken leader, Peter, would deny Him three times before the morning had come.
It is to this confused state of mind that Jesus speaks these words,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 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. 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.” [John 14:1-4]
Jesus summoned his disciples to look beyond the immediate and catch a glimpse of the eternal. During the roller coaster ride of the next 72 hours Jesus wanted them to remember His promise and to put their confidence in Him . . . even when they didn’t understand. If you think about it . . . it’s great advice for us as well.
Thomas expressed his confusion when he said, “We don’t know what you’re talking about. We don’t know where it is you are going, so, we certainly don’t know how to get there. Jesus responded with our text for the evening,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
WHAT JESUS CLAIMS
Jesus calls himself, the way, the truth, and the life.
He is the Way. The obvious first question is: the way to what/where? Suppose you were on some wilderness adventure. You hire a guide and he heads out. Suddenly you reach a place where there no longer any path showing the way. You ask to the guide, “Where’s the path.” The guide might say, “I am the path.”
The guide isn’t saying that you need to walk on him, he is telling you that he doesn’t need a path to find his way. You may be lost and disoriented, He is not.
Jesus is saying much the same thing to the disciples. The events that will soon take place will surely leave them confused. They will feel lost. Jesus wants them to know that if they continue to trust Him, He will lead them not only out of the crisis, He will lead them to a relationship with God that will last through eternity. He is the way to Heaven.
He is the Truth Jesus is the source for knowledge about God. He told his disciples that no one has or can see God (because He is Spirit and beyond our ability to grasp). Yet, Jesus said, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father.” Jesus is the One who leads us to the truth about God.
Jesus is not just a teacher of the truth, He IS the truth. Jesus is the standard by which all other truth is measured. Once again, Jesus is making a bold claim of deity. He is claiming to be God and as God He is the One who truly knows what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is best and what is not.
He is the Life. Some time ago, a psychologist asked three thousand persons, “What have you to live for?” He was shocked to find that 94 percent were simply enduring the present while waiting for the future. They were waiting for “something” to happen—waiting for children to grow up and leave home, waiting for next year, waiting for another time to take a long-dreamed-about trip, waiting for retirement, or even waiting for tomorrow. They all believed that there was something more to life than what they were currently experiencing.
At Christmas we often get excited thinking about the gifts we may receive. We imagine how much better or more enjoyable life might be. We think about how much better we will look and how satisfied we will be. Even if we receive those gifts those feeling don’t last long. We aren’t satisfied because “stuff” is not really what we are longing for. We are longing for a relationship with God whether we realize it or not.
One of the popular gifts this year will be GPS devices. You tell them where you want to go and they guide you turn by turn to your destination. If you make a wrong turn or a detour, the GPS will keep trying to get you back on course. If you will, God has planted within us a GPS that is set to lead us to Him. We take detours and ignore instructions but inside of us there is a voice that keeps calling us to the Lord.
Jesus is the destination. He is the one who establishes this connection with the Creator of the Universe. Jesus is the one who satisfies that desire inside of us for something eternal. We must know and trust Him if we want to find that life we are longing for.
JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD
Most people could tolerate what Jesus said about being the way, truth, and the life, if he had simply stopped at that point. Once He says He is the ONLY way to God He puts us in a tough spot. He said “no man comes to the Father, except through me”. There are no other ways to God.
This statement creates cries of “narrow mindedness” and “arrogance” and even “hate-mongering”. This is not the only place where the Bible makes such explicit claims. Peter, when he was on trial, claimed, ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). 1 Timothy 2:5 Paul said,: ‘For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’ John 3:16 of course says, “whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
We resist this statement first because we don’t want to have to submit our wills to anyone else. In our fiercely independent society we actually expect God to join our will (“bless me in my work, O Lord”) rather than bending our hearts to His will (Command what you will and give me the strength to do what you command).
Second, we resist this because it means not everyone goes to Heaven. We object strenuously to this and cry, “That’s not fair!” However, our reasoning is faulty. We are measuring people’s lives by our standards of goodness. By our standards, there are a lot of people who are doing really well. But the standard of measurement is not us . . . .it is God. By God’s standard we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. By God’s standards there are NO good people. There are only rebellious people who have no idea of the danger they are in and how desperately they need of someone to rescue them.
Suppose you were floating down a river on a nice little inner tube. Life is calm and peaceful. You are convinced that life is good and that it doesn’t get any better than this. By your perception, things are good. However, suppose just a short distance ahead a huge waterfall will send the water 30 feet to a pool below. You don’t see any problem but that doesn’t mean you aren’t in trouble. You feel good, but that doesn’t mean you are good.
Suppose this same man sees people waving to him (because they are aware of the danger) but he just waves back. He hears the word “danger” but soothes himself with the fact that he has plenty of sunscreen on his body. Let’s say one guy from the shore actually swims out to the man and tells he needs to come back to the shore. The man has his ipod on and thinks the man is trying to steal his inner tube. So he kicks the man away.
Who is to blame when this man goes over the falls and dies? Is it God’s fault for creating the falls? No. Do we blame the people on the shore? No. They did all they could to warn the man. Who is to blame? It’s the man Himself. His feelings of goodness made him oblivious to what was really going on.
That’s the way it is with the world. We are all floating down the river toward the destructive force of God’s Judgment. We feel confident and secure. God sends messengers to call people to Christ but other options are more attractive to them. They look for an easier way. The message of Christ is too “restrictive”, too demanding.
Who is to blame if these people face Judgment? It’s not God and it is not those who proclaim the message. The only one to blame is the one who refuses to hear.
It’s true that these are bold words. But truth, by nature is dogmatic. J. Vernon McGee relates,
I had a teacher who was the most dogmatic, narrow-minded person I’ve ever met. She insisted that 2 plus 2=4. It didn’t make any difference what you had two of—apples or cows or dollars—she always insisted that 2+2=4. She was dogmatic. I have found that the bank I do business with operates on the same principle. Only in my case it is 2–2= 0, and they are dogmatic about it. Friend, let me say to you that one of the characteristics of truth is its dogmatism.
Now, not all dogmatism is truth—there is a lot of ignorance that is dogmatic. However, that which is truth has to be dogmatic. When I ask directions to go somewhere, I do not want my directions from a man who isn’t sure and doesn’t know exactly how to get there. I want my directions from one who knows exactly where I’m to turn and how many blocks I’m to go.
But what about all the other religious belief systems? Alistair Begg writes,
The idea that there are really no substantive differences between religions needs to be held up to careful scrutiny and declared fraudulent. For example, Islam says that Jesus was not crucified. Christianity says he was. ONLY ONE OF US CAN BE RIGHT. Judaism says Jesus was not the Messiah. Christianity says he was. ONLY ONE OF US CAN BE RIGHT. Hinduism says God has often been incarnate. Christianity says God was incarnate only in Jesus. WE CANNOT BOTH BE RIGHT. Buddhism says that the world’s mysteries will end when we do what is right. Christianity says we cannot do what is right. Christians are often exhorted by detractors to give up our exclusive claims and be ” humble ” enough to admit the validity of all the other roads. To which we must reply, “Truth is not ultimately a matter of pride or humility; it is a matter of fact.” [Allistar Begg, MADE IN HIS PRESENCE p. 125,126 Emphasis mine]
The testimony is clear: Jesus says we can’t have a relationship with God without a saving relationship with Christ because He is the way to God, He is the truth about God, and He possesses the life of God.
So here we are on the verge of another Christmas. Too many people will celebrate the day without ever giving a thought to Christ. For them, the day is about gifts and family get-togethers alone. Others will give a “nod toward God”. They will attend a Christmas service and conclude that they have done their duty. It is possible for both of these groups of people to have a very Merry Christmas. They will have a good time, but they will not be impacted by the Christ of Christmas. They are not headed to one of those rooms in the Father’s house. They are headed for trouble whether they realize it or not.
However, there will be others. There will be people who hear the words of Christ and His claims to deity. They will see His acts of power. They will come to recognize and believe that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. These people will dare to put their trust and confidence in Christ to rescue them.
To these people, Christmas is not primarily about gifts and decorations . . . it is primarily about the fact that the entry of God into the world has dramatically changed their lives. These people have embraced the Savior and found that He has also embraced them. They have come to Him in faith and have found that the Lord of Life has made them new from the inside out. These are the people who truly understand that Christmas is about discovering and celebrating the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.
The question I pose to you is this: Which group do you belong to? Are you turning to the Jesus of Bethlehem for forgiveness and new life? Do you accept the fact that you need Him more than you need anything else on your Christmas list this year? I hope so. If you have never done so before, you can begin that relationship right here and now. You can turn to Christ and declare your dependence and allegiance to Him. You don’t need to have a dramatic moment, you don’t have to walk an aisle, you don’t need to say any magic words. What you do need to do is open your heart to the Lord. You need to truly come to Him and put your confidence, not in your goodness, but in His; not your hard work, but His gracious sacrifice; not your wisdom, but His promise. If you will do this, you will no longer have a troubled heart because you will know that you have new life and that there is a future prepared for you that makes everything in the present bearable.
Of course, if you don’t choose to do this you can continue to soothe yourself with the thought that things are fine . . . at least until you reach the falls.