Worship

He Lives to be the Only Way to Heaven

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Watch the livestream beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.

First Lesson: Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)

Gospel: John 14:1-11 (NIV)

Music:

  • Men’s Chorus Anthem “Hold On to the Rock”
  • Hymn CW 938 “This Is the Feast”
  • Hymn CW 510 “In Christ Alone”
  • Hymn CW 809 “Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled”
  • Handbell Offertory “This Is My Father’s World”
  • Hymn CW 930 “Go My Children with My Blessing”

5/07/2023                          John 14:1-11                               Pastor Wolfe

Congratulations, you Found your Father!
1) Jesus Alone Shows Us the Father
2) Jesus Alone Shows Us the Way to the Father’s House

As long as there have been people in the world, people have been looking for God. In ancient Egypt people thought they found God in the Nile River and in the sun. The Greeks and Romans and Vikings looked to gods of thunder and war. In Canaan (all over the world really) people looked to gods of sex and fertility. In places I’ve served as pastor I got to know people who looked for God as the Great Spirit of Native American belief and the powerful ancestors of the Asian Hmong people. Over 90% of the world’s population believes there is a “god” of some kind.

Some social scientists see mankind’s search for God as a defining, yet fruitless, part of who we are. They see it as an attempt to create order in a chaotic world that is really beyond our control. And so they look at the different “gods” people have worshipped in different times and different places and see one and the same thing. In their view, since “God” is a product of man’s imagination it doesn’t matter which god you believe in as long as you believe in something. You’ve maybe even heard the saying, “All steeples point to heaven.”

Our text today reminds us how foolish, how dangerous, that kind of thinking is. Jesus knew that his disciples needed to know God the Father better. But he didn’t send them searching. He didn’t give them secret rituals or hidden knowledge. He told them that they already knew the Father, because they knew him. In fact, Jesus said that knowing him is the only way to know the Father. Now that’s a stunning statement. If we want to know God, the only way to know him is through Jesus. That flies in the face of a culture where “god” is a mystical being who can be found by any multitude of religions. Where people believe that many paths lead to the same place.

This is a perfect text for a confirmation weekend. Because nine young people in our church have been studying about Jesus. For two years, three years, my own son for four years. They know Jesus and because they know him, they know God. It’s part of the vow they make today. Part of the vow many of us made years ago. So congratulations! You have found the Father. Jesus alone Shows Us the Father. Jesus Alone Shows Us the Way to the Father’s House.

Jesus Alone Shows Us the Father

Some say that mankind’s search for God is an attempt to know the unknown. Scripture tells us quite the opposite. People search for God not to find something we’ve never known, but to regain something we’ve lost. Think about it. Adam and Eve knew God in a perfect, personal way. He walked with them in the Garden and talked with them in the cool of the day. He gave them work to do and they enjoyed doing it in harmony with him and each other.

But when Adam and Eve sinned, in a sense they “lost” God. Not that they didn’t know where he was or what he wanted – they just didn’t know him the way they used to. Scripture describes it as losing the image of God. They had lost their former closeness with God and their perfect peace with God. That’s a loss that every person born into this sinful world feels and it shows itself in this natural desire to find God. Humans are wired to want to know God. That’s why we look for him.

Throughout the millennia people have tried to find God in countless places. Ancient people saw him in the lightning and in the sea. Modern people see him in the natural world, or in the spirits of their ancestors. They try to restore that relationship with God by repeating mantras or communing with the dead. Ancient people offered sacrifices and lived alone as hermits. Today people try to be “spiritual” but not “religious.” But no matter what people try, they never find God. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

After Jesus told the disciples that he was preparing a place for them with the Father, it’s almost as if that were too much for them. Philip responded, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Maybe the idea of actually living with our perfect God was frightening. Maybe he thought it was impossible. Either way Philip would be happy just to see God, and that would be enough. But Jesus responds and tells them that they’ve already done that. They knew Jesus, and that meant they already knew the Father.

The full meaning of Jesus’ words, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me,” is shrouded in the mystery of the trinity. Certainly his words are full of comfort for us though. Jesus’ love is a declaration of the Father’s love. Jesus’ words of forgiveness are proof of the Father’s forgiveness. Many times I think we picture Jesus as a loving shepherd, but God the Father as a stern judge. As if Jesus is our friend, but the Father is someone to watch out for. But that’s not the case! Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in him.

We can’t understand or explain it, but even though they are distinct and separate persons there is no separating the Father and the Son. What one does the other does. What one declares the other says too. The sins forgiven by the work of one are forgiven in the eyes of both. You see what this means, don’t you? Humanity’s great search for God isn’t answered in the stars or the crystals or the arts. Jesus alone shows us the Father, because in Christ, we have found the Father. We know him. We have seen him. And he loves and forgives us unconditionally.

Jesus Alone Shows us the Way to the Father’s House

The timing of our text is important. This was the night that Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Jesus knew the difficulty of the days ahead. His disciples would be sheep without a shepherd. I’ve been talking about the second half of the text but look at how it starts. These are some of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture. They’re the words I share with the dying. Jesus tells them that he will leave them soon, but that

he is leaving for a reason. “My father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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 responds with a question, but while he didn’t know where Jesus was going, we do. Jesus is talking about heaven, the Father’s house, our final goal and ultimate hope. Think of all the promises of blessing in Jesus’ words here. Jesus tells us that our place in heaven is our prepared home. A home is a permanent place, isn’t it? Not a place we visit or stay at for only a while, but the place we want to be when the day is done. Heaven is our home. As the hymn says, “We are but strangers here.” Remember that as we get caught up in world events or worldly things. Everything here will one day end. Everything you own will one day belong to someone else. But there is a home waiting for you in heaven. A home prepared by Jesus just for you.

Even more, Jesus tells us that he will come back and take us to be with him there. We forget that. I forget that. We forget that there’s more to life than this life. We forget that there’s no promise of tomorrow for me or for the world. We think we’ve got all the time we need to share our faith later or show our thanks with a better life in the future. But Jesus is coming back and that day will be the last day. No more after that to do the things we know we could do. Imagine how differently we would live if we knew this was the last day. Well, it might be! Whether Jesus comes to us individually at the moment of our death or together with the rest of the world on judgment day, he is coming back. Coming to take us to be where he is.

And congratulations, you know the way to get there because you know the One who is the Way. John 14:6 is my confirmation verse. And my wife’s. And now my son’s. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Look again at what Jesus is saying. He doesn’t say he shows us the way, as if we had to work it out ourselves. He is the way. He doesn’t say he possesses the truth, as if it could be found anywhere else. He is the truth. He doesn’t say he leads us into life, as if it’s a path we could fall from. He is our life. The way. The truth. The life. In knowing Jesus, we know the way to heaven. There is no other way. There is no other truth. And apart from him, there is no life.

The words of John 14 are some of the most comforting and most important in Scripture. Whether it’s your confirmation verse or not, you might want to burn John 14 into your brain as a place to find comfort, for yourself and for others in need. The first verse shows us Jesus’ purpose in speaking all these words. And they are as true for us today as they were for his disciples long ago. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me.” Another word for “believe” is “trust.” Fellow believers, trust in Jesus. Because you know the Son, trust that you know the Father. You know the Father’s compassion, the Father’s love, the Father’s presence, the Father’s peace. Believe in Jesus when he tells us he is the way, the truth, and the life. In him we put our trust. In Christ alone indeed. Amen.

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