Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Know God - The Way

Preached on Sunday, May 17, 2015

Scripture readings: Isaiah 57:14-21; John 13:31-14:11

White Bluffs, Columbia River, Near Hanford Reseration, WA
April 2014
A few miles west of my hometown you can find ten thousand acres of the best bird hunting country on the West Coast. Every year, the great crooner Bing Crosby would come to us to duck hunt.
He was very sneaky about this. He did his best to keep out of view, but there were still Bing Crosby sightings. One of my teachers saw him in a store nearby.
My dad was on our local Fall Festival committee for years and, for a couple of those years, my dad was determined to get Bing to be the Grand Marshall in our Fall Festival Parade. After all, Bing benefitted from us. He enjoyed coming here, so he would probably feel honored to be asked to take part in our community.
My Dad got very upset when he realized that Bing Crosby wasn’t like that at all. Bing was much too important to give us any kind of personal response: let alone ride in our parade.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14:6) This makes Jesus sound very exclusive and important.
It’s true that Jesus is very important. No one is more important than Jesus. But the secret of Jesus’ importance for us is the fact that Jesus isn’t exclusive at all.
Jesus doesn’t guard his dignity. He spoke about the glory that he shares with God just after he took off his clothes, and wrapped himself in a towel, and washed the disciples’ feet (and, by extension, Jesus washed our own feet).
When he spoke about his glory, he meant dying on the cross. He meant being whipped to a bloody pulp. He meant hanging from iron spikes hammered through his hands and feet. That’s what the cross is about; and doing it all for the sins of a world that didn’t know who he was.
There’s dignity for you. There’s glory for you. Jesus is not an exclusive celebrity.
Jesus said that God is just like him. God is just like Jesus. Jesus is in God, washing feet and dying on the cross. God is in Jesus, washing feet and dying on the cross. So if you want to come to God you have got to come to a foot-washer and a human being on a cross; a God who did these things for people who didn’t understand who he was.
Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:10)
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) This didn’t mean that once Jesus had died on the cross, and had risen from the dead, that he had a lot of construction work to do. It doesn’t mean that he is working on your mansion even as we speak.
“I go to prepare a place for you,” means that Jesus’ work on the cross is the work that prepares a place for you. He will come in his own time and his own way and take you there, but your place was finished long ago.
While we’re at it the old translation of the mansion is not quite right, even though I love it, and I use that phrase when I do funerals. What it means is that there is a place to live with God, and stay with God.
The place has room, but it is not a room. A room is an enclosure and you don’t want to be enclosed away from the sight of God or from all those lives that have been made beautiful and complete by his love. The place that has been prepared for you is more like a fancy banquet where there is a card at a particular setting that has your name on it, and it’s a place that never goes away, and you never go away.
But it’s not like any of our fancy banquets because, in Jesus’ time, the guests at great feasts wore comfortable clothing, and they took off their shoes before they came to the table, and everyone reached their hand into the same dish. They were bound to touch hands. That is the best we can do to describe the indescribable. There is some such place for you to be with God: a place to stay.
When Jesus said, “I am the way,” he meant, “I did the work.” It’s same kind of thing we read about in Isaiah. In Isaiah, the Lord said, “Build up, build up; prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” (Isaiah 57:14) It’s almost as if the words are spoken by God talking to himself.
Who else could God be talking to? Who builds the road? Who does the work? Read it, and see that the Lord does the talking and the Lord does the work. The Lord prepares the way. Apparently, no one else can do what he does.
The Lord is found at the beginning and at the end of the road. “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit (the humble and repentant), to revive the spirit of the lowly (the humble) and to revive the heart of the contrite (the repentant).” (Isaiah 57:15)
We see the Lord deeply angry at sin. And what is the result of this anger? The result is that Lord heals that sin. “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.” (Isaiah 57:18)
The Lord is the way that this happens; because this is what the Lord is like. Jesus is the way that it happens because, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” No one comes to God, no one comes to the Father, except through Jesus because there is no other God. No other God, and no other concept of God, has ever done what this God has done, in the flesh, in Jesus. The highest has become the lowest.
Jesus stands at the beginning and at the end of the road to God because he is the way. Jesus is the road and the road-maker.
The Lord: the Lord Jesus made the way by means of forgiveness, and that forgiveness comes at the price of death on the cross. He made the way because he lives with those who are humble and repentant. He lives as a foot-washer and as a crucified human being who rises from the dead. We ourselves don’t know the half of who he is.
Imagine walking around the downtown of some big city and getting lost. If you’re like me you’ll be lost for quite a long time: because you keep on thinking that you can figure it out on your own. But, when you finally stop to ask for directions to the place where you want to go, the God you meet in Jesus won’t give you directions. The only God in existence will say to you, “Come with me, I’ll take you there myself.” The route by which this God will guide you will bring you to the foot of a cross, and to an empty tomb, and to a basin of water where your guide will stoop down to wash your feet.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Christians are tempted to use these words of Jesus in the wrong way. We are tempted to make them into a measuring stick for measuring the faith of other people. We use them to measure their qualifications for a room in the Father’s house.
The fact is that, if anything, these words are a measuring stick to show us the love of God in Jesus (which cannot be measured). The way is not a “what”, or a “how”. The way is a “who”.
The way, and the truth, and the life are not parts of a bargain or a contract between two parties (you and God). The way is not a standard that you meet. The way is not the content of your faith, and it’s not even about your faith at all. That’s not what Jesus is talking about here. The way of Jesus is all about the faithfulness of God, and the greatness of God’s faithfulness in Jesus.
The way, and the truth, and the life are part of the promise that Jesus makes with anyone who is troubled, or afraid, or worried, or upset. Do you know anyone like that? If you do, then the promise is simply for them. He says that we can be sure of this. We can be sure of him. Nothing else matters.
We should say one more thing. Jesus said these words right after he washed the disciples’ feet and right before he headed for the cross. That is the way, and the truth, and the life from God.
This is what we find in God, and he did this for the disciples who hardly understood anything that he was doing. They didn’t understand at all who he was.
So I would ask whether we have this God in us. Is there a foot-washing servant inside us, and how do we know? How do others know? Is there a cross-bearer inside us, and how do we know? How do others know?
The foot-washing servant and the cross-bearer can be inside us. That is who God is. That is who Jesus is. There is no other way. There is no other place to go.

When the Christ who is in God and the God who is in Christ wash your feet and die for you….when you see this; what else can you do but let him in and do his work? Then his way, and his truth, and his life will show themselves in you. Then you will know what his promises truly mean.


  1. The early Christians called it "The Way" didn't they, when they were talking of following Jesus?