Howard Carter is a Presbyterian minister and church planter in Auckland New Zealand. In this blog he reflects on God, life, the scriptures, family, Church and church planting, film and media and other stuff. Join him as he reflects on the Journey.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
I Am The Way, The Truth And The Life (John 14:1-14) Refracted Glory: Jesus revelaed in the I AM saying s of John's Gospel (Part 4)
When I’m looking for a destination these days, I usually consult a
map.Not a paper one. It’s usually
Google maps on my laptop. Once I’ve found the route I want, I’ll click on the
screen and move to street view so I can see an image of the place before I set
out. IF I’m in doubt I’ll print off the map or the directions that Google map
provides.Of course some of you will
tell me that I’m so out of date so last decade so naughties as you type where
you want to go into your GPS’s and your smart phones.While we can get so much help in terms of geography it’s
not so easy in terms of biography. To head through life… is it? But in the
reading we had today Jesus gives his followers a sense of our final
destination, our ultimate home.
Jesus comes from before a time of reliable maps and even reliable
roads, if you wanted to make a trip you usually had to trust a guide, a human
guide. The best way to cross deserts and wildernesses was to have a guide who
could be trusted,who had gone before…
This is the background to Jesus saying “I am the way, the truth and the Life. More
than Just the guide Jesus actually says he is the route home. “No one comes to
the father but through me.”
In the prologue to his gospel John says of Jesus… “The
Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, he pitched his tent. We have
seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth.” I am hoping that as we explore the “I Am” sayings in
John’s gospel that just like the different colours when light is refracted
through a prism that we might catch something of the deep and wondrous
dimensions of the Glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The definition of
Glory we are working with is the weighty reality of all someone is… and in Jesus
the weighty reality of all that God is, is revealed to us. In his “I AM’ statements
we capture some of the meaning and mystery of Jesus divine nature. My prayer is
that we may capture a fresh vision of the Glory of God revealed in Jesus, and
that would fill us and inspire us, and overflow to the world around us.
I’ve skipped one of Jesus “I am” sayings not because I
don’t want to deal with it but, like a film might use a flashback to make a
point in the narrative, we’re going to look at Jesus saying I am the
resurrection and the life the week after Easter. It seems to fit.And keeping with the idea of movies I’m going
to give you a quick montage, in this case a word montage, to put Jesus ‘I am
the way the truth and the life’ into its gospel context. Jesus had raised his
friend Lazarus from the dead, and after that had come to Jerusalem for the
Passover festival, the crowds John tells us had heard of the sign Jesus had
performed and so they came out to greet him, singing, praising God.There is an
expectation that now Jesus will be made king, he will be recognised as the
messiah that the Jews were waiting for. But Jesus talks about his death and
betrayal. The religious leaders argue about what to do with Jesus. Before the
festival Jesus sits down to a meal with his disciples. He surprises them by
doing the most menial of tasks, washing their feet. He uses it to tell them to
love one another. Again he talks of his death and betrayal. But also says that
now he will be glorified, now the weighty reality of who he is will be
revealed, but he must go away. Pater questions that and says he will stick with
him even if it means his own death, and Jesus responds by telling Peter he will
deny knowing him three times before the night is over.
That brings us up to the reading we had for
today.In the midst of all that is going
on and before the trauma and grief of what is to come Jesus comforts his
Disciples. It’s a very human Jesus but the comfort comes in Jesus pointing to
his divine nature and mission. His disciples are good Jewish men they believe
and trust God and now Jesus asks them to have that same trust in him. They have
been following him on a very rocky journey that is about to get real dark and
Jesus tells them about the final destination.In his Father’s house there is plenty of room and he is inviting them to
come and dwell with him there. He is preparing a place for them there, and will
come to bring them home to be with him and the Father.Paul Metzger talks of the comfort he felt
during his college years knowing thathe
was always welcome to come back home. That in holidays and breaks, no matter
what the time there would be a light on and a warm welcome. His parents would
be up to greet him with an embrace, a meal would be on the table and his room
would be ready and waiting.Maybe we are
used to hearing this passage read at funerals because it is an expression of
hope in eternal life with Jesus, for those who put their trust in him. While he
has pitched his tent with us on our journey through life and human history the
invitation is to have our permanent dwelling our destination with Jesus at his
It is in his death and resurrection that he has
prepared a way for us. Jesus is very forthright, this is not just some hollow
pie in the sky when you die promise he is using to get them through a rough
patch, a sugar coated placebo to dull the pain of what is to come, he tells his
disciples ‘if this wasn’t the case I would have told you’. There is a sense
that Jesus would have said hey guys you know that stuff you are talking about
and believe in heaven and eternal life well, can I just say don’t get your
hopes up. Rather in the shadow of the cross he points them to the end of the
story, he says the porch light is on and you are welcome at my Father’s house.
Now as a New Zealand male I find it hard to identify
with what Thomas says in response. He asks for directions, “Lord, we don’t know
where you are going, how can know the way? “It’s helpful for us to see Jesus
dealing with the questions and struggles of his disciples. I find myself in the
same place myself, and it’s good to know that questions and doubts do not drive
a wedge between us and our God, rather they can be the starting point of a
quest for truth, with the one who himself is the truth. Jesus does not give
Thomas a map but rather points to himself “I am the way, the truth and the life
no one comes to the father but through me.’
The way home the way to the Father is not by following
a set of instructions and rules, it is in knowing and trusting Jesus Christ.
The final destination is not following a carefully laid out route of rituals
and rites, right behaviour and right choices, it is putting our trust in Jesus.
It is in Knowing and being known by Jesus.
Jesus is the way echoes the I am statements we have
already explored, the good shepherd, the gate, but now in the very shadow of
the cross when it may seem that the way comes to a sudden dead en, that Jesus
is saying that the cross is the way because it is Jesus giving his life for his
sheep, forging his way through all that we have done as humanity, that
separates us God. He is the way, it leads through the grave and into new life
in a resurrected Christ.
Jesus is the truth, Philip’s response to Jesus saying
is to ask for Jesus to show us the father. We seem to have a movie kind of
focus this morning, it’s kind of like Philip wants to have an encounter with
God like Moses and the elders, like Isaiah in the temple, that the heavens
would roll back like a curtain and with all the special effects and splendour
they would see the glory of God. But Jesus is the truth, the truth about who
God is, what God is like. Jesus is quick to point out that if you have seen him
you have seen the father. The truth about God is that he had just washed the
feet of his disciples. Again in the shadow of the cross, amidst the lies that
people would tell about Jesus the truth of God is revealed in his willingness
to lay down his life for his sheep.
Jesus is the life, in the very face of death Jesus is
saying that real life, abundant life, life that goes beyond the grave and into
eternity, that overcomes sin and its effects is to be found in him.
mentioned before Philip asks Jesus to show us the father and it’s interesting
to see that even at this juncture in their journey with Jesus the disciples
don’t fully get who Jesus is. It has led some scholars to talk of the
difference between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith, that after the
resurrection the disciples had read back into Jesus words a sense of his
divinity that wasn’t there. But our reading this morning leads onto Jesus
teaching on the Holy Spirit where Jesus tells his disciples that the Spirit
will lead them into all truth and bring to mind what Jesus has said. It is as
the spirit led them to reflect on Jesus words and signs in light of the
crucifixion and resurrection that understand who Jesus is.
Jesus pointing to believing in who he is, is not only about the future, it’s
not just like an insurance policy for when you die, rather it impacts on life
here and now. Jesus says that we will do the same things he has done, in fact
even greater things. We will perform signs that point people to Jesus, we will
do things that show the way, truth and life we have found in Jesus. The word
greater often causes people difficulty but the reality is that as Jesus will no
longer be restricted to a physical and temporal location, a specific time and
place, that his presence in us brings life and wholeness and new creation
wherever we are. In Christ God is with us and because it is God’s very
character to bring healing and wholeness salvation and new life, reconciliation
and justice, God will do it through us. The fact that this is not our ultimate
home does not mean we don’t get involved in this world, but rather it invites
us to see the whole of our life here as mission, asjourney following Jesus and doing the things
that Jesus does.
said I am the way the truth and the life.
part of his words of comfort to his disciples. Today do you need to hear those
words of comfort. Are you facing grief and sorrow confusion and difficulty,
hear Jesus words ‘do not be troubled, trust God and trust also in me’. The
porch light is on at our father’s home and Jesus is our trusted guide to lead
you through and lead you home.
said I am the way the truth and the life.
wrestling with questions and doubt, find comfort in what we have heard today, they
are not the opposite of faith, apathy is, just as with the disciples, they are
opportunities for a deeper self-revelation of who Jesus is… of the weighty
reality of God. I love the idea of a question being the quest-I-on, quests are
not safe journeys they are fraught with danger, but Jesus, the way the truth
and the life can be trusted as guide.
said I am the way the truth and the life.
not fashionable these days to ask if people are sure of their eternal
destination, if you were to die tonight where would you spend eternity, but we
cannot look at this passage without talking eternal destinations, Jesus is
straight up about the reality for those who believe in him that they are
welcome for eternity at his father’s house, and that the only way to get there
is through Jesus, is by believing in him, as God’s son, is through the cross
and the resurrection. Please if you have not come to put your trust in Jesus
Christ today do not leave without talking with someone you trust.
said I am the way the truth and the life.
this morning we find our lives consumed by worries about this world, our home
here, maintaining our standard of living, getting a head. This passage today
invites us to look beyond that, yes we need shelter and food for the table and…
the list goes on, but believing in God and believing in Jesus invites us to see
them as a temporary stop on a pilgrim path. It gives us the assurance that we
can look at an alternative vision for life, outside the advertising soaked,
profit driven western materialistic dream that is so pervasive in our society.
It invites us to rather focus on the things that Jesus did that he says we will
do also, Care for the poor, pray for the sick see healing and wholeness come,
welcome the outcast, see the oppressed set free. It is the way that goes
through the cross, because it is costly, but it is one that will bring truth
and life to the people and world around us that God loved so much that he came
and dwelt and died for.
Howard Carter is a Presbyterian Minister in his early fifties. He is the minister at St Peter's Presbyterian Church Ellerslie Mt Wellington. A congregaion that is wanting to face the challange of being Christ's body in a twenty first century, multi-cultural, multi-generational, suburban environment. "it's challanging", says Howard, "I feel totally inadiquate, but rely on Jesus, who is able to be strong in my weakness".
Yes he's married to Kris and has four children. So he'sboth blessed and busy.
Howard posts the messages he preaches on Sundays (the long posts with heaps of images), the occasional reflection, prayers he writes for services (when he's in a liturgical mood) and movie review.