Life is a journey. It has a beginning and an end. And we’re all travellers somewhere on that journey, forever on the move, learning, growing, changing. For many, life seems meaningless, pointless, confusing and at times unbearable. In our reading today from John 14, Jesus offers direction, certainty and meaning. He brings words of comfort and hope for those confused or perplexed on the journey through life. How?
1. Jesus promises to lead us to God the Father
2. Jesus promises the Father will send us the Spirit
1. Jesus promises to lead us to God the Father
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 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.” (John 14:1-3)
Can you imagine setting out on a journey and not knowing or caring where you were going? Silly isn’t it? Can you imagine forgetting where your home is?
Or forgetting how to get back? Life is the biggest and longest journey we can make. It is important we know where we are going. In our reading Jesus telling his friends that He must soon leave them. To be blunt, that He was going to die, and that they must know why. Jesus explains where heaven is and how to get there. Jesus seems to assume that his friends knew where heaven is. But they didn’t and were honest enough to say so. Peter, always one to speak his mind asks, “Where are you going? Why can’t we follow you now? Jesus answers by assuring them and us that death is not the end of our journey. We were created for eternal life. Our real home is heaven. Jesus describes heaven as a place. As real as any place on a map. But a very special map. Jesus is explaining the way to heaven.
He describes heaven like a caravansarii, a splendid hotel found at an oasis on one of the roads used by camel trains in the desert. A place of refreshment, rest and security. Jesus is pinpointing heaven as somewhere as real as any place on a map. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
I want us to think about these three great claims of Jesus. They are like map grid references, or the satellite co-ordinates on a GPS. In them Jesus shows us where heaven is and how to get there.
1.1 The Way: The Unique Person of Jesus Christ
Life is a journey, and we are all travellers. Sometimes, maybe right now, for you it seems like a desert. Sooner or later we all get lost, we lose our way, we need someone to show us the way. A Pathfinder. Jesus says to us as He did to His friends, “I am the Way”. I am the road to God, the only road that leads to heaven. In this claim Jesus is truly unique. Buddah is dead, Gandhi is dead, Mohammed is dead, Lenin is dead. You can visit their graves. Most of the world tries to walk in the shoes of dead guides and gurus, and. In a world of competing religions and guides, prophets and gurus, Jesus says “I am the way to God”. Not “a way” but “The Way”. No other religious leader made such claims or offered such convincing proof. Jesus said “I am the Way”, and He came back from the dead to prove He had been there, to prove He knew how to get back, back to eternity.
The Way: The Unique Person of Jesus Christ. Here’s the second coordinate.
1.2 The Truth: The Authority of Jesus Christ
If the Way is like the road, the truth is like the route map. You can be on the right road but going in completely the wrong direction. You can believe in Jesus, give to charity, attend Church and try and live a good life but that’s not same thing as following Jesus. It is as bad as driving on the right road but in the wrong direction. Where does the road to heaven start? It starts at the foot of the cross. Jesus is the way, and His teaching in the Bible is the truth. It is our map. I visited St Petersburg in Russia a few years ago and being the intrepid geographer, I bought a street map. I carried it around with me for ten days. Admittedly it was in Russian but even with my compass I still had a hard time getting the road names and locations to match up with those on the map. On the last day of my stay I asked a Russian to help me locate myself on the map. He smiled told me in broken English I had bought a copy of an antique map printed in 1918. No wonder I had got lost…. Most modern so called “guides to living” have a short life.
This book on the other hand has been the number one best seller worldwide for nearly 2000 years. Have you ever wondered why? Because eternal truth is always contemporary, always relevant. Why follow Jesus? First, because He is the Way to heaven. Secondly, because He is the Truth, the right route to heaven. But Jesus promised more. He didn’t just say. “Follow my example, bye for now, see you there, hope you make it.” Jesus said “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life.”
1.3 The Life: The Distinctive work of Jesus Christ
The distinctive work of Christ was to do what no one else had the ability to do. All religions agree that the world is in a mess, each has its own way of trying to deal with our desperate situation. Imagine we are like the man who has fallen down a deep well. The question is how to get out. First comes Mohommed who looks over the top of the well and says, “If you will only keep the five rules of Islam you will be able to escape out of the well. You must pray five times a day, eat no pork, drink no alcohol, keep the feast of Ramadan, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca.” But a man has only his own strength to keep these commandments.
After a few steps he falls back again and cries out for help. Then along comes Buddha, who looks over the top of the well and says, “I can see you are in a mess; the problem is due to pain and desire. If you follow the noble eightfold path you will ultimately escape from these into Nirvana.” But the trouble is we are still down the well. So how is Christianity unique? God comes to the top of the well and looks down and says, “I can see that you are in a mess; you will never get out by means of your own resources. I will have to let down a rope and come into the well myself in order to rescue you. I will hold you firmly because you do not even have the strength to hold onto me yourself.” Only Christianity speaks of a God becoming one of us to rescue us. Other religions say we must work hard to deliver ourselves. They are all effort, Christianity is all grace. Jesus promised them, “I will come back and take you to be with me.” And He did, and He continues to. Jesus has shown us by his death and resurrection that death is not the end of the journey, that we were created for eternal life, a living relationship with God as our Father. Jesus leads us to the Father: (John 14:1-14)
2. Jesus promises the Father will send us the Spirit
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever…. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:15-18)
Jesus has taken care of these disciples. He has taught them and nurtured them. And they are wondering how they are going to make it without him. Jesus knows they will not make it on their own. But he is not going to abandon them like orphans. He is going to send to them another Comforter. In John 14:18 he says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” If Jesus is now in heaven, how will he come? In the person of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. The word translated Advocate, Counsellor, Comforter, or Helper is “parakleetos” which is difficult to translate into English hence the variety of translations. It is a combination of ‘para’ meaning beside and ‘kaleoo’ meaning I call. It describes one called alongside to help. It was sometimes used as a legal term for a defence attorney. Therefore it is translated in the NIV as ‘Advocate’.
John uses this term to help us understand our relationship to the Holy Spirit. The word “another” is also significant. ‘Allos’, means another of the same kind (Someone just like Jesus). “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Comforter…” Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will assist us to follow Jesus. In fact the Holy Spirit will equip us to continue the work of Jesus.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
This is why I always end my prayers, “in the name of Jesus”.
Why is this important to you and me? Because what was true of the disciples is also true of you and me. Without the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, encourage us, lead us, and guide us—without Him we too will not make it. No one in this room is able to live a godly life without the continual help of the Holy Spirit.
In his catechism, Martin Luther put it like this:
“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith….”
We have been reminded this morning, first, that Jesus promises to lead us to God the Father. And, second, that Jesus promises the Father will send us His Spirit. This promise is probably the greatest in the whole Bible.
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)
God the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – your Creator, your Saviour and your Advocate each have a very special interest in your growth, your health, your welfare and above all your future – they want to be with you on earth and they want you with them in heaven.
When God comes by His Spirit amazing things happen:
Barriers are broken,
Enemies are reconciled,
Disease is cured,
Addiction is conquered,
Hope is established,
People are blessed,
Communities are formed,
Unity is established,
and church happens.
When God sends the Holy Spirit…
Discouraged folks cheer up,
Dishonest folks clean up,
Sour folks sweeten up,
Gossipers shut up,
Conflicted folks make up,
Sleeping folks wake up,
Lukewarm folk, fire up,
But most of all,
Christ the Saviour of all the world is lifted up…
In the midst of life’s uncertainties, its joys and tragedies, Jesus comes along side us with His arms open wide with this promise,
“Come unto me all who are weary from life’s journey, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
May you find that rest today. Let us pray.