I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
I remember one morning a couple of winters ago we woke up to a massive snowfall. One look outside and the children were throwing on their gear, eager to get out and explore. Samuel, being the youngest lagged behind but I can tell you he was no less eager.
Once outside he took a few steps and then froze. The snow was just about waist depth. It was hard not to laugh. So, being the dad, I suited up and headed out and I went before him making a way through the snow. I looked back and watched as he placed his feet where mine had been.
To be a Christian is to walk in the way of Jesus, to follow in his footsteps, to go where he is leading. And we don’t do it alone. That’s what it means to be the Church. We’re on this journey together because we need others to help show us the way. That’s why we pray this morning, “that, following the steps of thy holy Apostles, Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leads to eternal life.” We walk in the way of Jesus with all God’s saints, past and present. This morning I want us to think a little bit about where Jesus has gone and the way that he has left for us to follow.
Our gospel reading this morning contains some of the last words that Jesus says to his friends before he is arrested, put on trial, and crucified. But we hear it read after Easter on the other side of the Resurrection. The Resurrection helps to make sense of these words.
“I’m going away,” he tells them. Where? “To my Father.” And, moreover, “I go to prepare a place for you.” “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
Jesus has gone to his Father and he wants to bring you there as well. Everything that Jesus is and does and says has this as its goal, to bring human beings – you and I – to the Father. “If you know me, you will know my Father also,” says Jesus. “From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
To see the Father, that’s the goal of your life. That’s where this is all heading, to see and to know and to adore the Father. That’s what you were made for and until you know that your life will be confusing. You’ll think that the goal of your life is to get a good education, in order to get a good job, in order to make good money, in order to attract a good partner, in order to have a good family, and so on.
And it’s possible to check all of those boxes and never see the Father because you’re walking in way other than the way that Jesus has laid out for you and if you do that your heart and your soul will be absolutely restless. That’s why in our epistle reading this morning James says that as a flower withers under the scorching heat of the sun so too worldly riches are withering away and if you busy yourself chasing after them then your life will wither away as well.
Instead, hear these words from Philip this morning: “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Can we say that along with Philip this morning? Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied. Or, do we want to qualify that? Lord, show us the Father and…. And what? What’s your “and”? The Father and job security? The Father and my health? The Father and a comfortable retirement? Lord, show us the Father, period. And we will be satisfied. It is God that finally and fully satisfies, and God alone. To know this God, your heavenly Father, is to know everlasting life.
To the Father. That’s where Jesus has gone and that’s where Jesus wants to bring us. So, how do we get there? “How can we know the way?” asks Thomas. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” says Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is the way because it is only through him and with him that we have access to the Father. Jesus is the truth because he has come to show us the Father and he is absolutely reliable and trustworthy. Jesus is the life because only he has come down from heaven and only he can lift us up to heaven to know God as our Father.
Isn’t that exclusive? Aren’t there many ways to God? Let me put it this way, it’s possible to know that God exists without ever knowing who God is. Jesus wants you to know who God is by knowing who he is.
The atmosphere is full of water but if you want to drink until you are satisfied what do you need to do? You need to find a source. In the same way, though the entire world proclaims the glory of God if you want to drink until you are satisfied you need to know Jesus, the true and living water.
There’s a wonderful scene in The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis where one of the characters, Jill, finds herself at the top of a mountain in a strange and magical country. After wandering for some time she is parched when suddenly she finds a stream that is alive and bubbling up, but there is a Lion lying between her and this deliciously satisfying water. She is terrified of the Lion, but she is terribly thirsty. Dying of thirst.
“Then drink,” says the Lion. Nervous she asks if the Lion would mind leaving while she drinks. “She might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience,” writes Lewis. Meanwhile, her thirst grows.
So she asks the Lion to promise not to do anything to her while she drinks but the Lion can make no such promise. Does he ever eat girls? she asks. “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” replies the Lion.
When Jill tells the Lion that she won’t dare come and drink if that’s the case the Lion informs her that she’ll die of thirst if she doesn’t. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream, then,” she says. “There is no other stream,” replied the Lion.
Jesus is the way to the Father because the Father is to be found nowhere apart from the Son who shows us the Father. The only way to the Father is in and through and with Jesus. That’s how narrow the gospel is. But, everyone and anyone at all who comes to Jesus will discover the Father. That’s how expansive the gospel is.
“Believe in God, believe also in me.” Trust in Jesus, stick close to him, stay with him, and he will never ever leave you and your heart can finally be at peace and you can know life, real life, true life with God your Father.