Jesus the Way to the FatherJohn 14:1-14 (NRSV)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that 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. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me[e] for anything, I will do it.
As we started discussing last week, many of us carry a lot of baggage when it comes to the church and to scripture and to our faith. Some of our baggage comes from what we learned when we were little, or things we have heard in the past, ways we have been treated, or experiences that we have had. And today’s scripture is one of those readings that many of you have heard pieces of before and, I’m sure, wondered what it really meant.
Now, this is often a scripture that we hear read at funerals because it contains words that Jesus used to comfort his disciples when he knew that he would be going away. He starts out by saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” That’s reassuring and comforting, isn’t it? He then goes on to tell them that he is going to prepare a place where they will all be together again someday.
Then, Jesus starts talking about a house, a metaphorical house, with many rooms. The good news about this house is that there is room for everyone! Jesus is not actually talking about a place like heaven. What he is talking about is “relationship.” He is trying to assure his friends that even though they will no longer see him physically, they will always have a spiritual connection with Him.
You see, in the gospel of John, we do not often hear about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of heaven like we do in the other gospels. John talks more about life with Jesus. John does not talk about miracles that Jesus performed because he wanted to make sure that everyone knows that Jesus is the Messiah.
Now, because everyone understands and interprets this scripture differently, it sometimes causes conflict and division among individuals and groups. And as we read on, questions and concerns only begin to grow. Because it is one of those scriptures that is sometimes used to divide rather than to unite, to exclude rather than to include, and to judge rather than to love.
If you remember, last week we were reminded that the Great Commission sent the disciples – and us – out into the world to do three things. Do you remember what they were? To love all, to baptize, and to share the Good News or the stories of Jesus. Well, because of that, my faith tells me that all that I say and do as a Christian should be done through the lens love, and that scripture should only be looked at through the eyes of love, that it should never be used to judge or to divide.
The truth is, my friends, over the years, many people have lost sight of that. Instead, they use words of scripture as weapons, wielding judgment, and spewing hate. What we need to remember is that Christianity is not a club. It is not about who is “in” and who is “out” or who is worthy and who is unworthy. It is not about a list of rules or an insurance policy to get into heaven. It is not about jumping through hoops or proving that you’re good enough. Christianity is supposed to simply be a way of life. It is supposed to be something that encourages you to love your neighbor whoever your neighbor might be and to work for the good of all.
Somehow, the words of scripture sometimes get twisted or people misunderstand or carry too much baggage with them. When Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus was talking to a group of his followers, and that statement was true for them just like it is for me. But Jesus never said that that was true for everyone. He never said that you had to be Christian to be a good person. He never said people of other faiths or traditions or cultures or beliefs could not know and experience God in their own way. His words were not meant to condemn or judge anyone. They were merely meant to encourage and comfort his own.
Friends, at this point in the scripture many of us get tired. Many of us wonder how Jesus who taught us to love, could be so unloving. We lose sight of the fact that it is our baggage telling us those things and not Jesus. And we start to shut down. But wait a minute! Hold on my friends! Do not give up yet! Do not go! Because this next part is so important! Because next, Jesus encourages us to be better, to do more, and to not be held back by what we have experienced in the past.
Jesus says, do not just toe the line. It is not enough to just do what you’ve always done or what you learned in Sunday School or what you were told in the past. Do not get frustrated, because I need you! I need you to be my hands and feet on this earth. I need you to keep loving. I need you to keep teaching. I need you to keep encouraging. I need you to keep telling my stories and sharing the good news with the world!
Because, as scripture says, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.” Did you hear that my friends? “Will do greater works than these!” It is not enough to toe the line. It is not enough to go through the motions. It is not enough to carry on the traditions from generations past. We need to do better. We need to be creative. We need to brainstorm new ideas and reach out in new ways because, as Jesus told us, we are called to do even greater works!
Folks, it is up to us not to judge and to divide and to label but to love! To truly love, in the midst of our differences. To encourage one another in our faiths. To share our stories and to listen to the stories of others knowing who – and whose – we are while we love and encourage others for who and whose they are as well.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t get frustrated, and don’t let your baggage weigh you down. Remember that the possibilities are endless. We do not all have to be the same; we simply need to remember who and whose we are, encouraging others to do the same as we energetically and creatively live out our faith, loving and serving others not out of a sense of distrust and judgment but, as Jesus taught us, out of a sense of abundant grace.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen.