Jesus Lives to Be the Only Way to Heaven
5th Sunday of Easter
May 14, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Jesus Lives to Be the Only Way to Heaven
John 14:1–12 (NIV84)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 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. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Dear friends in Christ,
If you asked everyone here for directions to Mercy Hospital, you would probably get a few different answers. One person might not know. Another might tell you to take Fleur which turns into MLK and then take a right on University. Or you could take 9th across the bridge and wind through downtown. Or you could take the 7th Street bridge. Or your could jump over to 2nd and go by the ballpark and Wells Fargo Arena on your way north to the hospital. I'm sure some of you have an opinion about the best and easiest way to get there from here. Google tells me that all of the routes take 12-15 minutes. So depending on traffic and construction downtown, they are all about the same as far as time goes. And every one of these options will get you to the hospital. Many ways work.
Instead of getting to the hospital, many in the world want to get to heaven. And if you ask lots of people in this world for directions to heaven you will gets lots of different directions. Be good. Be nice. Be sincere. Try your best. Some will say to follow the teachings of Muhammad or Joseph Smith or Buddha. Some will say to follow your own heart. Many will say that almost every path leads to heaven, that God has revealed himself and his truth in almost every religion of the world. Jesus tells us today that there is only one path, only one way to heaven and he is the way. There is no other way to the Father except through faith in Jesus Christ. How can Jesus dare to make such an exclusive claim? Because he died and then rose from the dead. We trust that the One who overcame death knows the way to the Father. We trust in Jesus who lives to be the only way to heaven.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
Jesus speaks these words on Maundy Thursday before his arrest later that night. This is before his crucifixion, before he is taken from his disciples. Jesus is preparing them for the turmoil that is to come into their lives very soon. Jesus will be gone until Sunday morning when he rises from the dead. But then he will again leave their sight forty days later when he ascends into heaven. Jesus is comforting them before all of this happens. He is telling them that it will be okay.
Jesus tells us the same. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” And we need it. We don't see Jesus visibly among us either. He has ascended into heaven and sits at God's right hand while our lives are in turmoil here. There are all kinds of things that are affecting the believers in this congregation. Job changes, upcoming weddings, graduations, births. Maybe you are going to a new school next year. Maybe someone is sick. A loved one dies. Family and friends are persecuted by their own government in a far away nation. Maybe you've been asked to move to another state. All these things cause disruptions (some happy and some not) in our lives. Jesus promises his believers that it will be okay.
But it will not be okay in exactly the way we want it to be. Jesus did not promise that nothing bad would happen to the disciples in the days after Christ's death, resurrection and ascension. On the contrary, their life became quite difficult. Jesus did not point them to their earthly lives but instead talked to them about heaven.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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.
It is going to be okay because Jesus is the way, the only way to heaven. My sin would keep me from heaven but Christ has paid for all my sin. By his death, he has removed our guilt forever. We are God's own dear children. Christ is the way to God the Father and he is preparing a room for us to dwell in God's presence forever. He is the way to heaven and he will come back for us one day to make sure we get there. We don't even have to follow any directions to heaven. Jesus is the way, prepares the way and takes us all the way to heaven. Keep your eyes on Christ and the room he has prepared for you in heaven. This will not change your earthly problems but it will change you. Things may not be okay today or tomorrow but everything will be perfect in heaven. Therefore we do not need to let our hearts be troubled about today and tomorrow because Jesus has us in his hand for all eternity.
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit inspired these accounts of Jesus' disciples to make future believers feel good about ourselves. How dull was Thomas not to understand that Jesus was talking about heaven? But then I am often reminded of how dull we can be too in not understanding what God has revealed to us in his Word. Thomas just doesn't understand and asks for clarification. Philip isn't satisfied with Jesus' answer. He wants more than Jesus. He wants to see the Father and then he will be satisfied.
A teenager turns sixteen years old. For his birthday, his parents take him to the driveway. Parked there is a brand new car. It's red paint shines in the sun. It is the exact model he has been dreaming about for two years. His parents hand him the keys, “It's yours.” He replies, “I really would have liked the black one better.”
Isn't that what Philip tells Jesus? Jesus has just promised him eternal life. Jesus has shown him all about the Father. The Father's love in shown in sending Christ. The Father's power is shown in Jesus' miracles. The Father's mercy will be shown in punishing his Son in our place. Jesus is the way to eternal life with the Father in heaven. He is the way to a place of endless joy, a place with no crying or mourning or pain, a place with no sin and no death. And Philip says something like, “That's great Jesus, but what would really make me happy is to see the Father.”
The Philip in us can have a similar attitude. We may take Jesus' forgiveness and eternal life for granted and not be satisfied because God has not fixed some earthly, temporal problem in my life. Forgiveness, life and salvation are not quite enough. If God would just take care of that health problem. If he would just take away that temptation I struggle with. If he would just make my neighborhood safe. If God would just….then I would be satisfied.
My friends, the Father has given us the keys to the kingdom. He has given us the only way to heaven. He has given us Jesus who has done all that was necessary to give us eternal life. He has forgiven us for every sin, including our unsatisfied attitudes. Jesus is the only way to heaven and he is enough.
With the attitude that Jesus is all we need, we can go humbly before our God and pray for money and goods, a godly spouse, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, good friends, faithful neighbors and the like. (Luther's explanations to the Fourth Petition). Our satisfaction with God does not come from how he chooses to answer these prayers. Our satisfaction with God comes from how he has provided all people with one way to spend eternity in heaven. Our joy, our faith, our trust is in Christ and him alone.
If you want to know how to get earthly things, there are plenty of books and speakers who will give you directions on how to be successful with money, with family, with health and so on. There are also plenty of people who will give you directions on how to get to heaven. But there is only one way. Jesus, who died and now lives forever, is the only way to heaven.
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