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Only One Way

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

Gospel of John: Life in Jesus’ Name
John 13:31-14:31 Only One Way

There is a good chance today that some of you will be offended by what I say. You might become angry. My goal is not to offend. In fact, I have prayed this week you will not be. More precisely though, what may anger you is less about what I say but more about what Jesus says in the Bible text we are going to read this morning

And actually such anger against Jesus shouldn’t surprise us. While Jesus walked the earth, some people were very angry with Jesus. And eventually their anger grew to a murderous rage……..and they killed him.

And ever since then, thousands—even millions—of Jesus’ followers have suffered at the hands of angry people. Even today in countries like Sudan, Syria, Vietnam, China— Jesus’ followers are being persecuted severely.

So….how is that for a cheerful introduction to the sermon? 

John 13:31-14:33

We’ll read John 13-14 today. [Page 900 in the house Bible]
Let’s begin reading John 13:31. We covered five of these verses last week, and we’ll re-read them to lead us into today’s reading.

Vs. 31-35
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
31 When he [Judas Iscariot, the betrayer] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’

As background and an overview, beginning in Chapter 13 and continuing through Chapter 17, these are Jesus’ final words on earth. Literally, it is only hours before he is arrested, tortured, crucified, killed, and buried. Jesus knows this, so this is his final sermon to his 12 disciples. And actually it’s only 11 of his disciples, for one of them, Judas, left this gathering to betray his Lord and Friend.

So his final words are extremely significant. He is giving his disciples the high calling of carrying the message of Jesus all over the world. But they will have to do it without Jesus. He will be going to heaven. And they are going to need encouragement and strength and direction.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The love of Christ in us has an impact on the world. The world sees this love, and they know there is something special. Something heavenly. Something divine about it. The Love of God in us is powerful and noticeable.

Vs. 36-38
DENIAL
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Jesus has just told them that he is going away. And once again, the disciples simply don’t get it. And Peter proudly insists he is willing to die for Jesus. But Jesus prophesies that Peter actually will deny even knowing Jesus.

Undoubtedly at this point, the disciples are a bit shaken. In Chapter 13 we read that:
• One of them is going to betray Jesus.
• Jesus is going away and apparently not coming back right away.
• Now Peter, Jesus’ key disciple, is going to deny even knowing Jesus.
They are shaken. Upset. Anxious. Confused.

Let’s listen to what Jesus said to them:
Vs. 1-4
TRUST
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

Jesus plainly says, “Don’t’ be troubled in your heart.” Don’t be anxious. Don’t worry. Be at peace. Simply trust in the Father and trust in me. Believe what I have told you I will do.

We all have our own sets of trouble, don’t we. Our own worries.
Personal troubles: finances, relationship conflict, pressure in school and work, health problems.
Societal troubles: a murder only a few miles away, conflict in Washington, economic stresses.

The disciples were faced with this trauma of their Messiah leaving them. He assures them and commands them: Don’t be troubled. No anxiety is needed. Trust in your heavenly Father. Trust also in me. Trust me.

And then—importantly– he points them to heaven, to have hope for the future. “My Father’s house” is simply a way to refer to heaven. The Father dwells there, that is his home. And Jesus is going ahead of them. And not only is he going ahead of them, he is going to come back and take them with him to heaven that they will be with the Lord.

We’ll talk more about this later, but Jesus is pointing them to the greatest hope of good they will ever find: the Hope of eternal life in the presence of God. There truly is no better hope than that. This is a Hope that can sustain us even in our most hopeless moments.

Now let’s read the passage that will give great comfort to many of us, but may agitate others of us.
Vs. 5-11
ONE WAY
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

The disciples haven’t understood some of this so far, but they will very soon.

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
10 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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

We see in Vs. 5, Thomas speaks for the other disciples when he again shows they simply don’t understand what Jesus is talking about. “Where are you going, and how do we get there?”

Then vs. 6 is one of the more profound statements in the Bible. Jesus says, “The place I am going is to the Father who is in heaven. And the way for you to get there is through me. In fact, the ONLY way to get there is through me.”

This is where we have trouble. When Jesus talks about love and peace, everyone likes that. But when he lays down this absolute, we get uncomfortable.

He is saying bluntly, “There is no other way to heaven and to the Father except through me.” Jesus is not merely pointing the way. Jesus is saying that he himself is the way. He is the only path. He is the only answer.

TRUTH:
Then he says, “I am the Truth.” Not simply, “I know the truth,” but “I am the truth.” I am true. I have no falsehood in me. I never lie. I embody truth. I speak only truth from the Father who has told me what to say.

I wish I could say that about myself. In general, I hope I am a truthful person. But I have moments of hypocrisy. Moments I don’t speak truthfully. Moments I want to hide things and pretend to be someone I am not.

And in our days of #FakeNews and controversial congressional hearings and liars and deceivers, we should relish knowing someone who is absolutely True to his very core.

Jesus is the Truth.

LIFE:
Third, Jesus says, “I am the Life.” Not, “I am alive,” but I am life itself.
In chapter 1, we learn that He created life. In chapter 3, we learn that he gives spiritual life, making us “Born Again.”
Because of the resurrection, he always will be alive. And he makes things alive.

NO ONE:
Then finally, he makes his most astonishing statement: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is radical. And profound.

But listen to this: If you’ve read through this Gospel of John, by this point his statement should be no surprise.
For example, earlier in John we read statements like these:
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John 1:29 “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
John 3:16 “Whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

And then all the miracles. The signs, as John calls them. In vs. 11 here, Jesus says, “You should believe what I say. But at least believe me based on the evidence of the works that I do.” His miracles are unparalleled. They render us speechless and in awe. And then in just a couple of days from this moment in chapter 14, Jesus will give his greatest sign that he is the Only Way: he will rise from the dead into a glorified, immortal body….the first one to truly conquer death.

So Jesus words, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” should really be no surprise. We should nod our heads and say, “Yes, that conclusion is so obvious.” There is ONE GOD in heaven. And he has ONE SON. And he has ONE PLAN for us to get to heaven, and that is through the SON.

Yet even though we see that and even if we believe in Jesus, we have some nagging questions. When we read this statement, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” we think of snobbery. Arrogance. A supremacist, exclusive attitude that looks down on others. And is divisive. Like a white supremacist group who think they are superior and others are inferior. Like a wealthy, exclusive country club where only the elite can join. It feels divisive and proud.

But actually Jesus is quite the opposite. He is not forming some exclusive club for only the elite. He came to save the NON-elite. He said in the Gospel of Mark, “I did not come for the healthy and the righteous. I came for the sick. For the sinner.”

In fact, Jesus would say, “If you think you are TOO good, you cannot join me.” He calls for the humble. The broken. The repentant.

So Christianity is, in a sense, exclusive. But it is exclusive to the sinful and the humble. And ironically, those who get most offended by Jesus’ statement here frequently are those who have a proud, even an elitist attitude. We might say, “I don’t need God that much. I am fine on my own. I’m not that sinful. I can figure it out myself.”

Followers of Jesus, by the very nature of his call ….. ought to be the most humble. The most gracious. The most forgiving people. Why? Because they are gripped with the kindness and mercy and graciousness of God to send his Son to die for his enemies. His followers can take no credit for their salvation. They give all the credit to Jesus.

Vs. 12-14
PRAYER
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus’ words about prayer are astonishing. There is so much to say about prayer, but we have only a few minutes.

If I were to take a poll, I am guessing a high percentage of us would have some skepticism about Jesus’ words here. Why?
1. Sounds too good to be true. Anything you ask? Come on, we say.
2. We see God has aloof, perhaps stingy. Not as a gracious, generous Father in heaven who has all resources and all power. When my daughters were young, sometimes I was a stingy Dad. When they asked me for something or asked to do something, I was too often quick to say, “NO.” I can view God that way.
3. We have had some prayers—especially some big requests, important ones, like someone’s health or life is at stake—and the prayer seemingly did not get answered. So we’re jaded. Or even bitter.

I get this. In fact, at times I’m skeptical. But I will say I don’t want to remain…. skeptical.

Jesus is leaving the disciples in a matter of hours, and he wants them to know they can and should call on him for help to do all that he calls them to do. So he is quite earnest about prayer, and he calls us to do this. He wouldn’t command his disciples if he didn’t mean it.

We can’t dive very deep into this topic this morning. But what do we know about prayer? Let me offer this summary. I am going to give you an entire 7-week sermon series on prayer all wrapped up in one easy slide… in two minutes. And best of all….. there is no charge to you. It’s free.

When it comes to prayer, we need to know and believe a few things.
• God is a loving Father who loves to hear the voices of his children and give them what they ask.
Do we believe this?
• He is not a genie in a bottle who must grant our every wish like a slave. He is our Lord, not our Slave.
• We must ask, and ask in faith.
James 4 says we have not because we ask not.
• We ask in Jesus’ name.
That means we ask his power, authority, his intercessory role. We must go through him to have access to the Father in heaven.

Some other things we must know and believe.
• We submit to his will.
Even Jesus, faced with the suffering and shame of the cross, asked the Father to rescue him if possible, yet he ended with, “Not what I will but what…..you will.” He submitted himself to the Father’s good will.
• We have limited sight and wisdom.
We can’t see into the future; we don’t always know what is best. We have to trust that he does. And we should be cautious in judging God on whether or not our prayers were answered or should be answered. So we should ask and pray. Yet we humbly realize we don’t know very much.

• We desire what brings him glory and honor and praise. And we don’t seek our own glory.

• He answers more prayers that we realize.
In my opinion, this point should convict us all. How many prayers have we asked and then we forgot, even though the answer came? I don’t know how to count, but I would guess that he has answered more than 90% of my prayers.
And honestly, if we feel its reverse for us—- that only 10% of our prayers have been answered— may I be so bold to say that the problem lies with us. We’re asking for the wrong things. We’re not asking in faith. We’re very forgetful.

We ought to pray far more than we do with far more confidence than we do with far less forgetfulness than we do.
Again we must remember that Jesus is offering his disciples some crucial instructions before he leaves the earth.
He means what he says: Ask in prayer, and he will help us.

Vs. 15-26
THE HELPER
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,
17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

There is glory in this remarkable oneness in the Godhead. And a oneness—a unity—that Jesus’ followers have with him.

21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

This section is so exciting to me.
Remember, Jesus is going away. The disciples know that, even though they don’t understand it all. They are anxious and troubled about it. So before Jesus goes to the cross in a matter of hours, he is giving them instructions. And reassurance.

He tells them that though he is leaving and going to heaven quite soon, the Father in heaven is going to send them another Helper. The Holy Spirit. The Greek word used here for “Helper” is a fascinating word. There is actually no single English word that covers it perfectly.
The word can be translated into English as: Helper. Counselor. Advocate. Comforter.

We get the idea that the Holy Spirit will be a tremendous and necessary asset to the disciples.
Yes, Jesus will no longer be there physically. But now, through the Holy Spirit, he will be there constantly and everywhere they go. And the Spirit will be with every disciple, not just a few. Jesus’ ability to directly minister to people will go up exponentially because through the Spirit he will be with them at all times and in all places.

And we know now from the rest of the NT that when a man or woman believes in Jesus Christ and receives eternal life, God sets the Holy Spirit inside us, and we are sealed by him. And our eternal inheritance in heaven is guaranteed.
And the Spirit of God is always with us. We are never alone.

Recently because of some trials I was going through, I felt alone. Even like God wasn’t there at all. But Jesus’ words here about the presence of the Holy Spirit brought great comfort to me. My FEELINGS said I was alone. But the truth was, God was very, very near. In fact, he couldn’t be nearer, for he lives inside me.

Jesus wants to strengthen his disciples with this glorious news.

Vs. 27-31
PEACE
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
This is a repeat of vs. 1.

28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world [Satan] is coming. He has no claim on me,
31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

As vs. 1, Jesus reassures them in this time of extraordinary stress.
He blesses them and prays for peace on their souls. The world has a form of peace, but it’s founded on wishful thinking and temporary solutions. Jesus’ peace is sustaining. And truthful and real. And it is heavenly.

What Now?

We’ve read these important and glorious and amazing words of Jesus. Now what do we do with this? How can it….how should it….shape our thinking about God and life? How will his words affect our lives of following Jesus?
Let me offer three simple but very important action points.

First,
BELIEVE.
If you want eternal life… forgiveness… peace with God… there is only one source and one way. That way is not religious activity. That way is not trying harder. That way is not wishful thinking. That way is not trial and error with various philosophies and religious views.
That way is a Person. Jesus is the Way. The Truth. The Life. He is the only way to the Father in heaven. He is the only one who has died in judgment for our sins. He is the only one who has conquered our worst and fiercest enemy, namely Death, by rising from the dead.

If you want to live forever in glory with the One God who is in heaven, believe in him, and in him alone. Trust him for eternal life.

Second,
BE AT PEACE.
Be at peace. Don’t be troubled or agitated.
There is much in this world to be troubled about. But he calls us to trust. To believe. Jesus is the Creator. The Lamb of God. The Living Water. The Bread of life. The Resurrection. The Way. The Truth. The Life. He has given his Spirit to all who believe in him. He promises to answer our prayers to him. He is great enough and good enough to take care of us. Be at Peace.

Third,
HAVE HOPE.
We cannot survive without hope. True hope is a confidence that good is coming.
Our Hope is not in our performance or lack of it. Our Hope is not in wishful thinking. Our Hope is not in getting out of this current trial we are in. Our Hope is a Person. This Person died for us, then rose from the dead just as he prophesied he would.

Over the centuries, Christians who have suffered greatly are the ones who are strengthened greatly by their future hope. The Hope of Jesus Christ who has gone before us into heaven to prepare a place for us. Such a hope gives us tremendous strength and courage. This hope sustains us when life is at its hardest.

He has gone ahead of us into heaven, and he is there as our Advocate. Our Intercessor. Our Great High Priest.
And he has promised to come again and take us to where he and the Father are. And to be with him forever and ever.
This is hope. Hope in the midst of the pain of life. In the midst of the boredom and mundane. In the midst of the chaos in the world.