“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 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? 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 know me, you will 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 I do not speak on my own authority. 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 works themselves. 12 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. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
It’s the trip of a lifetime. The suitcases are packed. The oil is changed and the gas tanked topped off. Everything fits into the trunk magically like Legos. The whole family is in the car ready to go three minutes early. Your favorite driving music is cued up on the road trip playlist. Mom must have been in charge of it.
With all the preparation and work that goes into planning an epic family vacation, could you ever imagine dad turning to mom with a blank stare while the car sits in the driveway to say, “So, can you tell me where we are going and how to get there?”
Now, in our high-tech generation that might not be so devastating, because two family members would offer him a GPS enabled phone with three possibilities depending on what kind of route you wanted. All Dad would have to do is listen to the GPS lady say, “In 500 feet turn left.” Then, detours could be added and subtracted all along the way until those magic words: “You have arrived.” Although I don’t imagine anyone would pack up and getting ready to go without first having a destination and a route in mind, it could be done.
When we see Thomas, Philip, and the other disciples in our Gospel today, it isn’t that simple. There is no OnStar. There is no GPS. There are no planes, no trains, no automobiles to get them were Jesus was going. It was unsettling for them to hear Jesus speak the way he does that night before he died. He says, “I’m leaving you, but you know the way.” You can almost picture the look on their faces. Stunned. Shocked. Worried. It is as though Jesus is giving them an impossible task rather than a trip of a lifetime.
Does it feel like that for you? Does it feel like Jesus has given you a destination but no directions on how to get there? Do you feel like Thomas asking, how can we know the way? I think that is a very important question for us to ask, because life is not always the joyful journey we want it to be. Sometimes we find ourselves distracted or lost without much direction.
In this road trip called life, do you notice when that is happening? Do you recognize when the surroundings are changing and the signs are confusing? It’s not because Jesus took the GPS away. It’s not because he is no longer there for you. This trip gets hard when we think we don’t need him as much.
When kids start to think they don’t need Sunday school, that worship is boring, or when you spend time memorizing video game hacks over spiritual facts in Scripture, that’s when the distractions are grabbing hold. When teenagers are listening to their science teachers more than the creator of science, when you are going to parties and competitions more than worship and Bible study, when you are listening to your changing bodies more than your changeless Lord, then potholes are doing some serious damage. When people put their career goals before God’s goals, when you focus on building a home and family without the foundation of Christ, then that road starts to crumble and breakdown. When parents jostle for center stage for their kids, even though there is already someone fulfilling that role perfectly for them, that’s a dangerous direction to follow. When kids make life harder for their parents on purpose, that’s not a good road to be on. When retired folks spend their last years reliving the past rather than promoting the one who provides an eternal future, that can’t get you back on track.
There are so many obstacles, distractions, recalculations that we add to life’s road. These things don’t pop up because Christ is gone or because he has forgotten about us. They pop up because we are trying something different or we might just be forgetting the way.
That’s probably why Jesus begins this whole conversation with this encouraging reminder: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God and also you believe in me.” Jesus simplifies things. He tells me that I don’t need to make things work out. He says I don’t have to trust in my abilities or my knowledge or my personality. I don’t need to follow after everything my family or my friends are doing. I don’t need to be enamored with celebrities or athletes. I don’t need to crave more money or popularity. To start this conversation today, Jesus makes it really simple. On this road trip of life, the reason you don’t have to worry or be distracted is because God gave you faith. Your faith clings to his promises and Jesus’ salvation. You faith wants nothing more than follow Jesus.
But every now and then you and I might wish for a little more. We want the road of life to be just a bit better. Maybe it’s a simple request, “Jesus, I know you have given me what I need, but what about just a little more, something that I’m looking for. Give me something I can use.” That sounds a little bit like Philip, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Philip had Jesus right there. The Savior of the world was right across the table. Jesus had everything under control. But Philip wants just a little bit more than what he already has.
Thinking we need more from Jesus is so dangerous because then you might start thinking that the way you are going in life is all wrong. You begin to question everything. And like Thomas you find yourself wrestling with way to go. “Lord, where are you going, and how can we know the way?”
Jesus has a great answer to this question. An answer that isn’t angry or annoyed. It’s just what we need when we are distracted like Philip or worried like Thomas. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If you need direction, if you’re feeling lost or distracted, if you are trying to find your way on this road trip of life, Jesus is your answer. His free and full forgiveness and salvation answers all the question and worries we can come up with. He is literally the only answer.
Imagine if Jesus would tell us, “I am a way, a truth, and a life.” Wouldn’t you feel let down a little bit? Wouldn’t you think that there could be better options? There is a big difference between ‘the’ and ‘a.’ ‘A’ is part of a group. It’s generic. It’s common. There is nothing exciting or special about ‘a.’ If you don’t believe that there is a difference, then which of these statements would you say to your mother today: ‘You’re a great mom,’ or ‘you’re the great mom’. Those two statements are not the same. ‘The’ is specific. It takes a stand. It’s exclusive.
Jesus didn’t tell us, “I’ll show you the way,” like a gas station clerk trying to help you with directions. Jesus says, I am the way. Jesus didn’t say, “I have the truth,” like a lawyer in a courtroom. He says, I am the truth. Jesus didn’t say, “I will lead you to life,” like 21st century TV evangelist. He tells us, I am the life. There is nothing generic about Jesus. He isn’t ‘a’ Savior, one of many different options. He is the Savior and the only way to heaven. And just to make it all crystal clear, he says No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus is the way through this life to God’s home for us in heaven. When our world talks about religion it uses ‘a.’ It says there is a god out there and a better place. Find whatever works best for you. Find your god and your way and everything will be ok. When so many voices are distracting us like that and pulling us into this idea that there are many different paths, Jesus is the only way. When suffering and loss grab you, Jesus is your only way out of sadness and depression. When your future looks dim and dismal, Jesus is the only truth that enlightens you for eternity. When your past mistakes and problems try to drag you down, Jesus is the only life that is free of sin and guilt.
That’s why we keep coming here to this place. Jesus is the only Way, Truth, and Life. Without the Way, you are going to wander off. Without the Truth, you’re going to listen to so many of these opinions and half-truths going around. Without the Life, you’re going to die for eternity. Jesus is what you need for the road of life. You don’t have to wander around. You don’t have to keep searching.
The trip of a lifetime would become quite annoying, and even worse, if you didn’t know where you were going half the time or if you kept getting distracted and lost. That’s why we have GPS or a map. And you know the important thing about GPS or a map, right? They are only good at getting you from point A to point B if you use them. What good would a GPS be if you turned it off during the middle of your trip and then turned it on again only to realize you missed three turns? What good would a map be if you shove it in the trunk?
Do you know what God gives you so that you know The Way? He gives you his Word, not as a list of directions to follow, but as his living Way, who paved the way to heaven for you. He gives you his Word, not as a collection of truths and moral absolutes, but as his Truth of forgiveness and salvation. He gives you his Word, not as a way to keep the idea of Jesus living, but as his living and enduring testament of love that he will never leave us forever.
Brothers and sisters, don’t lose it. Don’t turn off the GPS that God has given you. Don’t shove it under a bunch of things in the trunk. Use the GPS God has given you. Use his Word every day. Use it by yourself. Use it with family and friends. Use it until you know The Way really well and then use it some more. Jesus is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the one who conquered sin, death, and hell for you. He’s the one who is preparing a room for you in God’s house right now. He is the one who promises that you will be with him forever.