So that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah the Son of God
- Deuteronomy 18:14-22
- John 14:5-14
Most of us have had the experience where a loved one was about to be pushed into an operation theater in hospital. For the best part of it, those circumstances are not something we want to remember.
I will never for get the draining tubes, monitor cables stuck with sticky bandaid all over my father’s face and chest as he was lying – almost helplessly, speechlessly, and even with an expression of calling for help in his eyes. His hair was a bit messy, and there was a few day’s growth on his chin. The breathing was heavy; and I could not really detect much warmth or grip in his hands.
They then took him away. He had to face what was ahead of him on his own.
I wanted to help; all of us wanted to help. One feels powerless in the face of that moment in life when the person on the sick bed has to battle it out on their own. Surely, one can be there, but there is a point where you realise you cannot do more.
When Jesus told his disciples that where He was going they could not go, the situation was infinitely more intense. It was the Son of God who came into the world to seek and save sinners. They could not go with Him because they were part of the problem; He was the solution.
We cannot go where Jesus went
Jesus prepared his disciples that He would not be able to stay with them. Back in John 7 He said:
“I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” (John 7:33–34, NIV)
Then Jesus told them,
“You are going to have the light just a little while longer. (John 12:35, NIV)
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. (John 13:33, NIV)
Christ had to complete the mission of the Father
What our Lord was referring to was complete the mission his Father had sent Him do complete. The disciples did not understand this at that point in time. When Christ was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time, before He resurrected Lazarus from the dead, Thomas said:
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16, NIV)
Matthew and Mark recorded a very interesting episode, just before Jesus entered Jerusalem where He would be crucified. James and John’s mother approached Jesus. She knelt before Him to ask Him a favour. Jesus listened to her request that He would grant that one her sons would sit at his right hand and the other on the left in his Kingdom. The next event in the live of our Lord was his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. One can only think that the Apostles of Jesus and his other disciples, including the mother of James and John, understood that something very special is going to happen. What was the answer of our Lord on this request:
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. (Matthew 20:22, NIV)
Their reply to this rhetorical question of Jesus was, “We can!” Jesus then said, “You will indeed drink from my cup”, but the understanding is that they could not do it before He did. Of course they did not understand the full consequence of what they were asking.
Peter in John 13, the very night before Jesus was arrested and crucified:
“Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (John 13:36, NIV)
Peter had no idea of the consequence of Jesus’s words, so he replied:
“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (John 13:37, NIV)
To this our Lord replied:
“Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:38, NIV)
Peter, you won’t even may it through the night before you will disown the Lord; not once, but three times.
And within 24 hours, our Lord was hanging on the cross. That very night, only a few hours since Jesus spoke reaffirmed to his disciples that He is going to leave them, the Bible tells us this sad state of events:
But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:56, NIV)
Alone Jesus stood before Pilate, alone He was mocked by the soldiers, when He carried his cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Calvary’s Hill, there was not sight of his disciples. When He was crucified, we read his disciples were at a distance.
We cannot go where Jesus went: our sins prevent us
The story of Thomas who did not fully understand why Jesus had to die, the story of Peter who was willing to lay down his life and later denied Jesus, and the story of the disciples who were only at a distance when He completed the mission of the Father, might sound strange and sad; it however brings us before one great and unfathomable biblical truth: they and we we couldn’t go where Jesus went.
The road Jesus Christ went
The Scriptures fulfilled
In a very strange but satisfying way I look and find Jesus alone between Gethsemane and the cross. In Him being there alone I see the Scriptures fulfilled. No one could accompany Him – at least, no human being. In his seeking and searching to save lost, He took on the nature of those who were lost, yet without sin. And to save them, He needed to become like them to save them, but He did not sin.
When Adam and Eve sinned in Paradise they hid from God. What had been friendly to them before that dreadful day, then became opposition and enemy: the garden would have thorns and thistles, they themselves had to cover themselves out of shame, and the Lord in his holiness drove them from the Garden. If ever there were two lonely people on the face of this planet, it would be Adam and Eve. Not only physically were they lonely, but spiritually they must have felt deserted, filled with guilt and the pain of not beholding God and experience his presence like they knew it in the Garden.
Sin severed us from God, it plunged God’s creation, over which He appointed us guardians and rulers, in chaos; we became one another’s enemy. Just the next chapter in Genesis records the fact that Cain killed his one and only brother. He then became the epitome of loneliness. God cursed Cain with these words:
When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:12, NIV)
But God did not kill Cain. For the likes of Cain there would be born someone like themselves, yet without sin, to rescue them from sin. There was no way they could do it for themselves.
The Israelites were in bondage in Egypt. They felt the burden of sin upon them each day as the whips of the Egyptians lashed upon their backs, and they lost their sons under the command of the Pharaoh. But there was nothing they could do about it. Then there is this staggering verse in the Bible: It is God speaking about his people in slavery:
I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land… (Exodus 3:7–8, NIV)
The blood of the Passover Lamb
But before that would happen, they had to hide under the blood of the Passover lamb. And now, thousands of years, and hundreds of thousands of Passover lambs later, God fulfilled his promises in one Lamb, the Son of God.
He is the only one who could take the punishment of the world upon Him, because He was from God, born of God to live among us, the Lamb designated by God to take away the sins of the world.
I thank God that He did not expect anything from me to add to the salvation of Christ. Forever we need to thank Him that He alone stood before Pilate, Herod, the Jewish Council, and yes indeed before the holy God, his Father, in our place to redeem us from the slimy pit.
Forsaken by the Father
We cannot go where Jesus went. Where Jesus went was to not only find the sinner in this loneliness before God, but to pay the price for his loneliness. And in doing so, only a few hours later, He would cry out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me!” No other Saviour could do such a thing. There is no other Saviour, no other Lamb of God who would take away thine sins of the world. He alone could; He alone did.
That’s probably why Jesus comforted his disciples before all to this happened:
“Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (John 13:36, NIV)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 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? (John 14:1–2, NIV)
The death of our Lord opens the door to the Father
I believe there are two ways to understand the words of Jesus here. To believe in God and the believe in the One He sent, is to understand that the death and resurrection of Jesus would open the door to the house of the Father. In other words, in time, the words of our Lord had its fulfillment when He died the next day by taking the sons of the world upon Him. To the criminal who also died on another cross that same day, our Lord said:
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43, NIV)
When He rose on the third day his mission to atone for the sins of many was fulfilled. Sin was dealt with, and our relationship with God was restored. Paul understood this very well:
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:9–11, NIV)
We now can indeed go where Jesus went
When He returns He will take us to the Father’s home.
In time something else will happen: Jesus, now at the right hand of the Father, is preparing a room for us in the house of his Father. When that room is prepared and the fulness of time has come, our Lord will appear on the clouds, the trumpet of the Lord will blow, the graves will be opened and those who are still alive will be changed in the wink of an eye. Our Lord will come to take us to where He is now. Listen to the Word:
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. (John 14:3, NIV)
Jesus said to them:
You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:4–5, NIV)
The place where Jesus is going is to his Father – the same place where Jesus was from. Remember, John’s purpose with his Gospel was that we would know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing in Him we would have eternal life. Therefor Jesus answered Thomas when he said they don’t know where He was going:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6–7, NIV)
Show us the Father
Although Jesus is the only redeemer and saviour of the world, and although He declared we cant go where He went, it is also true that by believing in what He did in our stead means that we can indeed go where Jesus went.
How does that happen? Thomas and Philip had a problem with this concept: Where is heaven, where is God, what does the Father look like? Jesus answered them:
If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:7, NIV)
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. (John 14:10, NIV)
To see God the Father is to believe in the One He sent. To understand something about God, is to believe the One He sent. To know God, is the know the One He sent. There is not other way to heaven.
Christ is the way to the Father
He is the way. He alone opened the way – good works do not open the way: Christ is the way. Without Him there is no way; without Him there is no seeing of the Father; without Him there is no knowing the Father; without Him there is no room in heaven.
This “seeing” and “knowing” in John is understood to be the consequence of God’s miraculous act of salvation through Christ accompanied the live giving work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore not only will we one day, at the return of Christ, see and know God, but by faith we may see his Kingdom now, by faith we may know Him now, and by faith we worship Him as Father now. Truely, if we do no know Him as the way to the Father now, see his Kingdom now and worship Him as Lord and King Him now, doing it then will be impossible. Don’t let the devil trick you into his trap to think that somehow you will understand to know Him then if you do not bow before Him now.
Bothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,
There is a way to heaven, there is a way to know the Father, there is a way to see the Kingdom of God. More precisely, there is only one way: Jesus Christ.
The implication of this truth is that we need to understand that our own efforts will not get us there; further, the those who claim there is all manners of getting saved, stand on no solid rock: Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.
But this truth also means that we cannot be silent about the only way to get to heaven: there are millions out there, and hundreds in our town, who have not heard about Him – without faith in Him they will die an everlasting death. We need to tell them; it is our job – and what a wonderful calling that is!
Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 16 June 2013