As some of you know, I like to jog. And last February, I join in the Tokyo Marathon. One of the things I did in preparation for the marathon was to try and memorize the map of the course the marathon would take. Show map. The marathon started in Shinjuku going east to Idobashi. And then south to Shinagawa. I was doing well to Shinagawa. At Shinagawa the course turned north heading to Asukusa. I knew, once I made the turn at Asukusa, I was ¾ of the way to the finish line. But it seemed like it was taking forever to get there. With each turn the course made, I would ask myself, “Are we there yet?” A little further, again I ask myself, “Are we there yet?” I kept asking myself this question until finally the course made the turn heading south toward the finish line. Now I knew where I was on the course. I knew that ¾ of the race was behind me. With each distance marker, I knew I was draw close to my goal. The point in all this is, that it helps in the same way in our Christian race to know were we headed, the points along the way, and where the final goal is.
Let us now turn to the text for today.
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
Jesus the Way to the Father
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."
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;
The Chapters of John (13-17) records the last meal Jesus would have with His twelve disciples. In these chapters Jesus reveals his heart to them. And not only to them, but also to those who would read these recorded words at a later time, which includes us. When he had convicted and discarded Judas, he set himself to comfort the remaning11, who were full of sorrow upon what he had said of leaving them, and a great many good words and comfortable words he here speaks to them.
I am going to look at this passage in reverse order. I will start with Jesus statement, ”I am the way.” Jesus Himself is the way that we follow to reach God. In other words, he is the only way that we can come to God. There is no other way. Some people say that other religions lead to God, too. This is not true. People cannot come to God by means of a religion, any way. The only way to God is by means of a person: God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And I would like to add that Christianity is not a religion. It is a Faith. Heb. 11:1 & 6 gives a very clear definition of what faith is.
And I ask, if there where other ways, why did Jesus suffer and die on the cross? And if there are other ways, Jesus is a liar. And if He was lying, none of He statements can be trusted. C.S. Lewis wrote, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great teacher. He’d either be insane or else he’d be the ‘devil of hell.’ You must make your choice.” He writes, “Either Jesus was and is the Son of God, or else He was insane or evil.” C.S. Lewis goes on, “Let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
But His disciples witness Jesus betrayed, lead off to be falsely accused before Pilate, hung on a cross, to die. Put in the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. Then on that Sunday morning, some of his disciples went to see the empty tomb. Sometime later, a doubting Thomas put his finger in the nail holes in Jesus’ hand and feet. And touch the cut in His side and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!!!” Yes, Jesus is exactly who he said He was and is today; the Son of God.
When we believe in Jesus, we are following the only way to eternal life with God. This way is available to every person on the earth. But each person is free to choose it or to reject it
In life we have many choices to make. Some are not too important. For example, I go to the store to buy some coffee. The first choice I make is what brand, then should I buy mocha or espresso, or regular blend. Then do I want whole bean, ground our freeze-dried. After making the choice, I go home and brew a pot. At the first taste, I know that I have made a bad choice. Pouring it out I say to myself, "I will never buy that brand again." No bad consequence. Just a few hundred yen.
On the other hand, there many choices we make that, if we choose the wrong one, there are severe consequences. For example, Should I stop at this red light, and wait for the green light. Or should I ignore it and keep going. If I do go through the red light one of two things will happen. One, a policeman will see it and pull me over, resulting in the loss of my licenses. Or more seriously, a collisions with the cars going through on the green light, which could lead to death.
When I was in High school, I witnessed such an event. A friend and I were on our way to an auto parts store in a part of Portland that we were both unfamiliar with. While I was busy giving directions from the map, my friend was driving. He stopped for a red light waiting for it to turn green. Hearing a car pass us, I looked up from the map in time to see the car ignore the red light and collide with a car that was going through the intersection on the green light. Fortunately, other then three smashed cars, there were no fatalities. It could have been much worse. Definitely, the driver made a very bad choice.
Of all the choices in life, there is one of the greatest importance; where to spend eternity.
Matt.7:13, 14 tells us to take the narrow road to God.
13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Japan is a good example only a few will find it. What is the population of Japan? And of this big number, there is less then 1% who are Christians.
So here are just two choices. The broad way to destruction…where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat.8:12 )…where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.(Mark 9:48)…Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. (Rev. 21:8). Not a pretty picture. Or the narrow road that leads to life. Let's talk a little bit about this narrow road.
We all know about narrow roads in Japan. When I first started driving in Japan, I disliked driving down narrow roads. In fact, I still do. If I can avoid them, I do. One route I take to church goes down a narrow road for about one kilometer. Sometimes I take the long way around to avoid it. But then I tell myself, “take the short cut, you must get over your fear of narrow roads.” But the narrow road of Christian life is a one-way road; everyone is going the same direction; no on coming traffic. That makes a big difference.
Now, Jesus never said that His road would smooth. He never said there would be no bumps, no ups and downs. In fact, He says just the opposite. He said the world hated Him and it the same way the world will hate us. He also said, ”in the world you will have tribulations, but take heart, I have over come the world.” (John 16:33). I have a song on a CD that I listen to which says, “the trials and tribulation I face on this road of life draw me nearer to Him.” And that should be our attitude. Remember to spend your time counting your blessings, not airing your complaints.
When I was thinking about what kind of illustration to use, this though came to mind. When we choose Jesus as the Way, or The Road to God, Jesus gives us His ETC card, from the bank of Grace (Eph. 2:8,9), with a never ending supply paid in full by His death on the cross. In other words, He gives a free pass to Heaven paid by Him. One of the main points of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all times. He paid it all.
I remember the first time I used my ETC, as I approached the gate I thought to myself, is the gate going to open? I moved closer and closer. Is it going to open? Finally, to my great relief the gate opened, and I went through with no problem. When we use Jesus’ ETC called Grace, one needs not fear because the gate will always open.
A kind woman gave me this suica card. Actually it was Ann. Now I don’t know how much yen is on it. Maybe nothing or then many 1000 yen. I don’t know. But fortunately, there is a machine that will read this card and tell me how much is on it. And with the same machine, I can add more yen to it. Now if someone is relying on good works, there is no machine, which tells that person if he or she, has done enough to get into heaven.
From time to time, I get an update telling me how many frequent flier miles I have acquired. I also have a chart that lists the number of frequent flier miles I need to fly to Hawaii, or to North America, or Europe, etc. But have you ever seen a printout of the points required to enter Heaven?
It is a sad thing, that some are on this road thinking their own ETC card, bought with good works will open the gate into heaven. But they are going find out that the gate won’t open for them. It will be just the opposite, the gate will slam shut on them.
I imagine that some of you have had the same experience as I did going through the ticket gate at the eki. I purchase a ticket from the machine. But unknown to me, I had purchase a ticket at the wrong price. Thinking I had bought the right ticket, I had no worry about exiting the gate at my destination. Wrong. As I was quickly going through the ticket gate, I was rudely stopped by a shutting gate; embarrassing to say the lest. And that is the exact experience that will happen to them.
Now, Jesus not only gives us His ETC card , but also by means of the Holy Spirit He seals us guaranteeing our safe arrival to Heaven. If you have an important document that you want to make sure the one who you are sending it to receives it, what do you do? Using a special envelope, you seal with your signature or hanko, and a tracking code is placed on it. The person who receives it at the other end must sign for it proving that he indeed received it and you receive back a note that proves the person you intended to receive it received your document. And this is the same idea the Holy Spirit does. He seals us for the day of redemption guaranteeing one’s safe arrival to heaven.
Now we as believer not only have Jesus’ ETC card and are seal by the Holy Spirit. But here is the amazing thing, Jesus Himself is coming back to give us, His children, a personal escort to the Kingdom.
Jesus said, “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." Jesus had given His promise that He would return. This promise was given some two thousand years ago and it still remains to be fulfilled.
When? We don’t know.
Scholars and theologians have written many volumes about the second coming and have draw elaborate time lines showing what sequences will take place. But still we don’t know when Jesus’ return will be.
My take on prophecy is like viewing Mt. Fuji from a distance. My route to church is via road #407 and then road # 50. Now road #50 crosses road #16 Saiyama Shi. Just before crossing road #16, on a clear morning, Mt. Fuji can be seen in all its beauty. It doesn’t look that far away. If I turn right on to road # 16 and head toward Hachiyoji, at one point, Mt Fuji again can be seen looking oh so close. I think in just a few minutes I will be at the mountain. But then I go down into a valley and cannot see the mountain for awhile. Then I come up on a hill top and they is Mt Fuji looking so close yet in reality it is still very far away.
This is the same with the Second coming of Jesus. To the disciples, His return was near, so they though. To the early Christians, they too though Jesus return was near. In fact, some were not working, but waiting around for Jesus return. Paul had to write and tell them to get back to work, because the time of His return is not known. This has been the same sequence down through church history; Jesus return seems so near at one point and then it seems so far away.
But Jesus did say, in Matt. 24:4-8, "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ, and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
II Timothy 3:1-5 1"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”
Sounds like a description of today doesn’t it. Although we don’t know when Jesus will return, we do have a good description of what will happen when He does return.
This time, no baby in a manger. No announcement to lowly shepherds. No visitors from the east. But read to the following:
I Thess. 4:15-18
And again in II Corin. 15:51-58
55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
In closing let us look in Rev. 21, and 22, for a description of the Kingdom were Jesus has prepare dwelling places for us. I am giving you a ten-minute, open book test. List everything describing what it will be like in heaven. Here are two free answers.
1. We already know that we will have dwelling places prepared by Jesus.
2. And Paul tells us, for those who have longed for his appearing, a crown of righteousness.
II Tim. 4:8
“Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.