"So This is Jesus Christ! (Part 2)"#69-33
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on April 28, 2002
By Rev. Dr. Dean Nadasdy, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2023 Lutheran Hour Ministries
This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: John 14:1-12
From John 14:1, these are the words of Jesus: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in Me. 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. You know the way to the place where I'm going." Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak at a Christian men's retreat at a camp I had been to many times before. I looked forward to spending the weekend with a group of highly motivated Christian guys who wanted to dig deep into the Scriptures.
To make a long story short, even though I had been to the camp several times and had a map in the car with me, I had the hardest time finding the camp. It was a clear, bright, and mild winter night in Minnesota, and I turned on the last road that was to take me to the camp. It didn't seem right, but there was a sign that read Hwy 7. That's what I wanted, so I turned. What was a little dirt road became a paved road, and I drove and drove, but I never saw the camp. Several miles later, I turned around and headed back down the road to see if I had missed it. Nothing!
Now came the most humbling part. I had to stop at a local convenience store and ask for directions. This is not easy for those who believe God created us with some sort of internal compass. The store was right where I had turned onto Highway 7. I walked in and said, "Where in the world is Camp Courage?" That was the name of the camp. I explained that I had turned on Route 7 just as I had been told to do, and there was no camp. "Oh," said the clerk calmly, "we get people in here all the time who make the wrong turn. They gotta move that sign. The real Route 7 is another quarter mile up."
"That wasn't Route 7?" I asked. "Nope, it's Pseudo Route 7," he said, "and whoever put the sign up is sure helping our business. What can I get you?" Sure enough, I'd been misled. After a cup of coffee and a donut, I was on my way with new directions and finally got where I belonged.
I know, a few of you may be thinking, "how is this guy supposed to know the way to heaven if he has a problem finding a camp he's been to many times before."
As a matter of fact, my experience of getting lost that night parallels the experience of millions of people wanting to know the way to heaven and finding themselves misled or lost or frustrated or driving on and on, or wanting to hear more, but not sure they can trust what they hear.
Many listening today have been here before -- hearing Jesus say, "I'm going to prepare a place for you," and then hearing Him say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." You can hear it, and smile at the beauty of His familiar words, but somehow miss what He means.
We can get lost in a world that sends us on alternate routes to truth, alternate routes to life, and the risk is, we may never get there. We may miss all three -- the way, the truth, and the life. Or we may miss the fullness of what Jesus is saying in His words.
There is a well-known Charles Schultz cartoon where Linus says, "Charlie, do you want to know what the trouble with you is?" Charlie shouts, "No!" They stare at each other. Then Linus breaks the silence with, "The trouble with you, Charlie Brown, is that you don't want to know what the trouble with you is."
It's the trouble with a lot of us. We really don't like hearing we might be off course. We don't feel we need to ask for directions to a camp, or to a church, or to a friend's house, or to heaven.
Well, the signs are up so don't worry about it. One sign says, "All roads lead to heaven." Another sign reads, "Doesn't make any difference which way you turn. Just be a good person." Another reads, "Just keep truckin'!" At the end of the road, whatever road, there's a rainbow, for everyone who believes anything."
One of you listening today may have given up a long time ago on finding the way to heaven. Another listening may be too proud to ask for directions and too confused to even care any more.
So in our culture, and that includes us, we can begin to believe when Jesus says, "I am the way," He really means I am "a way." I am one way among many. We really haven't heard Jesus on this. I mean we really haven't heard the real Jesus Christ say, "I am THE way. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Just as there is a pseudo Highway 7 in Minnesota because of misleading signs, there are pseudo ways to heaven, false roads that send us off on costly wild goose chases, and spiritual snipe hunts. They end up dead ends, and I mean dead.
When Jesus says, "I am the way," He builds on centuries of Biblical law and prophecy pointing to the one way of salvation. The inspired prophet Isaiah, 700 years before Christ, looked to what he called the Way of Holiness. In it, he said the simple traveler would not be lost. After Jesus died and rose again and returned to His rightful place at the right hand of the Father, His followers spoke of their faith as "the Way." Before they were called Christians, they were called people of the Way.
So what does Jesus mean when He says, "I am the Way?" It's much more than just giving us directions. He means to say there is one way to heaven and He is that way. It is the way of living perfectly and satisfying God's need for holiness and righteousness. Jesus has done that for you. Though tempted in all things, the Scriptures teach He never once sinned. God counts His perfection as ours as we place our faith in Him. We call that the righteousness of faith. He is the one and only Way of Holiness and even the simplest of us can find our way to trust in Him.
When I talk about this in classes, someone is often quick to ask, "Well, if He's been perfect for me, what motivates me to do what's right. Why should I resist temptation if it doesn't matter, if it's all been done for me?" Good question. It would be hard to respond to if we didn't know more than the disciples knew when they first heard Jesus say these words. We do what's right and hate what's evil because this One who lived perfectly for us also paved the way for our salvation by suffering and dying with our punishment for sin on Him instead of on us. And then He came alive again. God counts His death and His resurrection as ours as we place our trust in Him. We want to live His way, "the Way," out of gratitude for all He has done for us. That's the motivation, the Good News of what He's done for us. We want to do what pleases His Father, the One who sent Him to live and die and live again in our place.
Listen and please read carefully. There is no other way to heaven and there is no greater way to live on earth revealed by God than the Way that is Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn't just want to give us directions. He means to take us to heaven. Only He has accomplished what is necessary for us. I know the exclusivity of His claim is bothersome to many of us these days, but the fact that it bothers us doesn't change its truthfulness.
Alex Haley, the author of "Roots," which became such a hit mini-series many years ago, kept the picture of a turtle on a fencepost in his office. When asked about the picture, he'd like to say, "If you ever see a turtle on a fence post, you gotta know he had some help getting there. Anytime I start thinking to myself, 'WOW, isn't this a marvelous thing I've done,' I look at that picture and remind myself, 'Alex, you didn't get atop this fence post on your own. Someone put you there.'" And that's true of all who call themselves Christians. It's all been done for us. We've been lifted and placed into God's good graces by Jesus Himself.
This is Jesus Christ, the real Jesus Christ, claiming exclusive rights for the way we get to heaven and the way we are to live on earth. And though it may be disturbing in a time we hear about every which way to heaven, He offers His way to everyone who trusts in His love and in His work. Jesus is the Way!
And when Jesus says, "I am the truth," we're up against the same sort of thing. Winston Churchill once said, "People occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."
Wow, is that the case today! It seems like every truth we once held dear is being deconstructed and reconstructed to make it more palatable, more human, more whatever.
A few years ago, the film, "The Truman Show," gave us a story about a young man whose whole life was a television show rather than real. His wife, his friends -- were all actors. Finally, he discovers the sham and is about to leave the soundstage he once thought was his world. In an attempt to keep him there, the voice of the director comes over the soundstage speaker and says to Truman, "You'll find more truth here than you'll ever find out there." That's a commentary on the scarcity of truth in the world today. We're ready to believe in just about everything, it seems, as crazy as it might be. But we're ready to stumble over the truth and hurry off sometimes as if nothing happened.
Jesus is the Truth -- the truth about us, that we can't do what needs to be done. He's the truth about what the trouble is with every one of us -- that we've fallen short of the perfection God demands. And He is the truth about God, that God didn't leave us alone with our trouble, but gave His one and only Son to make things right for us.
As a pastor I spend a lot of time with people who are trying to figure out what the trouble is. Repeatedly, we discover a lot of the pain and loss and conflict in our lives comes from believing what simply is not true. Maybe something someone said to us years ago, maybe something just recently, and they choose to believe it. We misbelieve. It's like miseating, putting bad stuff into your body. Only here we put untruths into our minds and hearts. Untruths like, "You'll never amount to much," or "God will never forgive you for that," or "Right is whatever you call right," or "Nobody cares about you." Jesus came to set us straight, to give us the truth about ourselves, about God, and His truth, as He said His truth will set us free. This is Jesus -- the Truth.
And when Jesus says, "I am the Life," He means just that -- the Life! He alone faced death and conquered it. He alone did battle with the Prince of Darkness and conquered him, already announcing his victory in hell itself.
The real Jesus is no story book character, no mere quiet teacher bringing a smile to every face by gentle Mr. Rogers-like ways. The real Jesus went through hell to promise us heaven. The life He offers is anything but easy. It is a life of picking up His cross, He said; of serving, He said; of losing one's life to gain it, He said. You won't find His followers on some mountain waiting for Him to return or hiding away in some cave. You'll find them where people found Jesus when He walked this earth -- where people in the dark need light; where the sick need healing; where the doubtful need faith. It is the best of life, life at its fullest -- being where Jesus would have us be.
So this is Jesus Christ, the Jesus I know and love. America, meet Jesus Christ. If you've been away from Him for a while, He wants you close again. If you have never seen Him as He really is -- your only hope for heaven and for truth and for life is Him. He is near you now. Alive after dying, He walks among us. His footsteps and the rustle of His robe are close at hand. He has you in mind; your need to believe in Him and to love Him and to serve Him, when He says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
Please pray with me: Lord God, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love is supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord -- the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for April 28, 2002
ANNOUNCER: I'm Mark Eischer and joining me once again this week is Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, professor of theology at Concordia University, Irvine, California. He's also a regular co-host of the national radio program, "The White Horse Inn." Dr. Rosenbladt, what is the role of apologetics in Christian evangelism?
ROSENBLADT: It's sort of the intellectual arm of it. You don't start with it but the non-Christian will drive you to it. Usually in conversation, he will not let you get away with saying, "This book is inspired and true," without having something to say about that. Then you've got to give an answer, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, "Be always prepared to give a cogent answer to those who ask you for a reason for the hope within you, yet do it with gentleness."
ANNOUNCER: And what are the limitations of apologetics?
ROSENBLADT: Well, they are much less than many in the church seem to think, even in our church. They seem to think this is against "sola fide" or against the sacraments, which is a confusion. The polar opposites in the New Testament are faith vs. works-righteousness, not faith vs. knowing. You can have a person that finally comes to the decision that Jesus was the promised Christ, God in the flesh, and His view of Scripture is God's view of Scripture. They can still walk away from it and often do. I've worked with InterVarsity (Christian Fellowship) for years and debated professors of philosophy. You finally get to where some will say, "You've answered all my basic questions." And I say, "Do you want to become a Christian?" And they say no. I'll say, "Mind telling me why not?" And they say, "Yes, it'll screw up the way I'm living." That's honest. There you're at the level of simple rejection. But no longer should they say, "I can't become a Christian because it's intellectually inadequate."
ANNOUNCER: So you have removed the objections. You've removed the barriers and you've helped them see Jesus for who He really is.
ROSENBLADT: Yes. If the question is the Bible, if you can establish that Jesus was fully God -- and you do that by arguing from fulfilled prophecy (Messianic prophecy) and from His miracles, and in particular His resurrection from the dead. Then if the question is, "Is there a Word from God?" He answers it all over the place. In every single contest with the pharisees and others, He says, "What does the Scripture say?" His view of Scripture was that of a ranting, raving fundamentalist with regard to the verbal inspiration of the Old Testament, and you can't get away from it. Theological liberals try to do this, but they have to change their view of Jesus to do it.
ANNOUNCER: In what sense?
ROSENBLADT: Well, you come to some saying, "Who cares what Jesus said? Maybe I like what Carl Sandburg said about the Bible." But in this case, if you build a case for His deity, it isn't like anybody else's view of the Bible is just as good. Finally, He's the author of it! He gives evidence He is by His resurrection from the dead.
ANNOUNCER: So, it's the resurrection of Christ that validates His claims for Himself and it is then His view of Scripture that validates Scripture.
ROSENBLADT: Exactly. That's the way He said it. There is a very interesting verse easy to remember where it is in the Bible. It's John 2:22 and after the resurrection it says, "His disciples believed the Scriptures and the Word which Jesus had said." After He was raised from the dead, His disciples believed the Scriptures and the Word. They are intimately connect ed.
ANNOUNCER: Dr. Rosenbladt, why should we be talking about Jesus with anyone in the first place? Why do they need a Savior and why is this ultimately more than an intellectual exercise?
ROSENBLADT: Well, the Bible claims we are all guilty of hating God and guilty of sin and are under His righteous judgment. We are just flat out guilty and He will not have anything in His presence that is evil. Jesus is the one way to have our sin and evil covered -- His blood. So, the breadth of salvation, as the New Testament talks about, is only as wide as the top beam on the cross. In other words, everybody needs a Savior -- whether they know it or not. And this is to argue that the one Savior has already been given and finished the work of saving them.
ANNOUNCER: We've been talking with Dr. Ron Rosenbladt. Dr. Rosenbladt, thanks for being with us.
ROSENBLADT: It's been a pleasure.