The Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2023
He Lives— to Be the Only Way to Heaven!
1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In 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. 3And 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. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9Jesus 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’? 10Don’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. 11Believe 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 miracles themselves.” (NIV1984)
Dear fellow worshipers of our living Lord and Savior,
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Have you ever been lost? Think before you answer that question. Personally, I can answer that question with both a “Yes!” and a “No!” I can answer that question with a “No!” if we are talking about being “lost” in the sense that I have no idea where I am. While I have taken wrong turns or missed an exit on numerous occasions I have always been able to figure out how to get back “on track.” Thankfully, I have never been in a position where I looked around and had no idea where I was or how to get back to someplace familiar.
On the other hand, there have been a number of times when I have had to answer “Yes!” to that question. There have been a number of times when I have found myself in a situation that was so confusing or so overwhelming that I have thought to myself, “I’m lost.”
Our sermon text for today reminds us that on a spiritual level we were all born lost— completely lost, groping about in the darkness of sin, totally unable to find our own way to where we want to spend eternity— heaven. Easter changes all that! Today let’s see how these inspired words of John assure us of this truth: He Lives— to Be the Only Way to Heaven!
Our sermon text for today takes us back to a time when Jesus’ disciples could have easily felt “lost.” They weren’t “lost” in the sense that they didn’t know where they were. They were in that Upper Room with Jesus on the night that we call Maundy Thursday. They were “lost” however in the sense that they were confused and overwhelmed by what Jesus was telling them. As we join the disciples there in that Upper Room let’s marvel as we watch how Jesus helps His “lost” disciples by reassuring them— and us!— of the fact that because of His physical resurrection from the dead, we know the way to where we want to spend eternity.
Look at the opening words of our text. Jesus says to His disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” A more literal translation here would be, “Stop letting your hearts be stirred up.” What was “troubling” the hearts of Jesus’ disciples? Why were their hearts “stirred up”? Stop and think about what Jesus had just told them there in that Upper Room. Jesus had just revealed that one of them would betray Him. Jesus had just warned Peter that he was going to deny even knowing who Jesus was— three times! Jesus had just said to them, “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). We can certainly understand why the hearts of Jesus’ disciples were “troubled,” why their hearts were “stirred up.”
How did Jesus calm their “troubled” hearts? He lovingly focused their hearts with these comforting words, “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 am going.”
No matter what might be “troubling” our hearts, no matter what might be causing our hearts to be “stirred up” like sneaker waves on the ocean, there is only one thing that can bring us the “calm” we need. It is— trust! To be more specific, it is trust in Him! (Pointing to the cross) Note very carefully, my friends, how Jesus places “trust in God” on an absolutely equal level with “trust in Jesus.” When we “trust” in Jesus we are “trusting” in God and when we “trust” in God we are “trusting” in Jesus— because? Because Jesus is God!
How does our “trust” in Jesus calm our “troubled” hearts? Our Lord gives us three answers to that question. First, Jesus guarantees to us that in His heavenly Father’s “house” there are many “rooms,” and He is “preparing” one of those “rooms,” one of those “dwelling places” for each and every one of us! Picture it this way: Have you ever walked down the hallway of a retirement home or a senior living facility? Next to or on each and every apartment door there is a plaque with someone’s name on it. If you look closely you’ll see that each plaque is easily removable. Why? Because eventually whoever is in that room will move out and someone else will move in. When that happens the plaque will be taken out and it will be replaced by another plaque with someone else’s name on it. But the “room” that the risen Christ is “preparing” for you and for me has our name engraved on the door! It will be our “dwelling place” forever! Even though we haven’t moved into that room yet— it is ours! Christ Himself has “prepared” that room specifically for us!
The second answer to the question, How does trust in Jesus calm our “troubled” hearts, is found in the promise He gives to us: “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.” Think about how that promise calms our troubled hearts. When the difficulties and the hardships, when the confusion and the uncertainty of our life here has our hearts “stirred up” we can take a deep breath, lift up our eyes to the cross (Pointing to the cross) and picture our risen Lord and Savior escorting us through the heavenly Father’s Home until He gets to the door that has our name engraved on it and says to us, “Here is the room that I prepared specifically for you! Welcome home!”
The third way in which trust in the risen Christ calms our “troubled” hearts is found in His words, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” While you and I know exactly what Jesus is talking about here, there are going to be times when in weakness we say along with Thomas, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Thomas was thinking about a literal map or a literal road that led him to a literal locality. That’s when Jesus speaks the words that are the heart and core of our text. He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We cannot overstate the importance of these words! Jesus is this world’s only Savior from sin. Jesus is this world’s only Lord! That makes Jesus the most inclusive Lord and Savior that there could ever possibly be! Jesus is the Savior of all people— both Jews and Gentiles alike! Jesus suffered and died on the cross to atone for the sins of all people— no exceptions allowed! Jesus physically rose from the dead to declare all people, “Not Guilty!” Everyone is included in what Jesus accomplished through His perfect life, His innocent suffering and death and His victorious physical resurrection on Easter Sunday— Everyone!
At the very same time, Jesus is the most exclusive Lord and Savior there could every possibly be— in the sense that He is the only One who can escort us into the heavenly Father’s home. Jesus does not say, “I am a way”— as though He is one way out of many. He says, “I am the way.” Every other “way” that people try to follow will lead them straight to hell, not to heaven. Jesus does not say, “I am a truth”— as if there were other versions of truth— such as those being peddled by the followers of Allah or Buddha or any other made-up god. Jesus is the Truth! He is the embodiment of Truth! He is the only One who can reveal the Truth to us— which He does right here in His holy Word. Jesus does not say, “I am a life” as though there are others who can lead us into eternal life, others who have given us an example of how we can live our life in a way which proves to God that we are worthy of eternal life. Jesus is the life, the only Source of life, the only One who can take us by the hand and lead us through the valley of the shadow of death into a glorious eternal life in heaven. That’s why our Lord and Savior says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This is a powerful motivation for sharing Jesus with others, isn’t it! There are millions upon millions of people on the face of this earth who either don’t know or don’t care what happens to them when they die. There are millions upon millions of people on the face of this earth who are so afraid of death that they will do whatever they can and spend as much as it takes to push death away for as long as they can. There are millions upon millions of people on the face of this earth who are doing everything they can, everything they are told that they need to do in order to earn their own ticket to Paradise. We need to do everything we can to point them to our risen Lord and Savior and share with them that He (Pointing to the cross) is the only way to heaven!
All of this would be so much easier if God would just reveal Himself to us so that we could “see” Him. That might be what was going through Philip’s mind when he said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Since Jesus had already made it clear to His disciples that He would soon be leaving them, Philip thought that since they would no longer be able to see Jesus, if they were given an opportunity to see the Father that would be “enough” to sustain the disciples until Jesus returned.
We understand Philip’s request, don’t we. There are times in our lives when we would love it if God would reveal Himself to us in a way that we could “see” Him— with our physical eyes! When we are feeling all alone, when we are feeling “lost,” when we aren’t sure where to turn or what to do next we too might lift up our eyes to heaven and say, “Lord, show me the Father and that will be enough for me.”
It’s at times such as these that we need to remember how Jesus responded to Philip’s request. Look at verses nine to eleven of our text. Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 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. 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 miracles themselves.”
In a way that soars far beyond our ability to understand with our limited logical minds, Jesus is “in the Father” and the Father is “in Jesus.” When you see Jesus you see the Father— because they are one God! The “oneness” of the three Persons in the holy Trinity is the foundation upon which the Christian faith is built!
What does this mean for you and for your life today? Think about it. When you want to see how much God loves you— look at Jesus! When you want to see God’s compassion and God’s power— look at all the miracles Jesus performed while He was here on this earth! When you want to see the scope of God’s perfect justice as well as the depth of God’s amazing grace— look at Jesus and see what He has done for you! (Pointing to the cross) When you want to see how much God loves your children and your grandchildren, listen to Jesus’ words as He fulfills His promise to adopt your child through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. When you want to experience how completely all of your sins are forgiven, listen to Jesus as He comes to you through His holy Supper. Every time we listen to God’s holy Word, every time we see God “working” through His holy Sacraments we “see” and “hear” both God the Father and God the Son!
Are you lost? If Jesus had asked His disciples that question there in the Upper Room, how might they have answered Him? At that moment in time they may have said— Yes! They were so confused and so overwhelmed by what Jesus was telling them that they may have indeed felt very “lost”! If someone asked them that very same question three days later— after the risen Christ had appeared to them in that locked room— I am absolutely sure that they would have confidently and joyfully said— “No! Not anymore!”
That’s the joy and that’s the confidence that Easter gives to us, my friends. If ever we are feeling overwhelmed or confused by what is going on in our life, we need to lift up our eyes to His cross (Pointing to the cross) and remember: He Lives! He lives to be our only way to heaven!
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
To God be the glory!