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The Way, the Truth, the Life 
By Dr. Todd B. Jones
05/22/11

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, NASHVILLE
DR. TODD B. JONES
CONFIRMATION SUNDAY, MAY 22, 2011

The Way, the Truth, the Life
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
John 14:1-14


Well, May 21st came and went and the world is still here. And, you know, if I had known that the world was not going to end, I would have worked harder on my sermon this week! Our passage today, on this Confirmation Sunday, comes from the fourteenth chapter of John's Gospel. It is the farewell discourse of Jesus. It is that moment when Jesus, on that night that He would be betrayed, shares with His disciples His final parting words. You know these words; you have heard them repeated again and again through the years, especially as you have been at funeral services where these words are often used. Jesus says, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you."

The world everywhere is filled with people who suffer from troubled hearts. The world offers so many solutions, so many prescriptions, and Jesus offers one: "Believe in God; believe also in Me." And then He offers those beautiful words as we read today from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, we used the word "dwelling places." But don't you love the language of the King James Bible? On this the four hundredth anniversary, can't we enjoy those words? "In my Father's house are many mansions." There is a roominess, Jesus is saying, in the house and the heart of the One Jesus called Father. In Jesus there is room enough for all. More importantly, in Jesus, there is room enough for you. As these young people make commitments today for a lifetime, I want to say to everyone here today, in Jesus Christ there is room for you to dwell with Him.

Jesus is talking to His disciples about leaving them. Their hearts are understandably heavy. And He says to them, "You know the place, the way to where I am going." Thank goodness for Thomas who never takes anything for granted but has the courage to ask again and again in the Gospel of John the questions that maybe we don't have the courage or the honesty to voice. Thomas says, "How can we know the way where you are going?" Jesus' response is simple, clear, powerful and deep. He says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes unto the Father but by Me."

Let us ponder as we prepare to come to this table these three powerful images, these three powerful metaphors that Jesus offers. All three begin implicitly with those two great words, "I am." It was not by accident that the divine name of Yahweh of Israel that Jesus was sharing in John's Gospel, the name that God revealed to Moses out of the burning bush: Yahweh. "I am who I am," or "I will be who I will be." The name speaks of the utter freedom, and yet the intense personalness of this God. 

Three quick words: "I am the way," Jesus says. The word in Greek is hôdôs. It is a word that can mean as well, "road." "I am the road; I am the way; I am the path that you can follow through this world." I never think of roads without thinking of growing up as a little boy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where two rivers, the Monongahela and the Alleghany, meet to form at it confluence the Ohio River. When the French came there first they named it Fort Duquesne, but when the English won the French and Indian War they changed it to Fort Pitt. Right over those rivers built during my childhood was this overly confident project aimed at urban renewal in the new Pittsburgh, and it included two beautiful bridges that spanned either river painted in gold, and absolutely magnificent achievements of engineering and architecture. There was just one problem. The Fort Pitt Bridge had a place to go, it came out of the tunnel and crossed the river into the city. The Fort Duquesne Bridge crossed the river and about fifty feet up in the air simply stopped. Pennsylvania had not gone through the process of thinking through where that beautiful bridge with roads was going! And for the next twenty years it was a bad joke in Pittsburgh. They called it, "The Bridge to Nowhere." 

Friends, there are lots of roads, lots of paths that you can follow that lead nowhere. There are lots of paths that are dead ends in this life. There might be some of you here today, even now, who feel like you are living on a dead end street. 

Jesus says, "I am the way. I am the road. I am the path." It is a word that is powerfully associated with Israel's journey in the wilderness, where they were often feeling lost. Nonetheless, Israel was led finally to the promised land to God, who promises in Jesus: "I am the way." "I am the path." "I am the road." "I am the way that will lead you home."

Secondly, Jesus says, "I am the truth." 

I love the comedian who has coined the term, "truthiness." It doesn't have to be true now among politicians to offer words that comfort people with what this comedian calls, "truthiness." In a world of many phonies and a great deal that is dishonest, in the end of the day, Jesus offers truth. Jesus offers honesty. He offers to us that which alone is genuine. With Jesus we may cease to engage endlessly in pretense, and finally come clean and get real as we stand before God as we look painfully, honestly at ourselves. Jesus says, "I am the truth." In a world that is full of "truthiness," that is full of half-truths and down-right lies, Jesus lives and offers us another way to be, another way to live.

Indeed, in the eighth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Jesus was speaking of the liberating power of truth. And underneath this word is the bondage of living by anything less and anything other than the truth. Truth to tell, living by anything less than truth slowly chokes the life out of you. It squeezes the joy out of the gift of your existence. Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger today what it is like to live a lie. It speaks of how destructive, how painful, how much like death, in the end of the day, anything less than the truth finally offers to us.

On the cover of Time magazine this week are the words, written boldly in red with a white background: "Sex. Lies. Arrogance." It tells of too many people's story. And over against that, Jesus offers an alternative: "I am the truth." Jesus is genuine. Jesus is authentic. Jesus is real. And Jesus offers you Himself, the truth that alone will set you free.

Do you remember the third week in Lent? (If I don't remember, I doubt you do!) We looked that week at the woman at the well. Do you remember Jesus encountered the 
Samaritan woman at the well? The two of them talked and Jesus finally spoke painful truth to her. He said to her, "You are truthful that you do not have a husband, indeed, you have had five husbands, and the man you live with now is not your husband." It was one of those moments we all fear, of being seen by God for who we truly, honestly, really are. Do you remember her response when she finally encounters Jesus as truth, comes clean and finally speaks her own truth to Him? She races into town and she says, "Come see a man who has told me everything I have ever done!" She feels free because she has encountered the One alone who is the truth and who offers to us the freedom that comes alone in truth.

Finally, and maybe best of all, the One who says, "I am the way, and I am the truth," says, "I am the life." In the opening of John's Gospel, these words are sounded: "In Him was the life, and this life was the light of all people, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." It is the best thing there is about Jesus. Wherever Jesus is there is life. Even in the face of the death, we find with Lazarus, there is still life. Jesus who called Lazarus forth to life said, "I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me though they be dead, yet shall they live." Wherever Jesus is there is life. In the tenth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus could say that "I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly."

Wherever Jesus is there is life, there is abundance, there is joy because there is the truth that sets us free. And that life is offered to you here and now at this table, at this meal, where Jesus says, "This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins."

Friends, here is Jesus. He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life. More than anything else in all the world Jesus wants that life to be one that you share, to be one that you enjoy. "O taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed are the ones who trust in Him."

AMEN.
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