Who Is God? What Is God?
How can we know the way to God? How can we see God? These questions return again and again during the course of the lifetime of a Christian – regardless of one’s faith and training.
The answer Jesus gives to us is very simple, yet so often hard for us to grasp.
We need to step back to the evening of the last supper. The disciples were gathered and Jesus was trying to make them understand the events that were about to transpire. And the disciples just couldn’t wrap their minds around its enormity. As they protested and questioned and scratched their heads, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal and washed their feet. But they were still troubled. It looked like they were about to become leaderless and they don’t know what to do or where to go.
Jesus responded to their fears with one of the most reassuring pieces of scripture:
- “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1)
I can imagine that Jesus said this with deep sadness, eyes brimming with tears and his voice choked with emotion. He knew what was going to happen. Things were falling apart and he would soon face his ordeal in the Garden of Gethsemane and his crucifixion.
Yet he told the disciples not to be troubled. Why?
Because he was preparing ‘a place for them in heaven. ‘
That was huge news to the disciples!
But that wasn’t enough for them. They kept questioning, again and again asking how and why and where.
Jesus must have finally realized that the disciples did not have the knowledge he thought they had. When they continued to question, He chastised them for their non-belief and lack of understanding. Hadn’t he been teaching them and telling them of things to come since He first began his teaching? Weren’t they His chosen ones – and they STILL DID NOT GET IT!
All they had done was ask an innocent question:
- “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” (John 14:8)
Jesus chastised them again, asking them why, after all this time, they still did not know him. They were just slow to catch on. Yes, He was a little blunt but Chapters 14-17 of John’s Gospel are not called the ‘farewell discourse’ for nothing. He’s leaving and they need to know the Way. The time had grown short.
The hour was near. The clock had run out on subtleties.
From John 14:9 through John 16:29, Jesus does all the talking. The disciples fall silent. I wonder if they might have been wary of speaking up, after Jesus’ responses to their initial questions and requests. They ask two questions they should have already known the answer to:
- How can we know the way to God?
- How are we to see the Father?
And these are our question too. You and I may have been following Jesus for quite a while, but we still sometimes feel lost and without answers or understanding in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. We still ask the basic questions:
How should we live? Who is God and how can I know him?
Jesus’ response is simple:
- “I am the Way” (John 14:6)
Jesus used this brief, vivid, memorable saying to express who he is and who we are to become in relation to him.
“I am the Way” has its roots in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, especially the Book of Proverbs. Jesus offers a path of life and wisdom rather than a path of self-destruction and folly. Jesus’ “I am” sayings found in the Bible present many metaphors for His Life and teachings as it related to all of us:
- “I am the Bread of life” (John 6:35)
“I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12)
<em?“I am the Gate for the Sheep” (John 10:7)
“I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11)
“I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25)
“I am the True Vine” (John 15:1)
Jesus himself – Jesus the man – is a gift from the very heart of God, whose teachings guide us and whose Presence sustains and challenges us. We continue, throughout our lives, to ask and ask again the basic questions of “Am I on the right track in life?” and “How can I know God in my life?”
Again, the answer Jesus gives is both simple and profound:
- “I am the Way.” (John 14:6)
To believe in Jesus’ teachings and example, His sacrifice and love, His service and simplicity, His acceptance and forgiveness – this is the way to eternal life and happiness, peace on this earth.
We grow into the answer as we live out our lives. Every time we return to these basic questions, it is with deepened faith since the last time we asked them.
Sometimes, maybe we need Jesus to chide us—to tell us we are not making the progress in our faith that we could. Jesus’ chiding shapes our discipleship. He is reminding his disciples then and us now of what we have been taught over and over again, but continually forget when we come face-to-face with sorrow and adversity.
Jesus is saying to his disciples and us:
- Come on, now. You know this. I’ve taught you this. We’ve been through this before, you and I. Hold onto this promise. It won’t let you down now:
- “I am the Way.” (John 14:6)
In me you see God. In me you meet and will meet God. My teachings will guide you; my presence will sustain your spirit.
Jesus makes several promises that we can count on:
- “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).
- “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7).
- “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (John 14:9-10).
- “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these” (John 14:12).
And once again he gives us reassurance. . . .
- “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:10).
Assurance His Father’s love . . . of His Love. . . For Jesus and the Father are one.
There is a legend that goes like this. Judas, after he had betrayed Jesus, found himself at the bottom of a deep abyss. He lay there for a couple of centuries and then slowly began to stir and sit up. Looking up, he saw a faint light at the surface, miles above. He began to climb. Sometimes he would slip and fall back and spend a century or so regaining lost ground. Sometimes he rested. But he kept climbing. As he climbed the light seemed to grow stronger, to glow more brightly. It seemed to energize him and to call to him. He kept climbing, his limbs gaining strength the closer he came to the light. After a couple of millennia, he reached the top, his hands and body scraped and fatigued from the climb. He struggled to find a place to rest his hands to hold up the weight of his body as he hauled himself up through the opening at the top of the abyss. When he did, his muscles shaking with the effort, he found himself in an Upper Room where a young rabbi was having supper with his friends. The young rabbi turned and greeted Judas, his face glowing with pleasure, “Judas, welcome home! We have been waiting for you. We could not continue the supper without you!”
Jesus is the way for those who dwell in an abyss of misery and futility. Jesus is the way for disciples going through the motions. Jesus is the way for new disciples who fear their questions are too basic.
How can we know the way to God?
How can we see God?
- “believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:10)
So just keep on believing!
Let us pray:
The light of God surrounds us, the love of God enfolds us, The power of God protects us, The presence of God watches over us, Wherever we are, God is, And where God is, all is well. Amen.
Delivered at Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church, Circleville OH 22 May 2011