Easter 5, May 14, 2017
Text: John 14:1–14
“Recalculating.” With one word, I have all of you thinking about the exact same thing. GPS. That’s hard to do. If I say fish, you aren’t all going to think about Timmer’s Bay Side Inn on Big Cedar Lake in Wisconsin, even though they have the best Friday Night Fish Fry in the world. If I say “Trump,” most of you may think something of our current U.S. President, but some of you will think of cards…bridge, spades, sheepshead. I mean, even if I say “Sooners,” half of you are going to be thinking, “No…Cowboys!”
But with one word, I have you all thinking GPS. Now one of the features GPS’s have is when you tell them where you want to go, they will give us several different routes to consider: Direct, Easy, Highways, Not the Highways, and so on. Depending on where you want to go, there are usually several different ways of getting there.
In the Gospel reading for today, words with which you probably have some familiarity, Jesus tells us that for one very important destination, there is only one way to get there. Today we hear Jesus’ words, “I am the way. . . . No one comes to the Father except through me” (v 6). He’s very clear: Jesus Is the One and Only Way to Heaven.
In our society, there are many things/categories where we can have discussion or disagreement on the way, the best, the top one. If I say Trucks then I will hear, Ford and Chevy. If I say Burgers, I will hear 5 Guys, Red Robin, Whataburger, and so on. If I say TV’s, I will hear Samsung, LG, Sony. If I say Cell Phones, I will hear Apple, Samsung. If I say Barbeque, well, if there are X people here, I will hear X+1 opinions on that one, right?
When it comes to faith and spiritual matters, it works that way out there too. Millions of people out there think there is no one religion that is best, no one religion that has the monopoly on the TRUTH. That all religions are equal, that all of them in some way, fashion, or form, will get you where you want to go. This idea is wrong. Now you will get into trouble in some circles if you say that our there, or on Facebook. But I am not here to tell you what you want to hear. I am not here to say what the PC police and the social justice warriors want me to say. I am not here to say what is in style, in vogue or in fashion these days. I am here to tell you THE TRUTH. I am here to tell you what God says, what His Word says. And on this issue, Jesus is very clear.
On Maundy Thursday night, Jesus was in the Communion Room with the 12 apostles. He has told Peter he will deny Jesus 3 times that night. He has announced one of the 12 will betray Him. And at the beginning of our text, He tells them (and us) that Jesus, as part of His mission, that Jesus has prepared a place for us with Him in Heaven., and that He is going to take us there. Sounds good, right?
Jesus then says, “And dudes, you know the way to where I am going, right?” Good old Thomas looks at Jesus and says, “Uh Jesus, we don’t know where you are going and we do not know the way.” I can just picture Jesus here, doing something along the lines of a “Huh” and a shake of the head (“Will these guys ever get it?”), but then He says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
For all the Sincerists out there (You know what I am doing with that, right? All religions are equal, as long as you are sincere you will get what you want.), they don’t like this. But please note a couple of things here. Please note that when Jesus said what He said, He did not say “I am A way.” He did not say, “I am ONE OF THE Ways.” He said, “I am THE way.”
Another thing I would point out to the Sincerists out there is that when they trot out their “All religions are the same” talking point, all religions are NOT the same. I can tell you that all the non-Christian religions are similar. They have the same fundamental construction. Apart from Jesus, all religious have a dude/guy/being who says to the people, “Do what I tell you to do. Follow these rules. Try hard, and maybe you will find peace. Maybe you will find heaven/paradise/nirvana.” All religions apart from Jesus are based on what we do.
But Jesus says, “I am THE way.” He does the work. He does the verbs. He does the saving. And unlike Mohammed and Buddha and Confucius, Jesus didn’t just die, but He rose again! I would argue here today that that is different. That is not the same.
Of course, when we point that out people out there will still say, “BUT…” And here people say that this teaching is “unfair,” it is too “exclusive,” it is too “harsh” or too “intolerant.” Here is another way we can try and make our point and get their attention.
Ken Klass, in a sermon he gave a few years ago, reminded us that around 9:00 a.m., on September 11, 2001, an airplane – United Airlines Flight 175 – flew into the south tower of New York’s World Trade Center. You remember that day. You know what happened. Something you may not know is that almost everyone on or below the 77th floor of that building escaped; almost everyone above the 77th floor died. For those above the 77th floor, 595 people died and only four managed to live. The first of the four was Brian Clark. Brian was Executive Vice-President for Euro Brokers. When part of the jet hit his floor the tower twisted, air-conditioning ducts fell and floors buckled. Clark, and seven other men, started to go down Stairwell A.
On the 81st floor, they met a large woman and a frail man trying to make their way up to the roof. The woman told them, “You can’t go down. The floors are in flames.” The men debated: up or down. Six of the men who were with Clark decided to go up, two of them helping the woman manage the stairs. Clark and a co-worker, Ronald DiFrancesco, heard some banging and pulled Stanley Prainath out of the rubble. Clark and Prainath went down, and exited the building four minutes before it collapsed. DiFrancesco had second thoughts about the direction they were going. It was getting too smoky. He was having a hard time breathing, so he had turned around and climbed all the way back up to the 91st floor. For ten minutes Ron lay on the landing to rest. Then, moved by a desire to see his wife and children, Ron got up, turned around and started down Stairwell A again. This time Ron made it past the smoke; this time he made it all the way down to the lobby. As Ron left the building, a fireball rolled toward him; he put his arms in front of his face. That was all he remembered until he woke up three days later at St. Vincent’s hospital. Ron was the last person to make it out of the South Tower. These three, along with one other who also made it down Stairwell A were the only people who survived above the 77th floor of the Trade Center’s South Tower.
I tell you this for a reason. There were roughly 600 people in the upper part of that tower. When those 600 souls entered the building on the morning of September 11th, they felt secure. They knew there were many ways in and out of the Tower, many ways which they believed could take them to safety, should the need arise. That is what they believed. They were wrong. When that day came, there was one route, and only one route, which lead to safety. Every other way was, quite literally, a dead end. Those people who thought it was safer to wait until the New York Fire Department made it up to them – they all died. Those individuals who hung out by the windows so they might get away from the smoke and get a breath of fresh air into their lungs – they all died. Those folks who waited for the elevators to be brought back into service – they all died. Those persons who tried to make it up to the roof so they might be rescued by a helicopter but found the roof doors locked – they all died. Those people who tried to go down Stairwell B found it blocked – they all died. Those who went down Stairwell C found it impossible – they all died.
On that day it didn’t make any difference what all those people thought. They may have thought that having only one way of escaping was “unfair.” They may have thought that there being only one way to escape was “too harsh.” They may have thought their having only one means of escape was too “intolerant.” They may have simply thought there should be more than one way. It didn’t make any difference what they thought. The truth is this: on the morning of September 11th there was one way – and only one way – to go if you wanted to live. To go to Stairwell A meant life, to try anything else meant death.
That was the truth at the World Trade Center on that day. And it is the truth on this day, and every day, that regardless of anyone’s opinion, that regardless of anybody’s “feelings,” “there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus is the Name. Jesus is The Way.
Let’s wrap up with this. I read on the Internet last week that there was a story making the rounds in the media about the husband and wife who found they were unable to have children without assistance. Not wishing to give up on having children, they went to a fertility clinic, did the testing thing, and waited. The news they got was not what they thought they would hear. The couple was told they were, in fact, fraternal twins. This is the rest of the “story”: their biological parents died in an auto accident when they were young. The twins were split up and adopted into different families. Unfortunately, those families were never told there was a twin somewhere out there. In ignorance the twins grew up, and attended college where they met, dated, and married. Quite a story, right?
Do you know the really amazing part of all this? It’s all a lie. It was made up on a website called the Mississippi Herald. (There is no such thing, if you are wondering.) It is a hoax that got repeated by all the news services, and all the newspapers, and all the radio and TV stations with all of their news people, and all of their lawyers, and all the personnel whose job is vetting stories like this one.
Why did I bring this up? Because all of us are able to believe a good lie. And if there is one thing the devil (the “Liar in Chief”) does well it is this: he makes his lies seem like the truth. And so people believe his lies:
• It doesn’t make a difference if you go to church; the place is filled with hypocrites.
• It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.
• All religions are the same and they all lead to the same god.
These are all lies. The truth is there is one God, the Triune God, and the Son of God died and rose again for your sins. And this Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. Jesus, the crucified and risen Son of God, our Savior, is the ONLY way to heaven.
In His name.