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Nov 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 11, 2012 – John 14:1-6

Why Did Jesus Say That?

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:5-6

INTRO: This was Jesus’ last conversation with his disciples and, as you can imagine, it went long

– it started in the upper room and continued all the way to the Garden of Gethsemane
– at the point where we enter it, the disciples are getting frustrated with Jesus

He had told them, “Where I am going, you cannot come” (13:33)
– he had mentioned this before and each time he was evasive and enigmatic about where he was going
– this led to all kinds of speculation (7:34-35; 8:21-22)

Well, Jesus’ statement makes no sense to Peter, so he asks, “Where are you going?”
– all Jesus says is, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow Me later” (13:36)
– for three years, Peter had followed Jesus — from north to south, up mountains and across rivers
• he had even followed him back to Jerusalem, despite the danger there
– so he asks, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? What makes this time so different? I’m ready to lay down my life for You”

Peter didn’t realize he had stumbled upon the heart of the problem
– to go where Jesus was going, they would have to lay down their lives — to follow now, they would have to die
– but all Jesus told Peter, was that he would deny him three times (13:37-38)
• Peter wasn’t as ready to go with Jesus as he thought

In this tense moment, Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled”
– I can imagine the disciples saying, “Oh yeah! You’re going away–abandoning us–, You won’t tell us where You’re going, and we’re not supposed to be upset?”

We know exactly how this feels

We are learning to find a place of quiet peace in God through prayer
– gradually, our daily anxieties are diminishing
• our ability to return to peace when something upsetting happens is improving

But when something big comes up; when the risk is real; when the loss is real; when the pain is real; when our emotions are riled up and raging–in other words, in those times when we most need the peace of God, finding it seems the most impossible

What advice can Jesus give the disciples so their hearts will not be troubled?
– he makes it sound so easy, “Believe” – “Believe in God and also in Me”
• “I’m only going on ahead to make arrangements for you. We will be together again”
– then, for some reason, he had to throw in this last comment, “And you know the way where I am going”

I think the nickname “Doubting Thomas” is unfair – I suggest we remember him as “Rational Thomas,” “Pragmatic Thomas,” or “Skeptical Thomas”
• if we adopt one of these nicknames for him, then perhaps we can see our reflection in him
– he asked a reasonable question – in fact, the obvious question:
“If we don’t even know where You’re going, how could we possibly know how to get there?

Once again, we find the classic situation of John’s gospel where Jesus has said something that causes confusion
• in this case, the confusion is greater because of the emotional intensity in the room (“. . . because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart”–16:6)
• but the confusion, as always, resulted from them taking his words literally
– so now Jesus clarifies by revealing the spiritual meaning of his words
• where he’s going: “to the Father”
• the way there: “through Me”

Why did Jesus say that?

I considered using verse 12 for our text, “greater works”
– a lot of Christians get confused over that
– but verse 6 may be even more of a mystery
• especially because we think we know exactly what it means
• we almost always hear it quoted alone – apart from its context
○ we have made it about evangelism and apologetics
○ we’ve made it about exclusiveness, but it’s more than that

As I search the heart and mind of Jesus, I think I can find two reasons for him to say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”

First, Jesus wants us to be with him

V. 3, “. . . that where I am, there you may be also”
Jn. 12:26, “If anyone serves Me, he just follow Me, and where I am, there My servant will be also”
Jn. 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am”

That is Jesus’ goal
– but we find ourselves stranded here, in the world, without him
• how can we be sure that we’ll meet up with him again?
• especially if we don’t know exactly where he is
(after all, where’s heaven? Up above the clouds? We know better. And how do we get there?)
– Jesus’ answer, “I am the way”
• by “way,” don’t we usually think road, or path, or access?
• some people think, his life shows the way – that we follow his example

The same word translated way here, appears the Greek translation of Isaiah 55:8 where God says, “My ways are not your ways . . .”
– “way” can literally be the road one takes, but it is also used metaphorically
– I want to take you back to Nicodemus, when Jesus told him a person had to be born again to see the kingdom of God
• and Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?”
• he took it as if it were a project he had to accomplish
– Jesus’ answer: “The Spirit is the how
• that’s what Jesus is saying to Thomas here in chapter 14, “I am the how, the way
• not merely the road, but the agency, the means
– our reunion with Jesus depends entirely on him
• this “way” comes to us! vv. 18, 23, 28 (“I will come to you”)
• “How do we get there?” Jesus says, “I get you there”

Preachers–of any religion–and promoters of self-help philosophies, claim that they can teach us the way and the truth
– but all they have are principles, rules, insights, and methods
life is not found in principles, rules, insights, and methods
– “truth,” alethia, is not merely a correct or accurate idea, a “fact,” but that which is genuine, real, not fake
• for many Christians, truth consists of true ideas or words or doctrines
• but those are not the real deal

Frederick Buechner, “If the meaning of life is just a string of theological words, then who cares about it one way or another and what difference does it make and why bother to say the words at all, even if in some sense they are true? But if it is a reality, then words cannot contain it, you can know it only when you experience it . . .”

– it is the “reality” that many Evangelical Christians are starving for and is the reason they have stopped “going to church”
• we’ve had our fill of words

We don’t need a GPS to find our way to life in God — we don’t need an address
– no street can take us there
– we only need to know Jesus – v. 9
Like Nicodemus, Jesus throws us back on the Spirit of God, v. 26
– we are not orphans–v. 18

The second reason why I think Jesus said that is because he wants us to live in peace (v. 27)

This is where chapter 14 begins and where their conversation ends (16:33)
– if we know what the world is, why do we provoke it?
• do we want more stress in our lives? worry? friction?
• these are the things that distract us from God and rob our peace
– we have conflicts with some people that we cannot resolve, but only escalate
• not being able to let go when we feel something is owed to us is typical of a wounded ego
○ it’s also typical of our ego to exaggerate the wound

Jesus knows it isn’t easy for us to just believe
– but the only way to peace is through trust
• to lay aside our fears, lay aside yesterday, and lay aside tomorrow and trust God for each day and for the grace to meet whatever it brings

CONC: What was it that drove monks into the solitude of desert?

They wanted to get away from distractions
– they wanted to live without worldly anxieties or ambitions
– they wanted kind of peace that allowed them to fill their lives with God

That is exactly the peace Jesus wants you and I to have
– only we don’t need to become monks and nuns to have it
– Jesus is peace – and Jesus is ours through trust
And because Jesus is the way, the impossible is done for us


Leave a comment
  1. paul Udell / Nov 16 2012


    You said ” For many Christians , truth consist of true ideas or words or doctrines , but those are not the real deal.”

    I finished a book on words last month were the author said the following. “When we identify with thoughts ,ideas and words, they become our identity and we have a limited perspective and lose the basis of our understanding. We learn verses filled with words and in so doing we miss the understanding. We end up only with knowledge of the words without understanding their true meaning.
    It’s not the words that transform us, but rather the transformation they create that changes us. ( John 1:14 ) ” The word became flesh and made it’s dwelling among us.” It’s not the words, but the experiencing of the wordless essence. The idea that the word of God is not the Bible, but rather the wordless essence to which those verses testify.” Is this the idea close to what your thinking is ? Communication is so difficult. I think I get it, but one never really knows

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Nov 19 2012


    Yes, the way you have “worded” your post is close to my thinking, but deeper, better. Thank you.

    Infants (and at one time long ago, we were infants) have the advantage of pure experience, because they do not yet have words that stand between them and objects. They know the smell, taste, and feeling of their mother before they know the word “mother.” Words can sometimes dull our experience. Someone says, “Look at that!” When we turn and look, we see a tree, a cloud, or a wave. We say, “Oh, it’s only a tree.” Is any tree “only a tree”? A whole forest of experience is diminished when we label pines, firs, and birches rather than get close enough to a tree to study its leaves or needles, feel its texture, smell its aroma. To say the word “tree” is a vastly different experience than climbing one. We once climbed trees–remember? Now we say, “Oh, it’s only a tree.”

    I think there were some ways in which we were not meant to grow up. But now that we have, our only hope of entering the kingdom of heaven is to be “converted, and become like children” (Mt. 18:1-3).


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