Broad Brook Congregational Church
5th Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020
John is telling his audience about the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper. It is his farewell speech to his much loved disciples. We are hearing them on this Fifth Sunday of Easter, one week after we heard the beautiful words of Psalm 23 that sings of God’s loving and tender care for us. Holding both of those contexts in our hearts and minds, it enables us to hear the words of Jesus in new and more heartfelt ways.
Regrettably, most of us hear only verse 6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” However it is only one sentence in what is a wonderfully beautiful good-bye from Jesus who is tying up loose ends with reassurances and reminders to his beloved but flawed disciples. The teacher in Jesus will stand-up to the test and win but his students will not succeed the first time they try. However, we are glad that they like us will be given another opportunity and the Holy Spirit to help them and us.
Jacob, Joshua, David, and Moses all gave similar farewell addresses to their people. But we don’t hear them mentioned in connection with this good-bye of Jesus. Yet Jesus is doing a similar thing before his crucifixion. He is not limiting his speech to his present followers but to those who will come long after which includes us. Can’t you hear the words of Jesus now speaking to us as part of his beloved flock?
Judas’ betrayal has disrupted the evening and caused anxiety among the disciples and we hear Simon Peter and Thomas trying to understand what Jesus is trying to tell them. Through out the long speech Jesus offers nothing but words of promise, care, and love.
However, the claim of verse 6 seems to drown out the promise, care, and love. Many have used this to claim that Christians have a monopoly on God through Jesus; thus, leaving all other religions condemned. Then there are those who use it as an excuse to reject the entire Gospel calling it narrow-minded and exclusionary.
Gail R. Oday writes: “When Jesus says ‘no one,’ he means ‘none of you.”This is not, as is the case in the twentieth century, the sweeping claim of a major world religion, but it is the conviction of a religious minority in the ancient Mediterranean world. It is the conviction of a religious group who had discovered that its understanding of the truth of God carries with it a great price.” “Their faith, she says, had gotten them expelled from their “church home,” so they would have to “carve out a new religious home for themselves,” as a distinct people, and John’s Gospel expresses “the distinctiveness” of Christians who find their way to God through Jesus” (Sermon Seeds).
It remains a difficult verse to read and to preach. Next weeks scripture may help us to hear what is the spirit of the farewell and what Jesus was trying to get across to his disciples. (Stay tuned for part 2.)
Barbara Brown Taylor then expands the words of Jesus to embrace us all: “Jesus is the way out. Greed and materialism, our “new religion,” don’t provide a way out, Taylor says: “Jesus is the way out of our foiled sense of destiny and purpose. He declares us to have august connections, a relatedness to the eternal God, intimate and binding.” Those words, “intimate and binding,” provide something for us to “chew on.”
A close, welcoming, personal, and deep relationship with God
An irrevocable, unbreakable, and permanent relationship with God
With that kind of relationship with God we should not let our hearts be troubled. God can handle all our worries if we but turn them over to the Holy Spirit. But what about the pain and hardship of life? The Holy Spirit is with us through all our trials. Is it only about waiting until we reach that place that Jesus is preparing? Has he gone on ahead and left us alone, to our own devices? No, Gardner Taylor says, “He is the way through life’s hardness and harshness, its pain and its penalties, its fears and its failings. Jesus is the way through.” So let not your hearts be troubled.
What is beyond the horizon, what we long for and are oriented toward is the grace of a loving God who puts all things and all experiences in perspective. “If Jesus told us anything at all, he told us that this world is not all; we have dual citizenship.” He did say that he is the way! The way home! The way to bright glory! The way to sunlit shores of an everlasting country.”
Kathryn Matthews writes: “So Jesus was going on ahead to prepare a place for us, and we still forget and lose our way as we attempt to follow in his path. Taylor says not to worry; remember last week’s psalm? The shepherd, tender and good, will come back for us, seeking us on the paths and hillsides where we wander. God’s love, made known to us in Jesus, will seek us out. Hope is alive, and new life abounds. In this Easter season, that is the foundation and fount of our joy” (Sermon Seeds).