A sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2023
The Rev. Mark Nabors, Vicar
Readings: John 14:1-14
In today’s reading from John, Jesus is telling his disciples goodbye. Our reading comes from the Last Supper. Jesus is giving his farewell discourse, his final parting words before his death. In a few moments, he will pray his high priestly prayer, asking God the Father to care for them, to strengthen them, to make them one as he and the Father are one. Jesus tells them that where he is going, they cannot go right now. He is going to prepare a place for them. But in time, he will come again and take them to his Father’s house, so that where he is, they may be also. This promise is for us today, as well. Christ is preparing a place even now for us. In the Father’s house are many dwellings. This is a way of saying there is enough room for you and for me, enough room for all the creation, within the Creator’s arms of love and mercy. He says, “And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
The disciples, not knowing what will take place over the next few hours and day–from arrest to trial to death, to empty tomb–are understandably confused. Thomas says bluntly, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Jesus replies, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” What does this mean? It means that Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, is the one who is the path to God, who opens up a channel of grace, who reconciles us to God through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus is at the center of our life, of our faith, precisely because of this. Because of Christ, we have a means of grace, we have a hope of glory. Because of Christ, we can become children of God through baptism, through participation in the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we have seen Jesus, we have seen the way to the Father. If we know Jesus, we know truth, for Christ is truth. If we live in Christ, we have life, for Christ is Life itself.
This is not simply a doctrinal statement about who we believe Jesus Christ is. This is not simply something we confess, only something we know intellectually. If faith is only an intellectual exercise, if faith is only something we talk about, we haven’t come close to understanding what Jesus is saying today. This is about how we live. Jesus tells Thomas that he knows the way, and even though Thomas doesn’t understand it at first, it is true--he does, indeed, know the way. Why? Because he has been living, abiding in Christ. If we live in Christ, if we abide in his love for us, then we know the way, the truth, and the life, because we are living in him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
What Jesus is doing, then, is giving an invitation to all--to you, me, and all the world. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus has invited his disciples and us to abide in him. To live in him. What Jesus is saying today is the same thing. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and he desires more than anything that we should abide in him, that we should abide in him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This is an invitation to grace; an invitation to love; an invitation to new life and hope and salvation.
When we hear this as an invitation instead of a mere doctrinal statement, I think it changes how we understand it. One of my favorite poets, an Anglican priest in the 16th and 17th centuries, George Herbert, said it this way:
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
And such a Life, as killeth death.
The name of this poem is “The Call.” God in Christ calls to us. The Way beckons us. The Truth draws us. The Life compels us. All of this is Christ inviting us to new life, to new life in him, not only eternal life in glory, but new life today, right now. Herbert hears this invitation, and so he responds in this poem, inviting Christ to come to him, to change him, to captivate him. To become, once and for all, his Way, his Truth, his Life, the center of his very being. Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life.
I cannot help but think of someone I met once when I was learning how to do pastoral visits as a seminarian. I bet you know someone like her. She has one of those warm and inviting spirits. Her smile is enough to pick you up on a bad day. But most of all, she knows Jesus.
I had not known her very long when I went to see her for a visit. I expected the visit to be quick; she did not. She invited me in, made me sit down, brought out food. In the course of our visit that afternoon, she asked me a question. It was something like, “Mark, tell me what you know about Jesus.” I told her my story, and she told me hers. And she, and me, and Jesus had a wonderful afternoon.
By the end of that visit, I had no doubt, this woman knows Jesus. Not some idea of who Jesus might be. Not a knowledge of Jesus and who he was in history. Not even a conception of Jesus she had picked up over decades of faithful church attendance, teaching Sunday school, and listening to sermons. No, she knows Jesus, because Jesus is her Master and her friend. She knows Jesus because they talk everyday. She knows Jesus because she took his invitation seriously. When he invited her to abide in him, to live in him, that’s just what she did. When he said he was the Way, she followed him on that Way. When he said he was the Truth, she plumbed the depths of that Truth. When he said he was the Life, she gave up her life, she died with him, and she rose to new life in him. He is her Way, her Truth, her very Life. And day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, she rededicated herself to following Jesus, her Master and friend, dying daily to sin, and rising everyday to new life.
Can you hear Jesus’ invitation today? The invitation to follow him on this Way, to learn from him who is the Truth, to live in him who himself is Life? That invitation, that grace, reaches out to each and every one of us today and everyday, waiting for us to respond, waiting for us to say, Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life.
JOIN US FOR WORSHIP!
Join us for worship every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. There is a mid-week service on Tuesdays at 5:30 with anointing for the sick and Holy Communion.