I Am the Way

July 1, 2012

I am!  What a
statement.  I am.  When I was growing up I used to watch Popeye
and you may remember that he used to say “I yam, what I yam”  And Popeye was simply stating his acceptance
of himself.   And that’s not a bad thing, being comfortable
in your own skin.  That doesn’t mean that
we shouldn’t be improving ourselves, and that we shouldn’t embark on a life
time journey of self-improvement and education, but it does get to the core of
how we feel about ourselves, how we were created and our standing with our
creator.  I yam what I yam. 
But that was just a tangent and really has nothing to do
with what we looked at last week or what we will be looking at in the weeks
ahead.   Last week we looked at that
defining moment in Jesus’ ministry when he identified himself as God.  He had been engaged in one of those
theological back and forths that he was so famous for and the discussion turned
to the people’s reliance on being the “Children of Abraham”.
Have you ever met someone that
when they were challenged on matters of faith, or for that matter challenged on
their behavior their response was “Well I’ve been born again.”?  They may not follow the teaching of Jesus,
they may not obey the laws of God they might live like the devil but at some
point they prayed a prayer, recited a mantra or walked forward at a crusade and
for them there doesn’t have to be anything else. “Don’t judge me, I’ve been
born again.”  Although I firmly believe
that if being born again doesn’t make a difference in your life in the “here
and now” it won’t make a difference in your life in the “there and then”.  Just saying. 
That may have been another tangent, so let’s see if we can circle back
around and tie it in.  For many of the Jews
of Jesus’ day being a “Child of Abraham” seemed to be more important than being
a child of God.  For them it was the last
word, it didn’t matter what happened it didn’t matter what people said, it
really didn’t even matter how they behaved they were “Children of
Abraham”. 
And in John chapter 8 Jesus
challenged that, he said that their relationship with God was more important
that their relationship to Abraham.  And
that got them cranky, and they resorted to that time tested final argument, “Oh
yeah, what do you know?”  That’s a rough
translation.  But Jesus response is found
in John 8:58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth,
before Abraham was even born, I AM!”  And
while we may think that Jesus was confusing his verb usage, and that he should
have said “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I was.”  Those who heard him that day knew exactly
what he was saying because in the very next verse it tells us that those who
were listening picked up rocks to stone Jesus. 
Why?  Because of his superior
debating skills?  No. Because he was
claiming to be over 1500 years old? 
No.   It wasn’t about when Jesus claimed to be but
instead it was all about who Jesus claimed to be.
From childhood every Jew had
been taught the story of how Moses had been called of God to deliver the
children of Abraham from the slavery of Egypt. 
They all knew the details and they knew that when God called Moses while
he was in the wilderness that he didn’t want to go, and when Moses finally gave
in he had one final question for God and that question is found in Exodus
3:13
But Moses protested, “If I go to the
people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’
they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”   And that is a good question?  It’s something that I would want to know.
“Why should the people believe me?  Whose
authority am I coming in?”  And God’s
response is found in the next verse Exodus 3:14 God
replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has
sent me to you.”   
And so when Jesus told the
people who had gathered that day John 8:58 Jesus
answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” They
knew exactly what he was saying and exactly who he was claiming to be.  And when someone claimed to be God, for the
Jews that was blasphemy and the penalty for blasphemy was stoning.  You might be thinking “Well how did Jesus
escape?”  Well . . . we don’t really have
all the details.  What the bible tells us
in John 8:59 At that point they picked up stones to
throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.   And we don’t know if Jesus put on his
cloak of invisibility or if his disciples crowded around him or what.  All we know is that the plans of the people
to stone Jesus were thwarted. 
And that brings us to
today.  Over the next nine weeks we are
going to be looking at the different times in the book of John that Jesus said
“I am”.  And for those who care there are
22 separate instances where Jesus is recorded as saying “I am” in the gospel of
John.  In John 8:58 we see Jesus use “I
AM” as a statement of existence.  The
statement lacks an object after the verb. 
In the other twenty one instances when Jesus says “I am” he means he is
something, a predicate nominative follows the verb.  Not in this case, he isn’t saying he is
something, he is simply stating that he is.
Another ten of those
instances are self-identification, times when Jesus said “I am” to identify
himself.  An example of that is found in John
18:4-5
when Jesus is arrested in the garden,  Jesus fully realized
all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who
are you looking for?” he asked. “Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied. “I AM he,”
Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.)
In another 11 instances the
statements are metaphorical, that is that Jesus describes himself by comparing
himself to something else.  “I am the
gate”, “I am the vine”, “I am the bread of life.”  And it is those metaphorical statements that
we are going to be looking at over the next 8 weeks. 
 Have you ever gotten lost?  I mean really lost?  When I was a kid, probably 10 or so a buddy
and I got lost in the woods where we lived. 
Not lost as in “call the police and dogs the kids are lost” type lost,
but probably only a few hours from that point. 
Remember those were the days of “Have fun, be home by supper.”  And we were home by supper, but just.  We wandered in circles and tried to remember
if moss grew on the north side of trees or the south, we probably figured out
that the sun set in the west but we weren’t sure which way home was.  Now in retrospect, being lost in the woods in
Lincoln New Brunswick for four or five hours probably isn’t the same as being
lost in the woods in Alaska, but when you are ten it sure seemed like it. 
And what my buddy and I wanted
more than anything else right then was to find “the way” home.  We had already eaten all of our provisions
that we had packed, a couple of cans of sardines and some crackers and knew that
if we didn’t find our way out by supper that we would probably starve to death
and then get spanked.  And then we
stumbled onto a path that led us back to the main road, we were saved.   But as scary as being lost in the woods can
be, or for that matter lost in the city or lost in the mall being lost in life
is even scarier. 
In the scripture that was read
for us earlier Jesus has told his apostles about a wonderful place that waited
for them.  He told them that he would go
and prepare a place for them, and it would be a wonderful place in the presence
of God.  And it is a great promise, a
promise of home.  You probably are very
familiar with the passage, it is often read at the funeral of Christians.  John 14:1-2 “Don’t
let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more
than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told
you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”  And if you are old enough then you
might know it from the King James version where it says John
14:1-2
Let not your heart be troubled: ye
believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it
were
not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
  Which led to some really cool
songs like “Mansion over the Hilltop”. 
Now if we get to pick where we are going to live in heaven you can skip
the mansion I would prefer a house boat or really cool a tree house, I always
wanted to live in a tree house, but again I digress.   
After telling the twelve that there would be a place for them, for all
eternity he finishes by telling them John 14:4 “And
you know the way to where I am going.”   And
good old pragmatic Thomas answers by saying John 14:5 “No,
we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how
can we know the way?”
And Jesus responds by saying in
John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.”  This morning I want to focus on one
part of this triad, Jesus told him “I am the way”  Jesus didn’t say I can show you the way.  Jesus didn’t say “if you follow me you will
find the way” 
He Didn’t Offer to Show Us the Way
Thomas was looking for a map
while Jesus was saying he was the means. 
Have you ever gotten lost in a strange town and stopped and asked for
directions?  I can see from your faces
that the ladies know exactly what I’m talking about while the guys have drawn a
complete blank.  They understand what I
meant by “lost” but don’t have a clue what I meant when I said “ask for
directions”   You probably identify with Daniel Boone who
once said
“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.”
So, ladies you know what I mean,
men just imagine that you have asked for directions.  And the person you are asking says:  “not a problem, you just keep going on down
the road and take your second left, you go about 1 km, past where the Johnsons
used to live and take the third no fourth right.  Keep going until you come to the where that
big old oak was before it was struck by lightning and they had to cut it down
turn there and keep going until the pavement ends.”  And you wouldn’t have a clue where you were
supposed to go.
Now it would be a lot more
helpful if the person you were asking said “Here, let me draw a map”.  Maps are good, they don’t fold up real easy
but they certainly have their value, it was Earl Nightingale  who said “All you need is the plan, the road
map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”
And that is what Thomas was
looking for, he was looking for directions on how to get to Heaven.  Much like the person in Matthew 19:16 Someone came
to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal
life?” They were saying “Draw me a map”.  And many people see Jesus as a map
drawer.  If you follow the sermon on the
mount, if you obey the Golden rule, if you pray the Lord’s prayer, then you
will find your way to heaven.  But that
wasn’t what Jesus said.  He didn’t say “I
will point you in the right direction” or “I will draw you a map” he was saying
“I am the Way”.
If we go back to our example of
asking for directions, we said that getting directions would be better than
nothing, that getting a map drawn would be better than simply getting
directions but just think if the person you asked said “Tell you what, I’m
going that way, why don’t you tag along with me?  I will take you there.”
And that’s what Jesus said
“Travel with me and I will take you where you want to go.  I am the way.”  He didn’t say he was “a” way and he didn’t
say he was “one” way, he said “I am ‘the’ way.”   And in case they didn’t connect the dots he
clarifies by saying John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way. No one can come to the Father
except through me.”
He Offered to Be the Way
And some people get bent out of
shape by that statement; they want Jesus to be one way to heaven.  You can take the Jesus way, or you can take
the Mohammed way, or you can take the Confucius way or you can take the “Just
be a nice person” way and they will all get you to heaven.  But that isn’t what Jesus said, he said John
14:6
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth,
and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  Who did he say could come to the
Father by another way?  No one!
And you may be thinking,
“That’s pretty narrow.  Awfully
dogmatic.”  And we’ve all met people like
that.  I had a teacher once who was just
that dogmatic and narrow.  She insisted
that 1 + 1 = 2 and that 3 + 2 = 5 and that 7 + 3 = 10  and it didn’t matter if you were adding
apples or dollars the results were always the same.  And she would give any ground on that, she
wouldn’t hear any other options.
My mother was fairly dogmatic
about something’s in life, she would say “Don’t play in traffic, don’t stick a
fork in a toaster, don’t tease the dog or you will get bit and if you keep
tormenting your sister she will hit you, then don’t come crying to me.”  There are something’s in life that you have
to be dogmatic about because they are simply the truth.  And you have to realize that it
is characteristic of truth to be dogmatic.
You see Jesus didn’t come to offer us teaching, or to offer us direction
or guidance, he came to walk alongside of us and to be with us on the
journey. 
If you read the book of Acts you will discover that before Christians
were called Christians they were simply called “Followers of the Way”.  I think that is so cool, but funny how time
changes, I would have loved to simply called Cornerstone “The Way” but today
that sounds really cultish. 
Many people want Jesus to show
them the way to peace, or to show them the way to a better marriage, or to show
them the way to heaven.  But what Jesus
is saying is “In me you will find peace” 
“In me you will have a better marriage.”
A number of years ago the fad
was “What would Jesus do?”  Believers
were supposed to ask themselves that as they made decisions in life, what would
Jesus do?  And so WWJD bracelets and
t-shirts were worn, WWJD coffee cups were sipped from and WWJD bumper stickers
adorned Christian cars.   But really the question shouldn’t be “What
would Jesus do?”  The answer to that is
easy, he would come from heaven, live a perfect life, die for the sins of the
world and be raised from the dead.  The
question that we should ask ourselves as Followers of the Way is “What would
Jesus want me to do?”   And that can only
be answered when he becomes the centre of our lives.  When we accept that he did for us what we
couldn’t do for ourselves.  That the
sacrifice that he made for us paid the price and the grace that he offers
provides for the forgiveness of our sins. 
And so before we can know what
Jesus would have us to do we need to get a better understanding of what Jesus
did.  And we do that by reading His
story.  You see You Will Never Know The Way Until You Know “The Way”. 
This summer, I would challenge
you to read the Gospel of John, at least once and maybe a couple of times, that
is where our messages are going to focus for the next couple of months.  And as you read his story come to know Jesus
more and let him take you by the hand and walk you through life.   See how he treats people, the grace that he
offers and the love that he displays. 
What is he asking you to do?  To
love and to forgive? How will that affect your relationships with others?  How will that affect with yourself.   Observe how he worships God; listen as he
prays to his Father.  What is he asking
you to do?  To make God central in your
life, to understand that he loves you and wants the very best for you.  Understand that he is not only offering you
the way to eternal life but he is offering you the way to the life you want
here. 
In closing my your prayer be
the same as David’s prayer  Psalm
16:11
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you
forever.