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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
 
Title:Jesus reveals Himself as the only way to the Father
Text:John 14:5-7 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Christ's gathering work
 
Preached:2005
Added:2006-01-06
Updated:2010-01-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 60:1-5

Profession of Faith: Hymn 1A

Scripture Reading: John 13:1-John 14:14

Congregational Singing: Psalm 41:1-4

Prayer (for the opening of the Word)

Collection

Congregational Singing: Hymn 10:10

Reading of Text: John 14:5-7

Ministry of Word

Responsive Song: Hymn 30:1-5

Prayer

Parting Song: Psalm 149:1-4
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

These days when you get into a conversation about spiritual things with an unbeliever, you'll often hear comments like this: "It doesn't really matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere." Or: "All religions basically believe in the same God, so it doesn't really matter too much if you're a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew." The impression is sometimes given that Islam is an equally valid way to know God. Islam is a religion worthy of our respect. Muslims, Christians and Jews we all worship the same God, but in different ways. We all confess that God created us, and so we believe in the same God. The same God will save Jews and Muslims because He loves and accepts everybody regardless of their religion.

This is a popular belief in the world. But, we also find this same type of thinking among people who call themselves Christians. People who say they hold to the Bible as the Word of God. Sometimes you hear them saying things like, "It doesn't matter what church you go to, as long as you love God." Or: "There's no such thing as true and false churches, every church only has a piece of the truth, and we're all basically right." Every person has their own way of understanding God and each way is as valid as the other. It's supposed to be non-judgmental and friendly quintessentially Canadian, you might say.

Now, I know that you've probably already applied our text of this morning to these situations. Verse 6 of our text is well-known and believers ought to regularly apply this text when they're confronted with the idea of many ways to God. We know that this text means that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to the Father. However, I wonder about how many of us have given serious thought to the context in which this teaching takes place. If I had asked you before reading the passage on what occasion the Lord taught this, would you have known that it was right after the Last Passover? Much of John's gospel is taken up with the last days of our Saviour's life on earth. It's that fact, it's the context, which makes it worth our while to take a closer look at our text today.

I preach to you God's Word with this theme:

In His final hours the Lord Jesus reveals Himself as the only way to the Father.

We will consider:

1. The puzzle for His disciples then

2. The challenge for His disciples now.

1. The puzzle for His disciples then.

A few moments ago we read the whole of John 13 and part of John 14 as well. Maybe all this reading seemed a little bit too much, a little on the long side. However, it was important that we read all of that because it shows the background to our text. It's a background of betrayal and abandonment. First of all, we read about Judas Iscariot. Then came the Lord's prediction of Peter's denial. It's hard for us to understand how these things affected the mood of the evening. It's difficult because it's not explicitly said. However, take a look at what happens between verse 38 of chapter 13 and the first verse of chapter 14. The Lord tells Peter of his denial, then the Lord says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Thus, it appears that there was some commotion about this. In fact, the whole evening of the last supper seems to be highly charged the disciples are completely out of tune with what's happening. They don't even understand what's happening when the Lord Jesus gives the bread to Judas even though he'd told them.

There is an atmosphere of shock and a refusal to accept what's happening. The Lord Jesus tells his beloved disciples that he's leaving them. He does that in verse 33 of chapter 13. He tells Peter that he's going to deny Him three times. All of this, all of this after the disciples have given up everything to follow their Saviouir. They had burned their boats and blown up their bridges, so to speak. Everything was staked on their Master. That made separation from the Lord Jesus absolutely unthinkable. They're clearly disturbed and puzzled about what's going on.

That's why chapter 14 begins with comforting and reassuring words. Christ tries to tell them where he is going. When we read it, we might say: could he have made it any more clear? But yet there's this failure to understand. Usually, Peter is the spokesman for the disciples, but this time around he's quiet. He doesn't speak again until he denies the Saviour in chapter 18. Instead, Thomas takes his place. He asks the question all the disciples have been wondering about: 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" The disciples are puzzled.

How could they be expected to know the way when they didn't even know the destination? Seems to be a logical question. It might be if the Lord Jesus hadn't already given the answer. He had already told them that he was going to his Father's house. Brothers and sisters, Thomas' words show that the disciples are in a certain way blinded at this moment. We see this happening more often in the gospels. Even when the Lord Jesus explicitly tells them something, they still don't understand. That's what's happening here. Why? Well, this 'blindness' (for lack of a better word) appears to be in place for a special purpose, for what we call a redemptive-historical purpose. It's there to propel the Lord Jesus along his way of suffering and death, ultimately to bring him to his victory. He was to be despised and rejected by all men. If he was not, he could not be the Saviour.

We see a similar situation elsewhere in John's gospel. In John 12, we're told that God had blinded the eyes of the Jews so they would not believe in the Lord Jesus, despite all of his miraculous signs. But that was also a condemning judgment on the unbelieving covenant people. It's sometimes called a 'judicial blindness.' But what we see in John 14 is different. It's a sort of providential blindness meant to fulfill God's plan of salvation at this point in history. That the two types of "blindness" are different will become clearer as we move along, especially when we get to verse 7.

At any rate, it is clear that Thomas' question arises out of this type of blindness. The Lord replies directly to Thomas in verse 6, even though Thomas had asked the question of behalf of all the disciples. Our Saviour says that he is the way. He clarifies what he means by that in the second half of the verse when he says that no one comes to the Father except by him. Those two statements belong together. It's made clear that Christ is the road, the means by which the presence of the Father is reached. He is the only Mediator between God and his people, the only go-between. Of course, that rules out the idea that there are many ways to God and Jesus Christ is only one way. He is a good way, but there are other ways that are just as good. Well, Jesus Christ himself doesn't agree with that. It's so clear: to go to where the Father is, one has to take the road which is the Lord Jesus. There is no other road.

Our Lord also states that he is the truth. That means that in him there's no falsehood. He is the ultimate truth-teller. He is the truth in person. Every word that comes from his mouth is full of grace and truth, and it cannot but be that way because he is God in the flesh, God incarnate. He is the source of all truth. Since he is the truth, we can be confident that he also leads and guides His people into all the truth. He does that by his Holy Spirit. He pours out his Spirit upon the church in such a way that in 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul calls the church "the pillar and bulwark of the truth." The church is not a man-made institution. The church is the body of him who is the truth. Thus, the church may trust that God has given her the whole truth and not just a piece or an aspect of it. That's also why our Belgic Confession can claim in the subtitle to be a "True Christian Confession, containing the summary of the doctrine of God and of the eternal salvation of Man." Just to be clear, the church can make and has made mistakes. But yet there is the promise of God that he will lead his church into all the truth (John 16:13). He does that with the infallible rule he has given us in the Scriptures. If the church is holding on to the Bible faithfully, then she will be holding forth the whole truth of God.

Finally, the Lord Jesus says that He is the life. Life is the Lord Jesus. He is the source and giver of life. Apart from Him, all humanity faces death. If the man from Nazareth was just a great man, or even just a great prophet as Islam says, then there is nothing but death. For then, the Lord Jesus is no longer the WAY. But being with the Lord Jesus as God and Saviour, there is life. Only through the Lord Jesus, through faith in him and His work, that's the only way the Father can be accessed. Jews and Muslims do not have access to the Father. They are not going to heard by him when they pray. Only Christians who hold on to the Lord Jesus in faith will. When we believe in him, there is God's sure promise that he always hears our prayers. More importantly however, only those who hold on to Christ in faith will come into the very real presence of God in heaven when they die or when the Lord Jesus returns. Do I need to draw the implication for you? Everybody who hears and reads these words of our Lord Jesus has to believe if they want to have eternal life. Indeed, you have to believe! These words are a call to faith for all of us.

For the disciples, these words would have been puzzling. First, there was all this talk about betrayal and abandonment. Now the Lord Jesus speaks of himself as the Saviour, the long-awaited Messiah. How would it be possible for him to be the Messiah and yet be rejected by those who were closest to him? How could such a man be the way to the Father? As the events of those final hours of our Lord's life on earth unfolded, it must have become even more puzzling: How could he be the way when he was hanging impotent and naked on a cross? How could he be the truth when the lies of wicked men triumphed over him and brought him to his death? How could he be the life when his corpse was being placed in a tomb? All these questions.

The puzzle would take some time to be solved for the disciples. They would understand when they reflected on these events, no longer as just disciples, but now as apostles of the Lord Jesus. Then they realized that all these things took place for their salvation. They they saw the plan of God in all this. Then and only then did they realize that this whole time was a turning point in their relationship with the Lord Jesus.

That's really the point in verse 7. The Lord Jesus Christ says there that if the disciples had really known him, they would know the Father as well. If the disciples had really known him in other words, they actually don't at this point! To know the Lord Jesus in this context means to have a close intimate relationship with Him. In verse 4, the Lord Jesus had said that the disciples knew the way to where He was going. There a different word is used in the original text for "know." There the knowledge is more superficial, just a surface knowledge. Here in verse 7, the knowledge that's being spoken about is much deeper and the disciples don't have that knowledge. If they knew the Lord Jesus in that deeper and more meaningful way, they would also know the Father. In these words, there is a hint that our Saviour is divine, that he is God. Knowing the Lord Jesus is to know God. But the disciples are not at that point yet and it had to be that way to fulfill the plan of salvation.

Still, this whole time is a turning point. Something is about to change. Christ says, "From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him." "From now on" does not mean "immediately" here. It means "at about this time." The Lord Jesus is about to die and rise from the dead. Everything radically changes at that point. The disciples have always seen the Lord Jesus, but it's only at approximately this point in time that they're really going to know him. Everything is going to be laid open and revealed after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus there will be no more blindness. Then the disciples, who will become apostles, will also tell others and make more disciples. Those disciples in turn will be faced with the challenge of our text. We'll consider that in our second point:

2. The challenge for His disciples now.

As we come to this second point of the sermon, we have to be careful. That's because we're not anywhere near the same as the disciples who sat at the Last Supper with the Lord Jesus. There are many, many differences. One of the biggest is that these men went on to become apostles, and none of us can expect to do that. Still, there's no way we can deny that we are the disciples of the Lord Jesus in a certain sense. A disciple is simply a learner, one who follows a teacher. We do follow the Lord Jesus, don't we? We do learn from Him and His Word, don't we? Now, if we are disciples of the Lord Jesus in that sense, then this text presents us with a definite challenge.

The challenge begins with understanding something about the idea or concept of application in a sermon. Nobody wants to hear a sermon without application. We don't call that a sermon we call it a lecture. Sermons need to have application. But too often we think of application too narrowly: the sermon has to tell me what to do. So, on Monday, because of the sermon on Sunday, I will do this, that, and the other thing. However, have you noticed that that the Biblical concept of application isn't like that? Many, many times in the Bible application takes the form of having the right knowledge about something. Knowing God rightly. And "knowing" means really, truly knowing with your heart. Someone who has the Three Forms of Unity memorized and then spends his time living in sin that person does not really know God or the Reformed faith in the Biblical sense. The Bible will have nothing of a false dilemma between knowing all the right doctrine and living the right lifestyle. If you really know (in the Biblical sense) the right doctrine, the right lifestyle will follow, slowly and not always consistently, but it will be there. So, knowledge is also application. Knowing God rightly is application.

This is where the challenge of our text is found for the Lord's disciples today. Living after Pentecost, we have the Holy Spirit who has guided us into the truth of God. The Spirit of our Lord Jesus, he has given us the Word of our Lord. But the temptation is always there, a temptation to not really KNOW the Lord Jesus as he has revealed himself. I remind you that we're talking about "knowing" in the Biblical sense of an intimate personal knowledge: the way that a husband ought to know his wife inside out and vice-versa. This temptation is aggravated by a narrow view of application where we think that a sermon has to tell me what to do, rather than who or what to know. When we think that way, then we get led into a sort of legalism where Christianity gets boiled down to doing the right things.

We have to avoid that. We have to realize that knowledge, in the Biblical sense of intimately knowing, is also application. And how crucially important it is for us to know the Lord Jesus Christ rightly as the only way to the Father! That's how he has revealed himself. He is the truth embodied all others have been and continue to be liars. He is our life and hope apart from Him there is abundant death. Christ and Christ alone no others will do. No uncertainty about this is allowed. The temptation is to throw this away in our tolerant society. Canadians have to be nice and affirm everybody. You're not supposed to come across as if you alone have the truth, or the Reformed faith alone has the truth. It's very un-Canadian for you to do that. The challenge of our text is for us to reject out of hand this way of thinking. We must reject it because it's denial of what our Lord Jesus is teaching here. If we accept this so-called tolerant way of thinking, we may be good Canadians who fit in really well, but we show that we do not really know the Lord Jesus we show ourselves to be unfit for the kingdom of heaven.

Our text challenges us to know him rightly as the only way to the Father, the embodiment of truth, the source and giver of life. The context of our text also places us in a challenging position. Why? Because we are so much more culpable or liable that the disciples were. By that I mean to point out that they had their role in the history of redemption. From our point of view so many years later, their behaviour and ways of thinking are somewhat excusable, or better put: understandable. However, for us there is no way that we can excuse faulty knowledge of our Lord Jesus, for we have his full and complete revelation. He has fully made himself known as the only way to the Father. We've heard it again this morning. Therefore, compromise has to be completely out of the question for the disciples of today. The world and many who call themselves Christians will think that you are arrogant. That's a cheap way to try to win an argument with somebody: call them a name and put them down. Don't let it bring down your guard. Hold on to the truth, hold on to the Lord Jesus Christ and his Word. Hold to it stubbornly and don't ever let it go, no matter how many names you get called.

The important thing is for all of us to know the Son and know him truly and intimately. Our relationship to the Father is directly connected with our relationship to the Son. Brothers and sisters, if you are to know the Father, you must know His Son. Some people are hard to get to know, but the Son is not and you know that. You know that you can get to know God's Son quite easily from reading the Word of God. There you find the Son who opens the way to the Father, who is the Way. He is the Son who brings us peace, also when we face trouble for standing up against falsehood masquerading as tolerance. He is the Son who tells also his disciples today, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me." Trust in Him and in Him alone, and you can be confident that there is a room reserved for you in the Father's house a room that has been prepared by your Lord and Saviour. Trust that promise. AMEN.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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