Last Sunday Jesus made a bold statement about himself saying – I am the Gate for the sheep.
Today he is making another bold statement about himself saying – I am the way, the truth and the life.
Why do I say that they are bold statements?
It’s because Jesus was using a phrase that the people of his time knew was more than just an introductory phrase.
I AM is used by John’s Gospel 7 times in regards to Jesus making bold statements about himself.
I AM the true vine.
I AM the bread of life
I AM the light of the world
I AM the resurrection and the life
I AM the Good Shepherd
And our 2 from these past 2 weeks:
I AM the Gate for the sheep
I AM the way, the truth and the life.
And John being a scholar of wisdom has not coincidently used 7 statements but intentionally with 7 being what we sometimes call a Holy Number aligned with the 7 days of the Creation period.
I AM is the name that was given to Moses when God revealed himself to him to take to Pharaoh to release Israel from slavery –
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
I am in the Hebrew was translated as the name which Israel knew God as Yahweh and wherever you see LORD in the Old Testament all in capital letters.
And it is why we refer to Jesus as Lord Jesus – given the name that is above all names that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Jesus used the name “I AM” on other occasions.
When he walked on the water to the frightened disciples who thought they were seeing a ghost – he said to them – “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – But in the original Greek translation it says – Take courage – I AM.
When Jesus was being questioned by the Jewish leaders he said to them: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.
They knew this was blasphemy and it says – they picked up stones to throw at him.
Jesus says to his disciples today – do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God, trust also in me.
He is saying that because the disciples will soon see Jesus go to his death.
Even though we are now in the time after Jesus’ death, our Gospel reading was written just prior to his death so they would not lose faith in God when he is crucified.
So he says – keep trusting God even though it looks like he has lost control.
Keep trusting me – even though you will see me be put to death.
And then he explains just what it is that we are trusting.
He says that he is coming to take us home to be with him.
That’s God’s plan for us – it’s always been God’s plan for us.
Our difficulties arise when we believe that this here – today – is God’s plan for us.
Because if this is God’s plan then we can all agree that it’s not a very good plan.
It’s a plan that has been affected by suffering, crime, death,disease and anything else that prevents us from enjoying life.
And all these stem from our disruption to God’s plan through sin when the knowledge of good AND evil were permitted to enter into creation.
And sadly it is these things that can stop us from seeing clearly what God is doing.
And that’s what makes up the conversation between Jesus and Thomas:
Jesus says – you know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
So Jesus explains the way – I AM the way, the truth and the life.
Forget about all the rest of the ways the world is trying to tell you is the way to life.
They will all let you down in some way or another.
Trust in me, he says.
No one can come to the Father except through me.
No amount of money, no amount of success, no amount of fame will achieve what God has planned for you.
Trust in God, trust also in me.
And when we trust in God then we are able to face even the most difficult of circumstances – even death.
In our first reading we have in fact the first death of a Christian – Stephen the martyr.
Because he dared so proclaim Jesus as the Son of God he is put to death in a most violent and brutal way – stoned to death.
And what is interesting about this is that he is able to, before he takes his last breath, able to pray for those putting him to death that God would forgive them.
And that’s what faith does in the life of a Christian.
So certain of the amazing and glorious place that awaits him he wants none of them to miss out.
He says that he sees the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God and he wants them to see it too even though they are about to put him to death.
And he knows the only way that they can see it too is if God forgives them for what they are about to do.
That’s what trust in God looks like.
When we know that OUR salvation is assured through Jesus and we will do anything to have others receive it – even forgive them for the harm they do to us.
And that’s what Jesus is trying to teach his disciples.
Trust what they are doing even if we don’t understand by our human understanding.
None of us understand what’s going on at the moment in regards to church services – but we trust God.
Remember when Jesus was being arrested and Peter tried to defend Jesus by taking out his sword and cutting off the ear of one of the mob.
Jesus told him to put away his sword and trust what God is doing.
Don’t you think that I could call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
Likewise, if God wanted his churches opened today – don’t you think he could send a multitude of angels and open them immediately?
Again, the message of Jesus today – trust God, trust Jesus.
Peter reminds us that it’s not about the physical church building.
Yes it would be great if we could all be back together again – and we will be.
But until then Peter reminds us:
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.
Like Thomas, at the moment we don’t know the way to where we are going.
But what we do know is that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
And we come to the Father through HIM.
I’m looking forward to the day, hopefully soon, when we can be back together around the Lord’s Table.
But I think I’m going to have a new appreciation for the people of God – God’s chosen race – the royal priesthood.
I too am missing the sacrament but we could easily resolve that like some have done through remotely consecrating the bread and the wine.
But is that what’s really important?
No, it’s the priesthood of all believers – you and me.
As Peter again reminds us:
Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.
I’m not suggesting the sacrament isn’t important or essential but let us understand WHY it’s important.
Our salvation is secured through Jesus.
But it’s important because it is uniting the spiritual house – the priesthood of God – by the one cup and the one bread.
But until that day we can gather around the table – we are still the priesthood of God and the spiritual house built by and on the rock that not even the gates of hell or any coronavirus can overcome.
Dear friends, let our hearts not be troubled – trust God, trust in Jesus.
In our Father’s house there are many rooms – and in none of them can evil ever enter so they will always be open.
And when Jesus is ready he will come and gather us to be with him.
Until then – we are the royal priesthood, God’s chosen race – God’s spiritual house with Christ as our cornerstone.