LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 16 February 2020.
Sermon Text: John 14:1-11
I. Letting one’s heart free of trouble
II. Finding the right way
III. Knowing the true way
I want you to imagine that you’re about to go away for a trip; you’re going to leave Perth and drive your car across the southern part of the Australian continent to go to, say, Melbourne in Victoria. I know it’d be a long and challenging trip, and many of you wouldn’t even dream of doing it. But simply guess that you’ve made up your mind, and you’d soon leave your home.
What would be the number one item in your preparation for this trip? I reckon it’d be a good and reliable GPS navigational device that would provide you locational and directional information, telling you which way you should go. If you’re with a good navigational guide, you’d never be lost, you’d always find your way to your destination. But what might happen if you haven’t got a good and reliable guide? You’d never be able to reach your destination, being lost almost immediately after your departure. So, a good and reliable guide is essential for finding one’s way and getting a destination.
This is what the Lord Jesus teaches here in the first eleven verses of Jn. 14 that He is ‘the way, the truth and the life,’ and He alone is the perfect guide for sinners to come to the Father. He is the way to the Father; He is the truth of the Father; and He is the life from the Father. Therefore, all people must come to Him, the Lord Jesus, and believing Him, come to the Father as His forgiven and blessed children.
I. LETTING ONE’S HEART FREE OF TROUBLE
Having said, let me remind you that this chapter is a part of the section in John’s Gospel that begins from ch. 13 and continues up to the end of ch. 17 which is Jesus’ preparation of His disciples for the time after His departure. It is a kind of Jesus’ farewell message given to the disciples, telling them something like this: ‘Listen to Me, My dear ones; I’m going away and soon, you’ll be alone without Me; so, this is what I want you to remember and do.’
He told them earlier in ch. 13 to serve one another as He had shown them His example of washing their feet in Jn. 13:1-20. Then, in the second half of Jn. 13, He commanded them to love one another in the way He showed them His example of concerning the souls of both Judas Iscariot, an enemy of Jesus, and Simon Peter, a betrayer. He taught them that loving one another is to care for each one’s soul before God rather than simply exchanging any material or almsgiving.
Now, He makes one more appeal to His disciples – and of course, this includes you and me as we’re followers/disciples of Jesus – and this appeal is to ‘not be troubled’ in our hearts. V. 1 records the Lord’s word: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” He is saying to Peter, James, John, Thomas and all other disciples – as well as to you and me – to not be agitated, nor stirred up with various emotions. We should not fear, He says; we should not be sad, nor be distressed, nor disappointed; not be confused; not be lost or bewildered; we should not doubt – but remain calm, be happy, comforted, and contented. This appeal implies not a temporal, but a permanent status of mind of being calm and content and joyful, like what Phil. 4:4 commands all believers to ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’
Before considering why He made this appeal to His disciples, why He gave this command for them to keep and follow, we need to first remember that Jesus Himself was ‘troubled’ in His spirit, as Jn. 13:21 testifies. The same Greek word is used for both cases – that is, Jesus being ‘troubled’ in His spirit and His appeal made to the disciples to not be ‘troubled.’ So, a question arises: ‘Why was Jesus troubled in His spirit?’ That’s because He was aware of the coming suffering and death on the cross in just a few hours’ time. Then, another question arises, that is, ‘If the Lord was troubled in His spirit, how could He request His disciples to remain calm and contented?’ Having experienced such a ‘trouble’ in His spirit, He makes His appeal to His beloved ones. This is what Heb. 4:15 tells us that Jesus who is our High Priest, having been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin, now fully sympathises with our weaknesses and gives this command to not be troubles in our hearts but believe in Him and in the Father.
Remembering this, we go back and see why our Lord asks us to not be troubled. By the way, how could we not be troubled and remain calm in this troubled world and generation? A new coronavirus outbreak threatens us and we’re fearful. There’s no guarantee for another virus epidemic in the future. Meanwhile, cancer cells silently appear and quietly grow to destroy many of us. World’s economy has been unstable for more than a decade and no one could predict its end. Many left-wing politicians and activists seek opportunities to disturb or destroy the way of the Bible in the society we live in. Then, how could we always remain calm and comforted?
In fact, there’s a way – the only way – we could absolutely and perfectly calm and remain contented. Jesus could make this appeal to us, His beloved, because there’s a way. The way is to know the end of a trouble and all troubles. You’d be calm as the morning air when you know the end of all troubles of this world. If you know when and how this coronavirus outbreak will end, if you know the end of the present world economic distress, if you know what this world will face at the end, you’d surely be able to remain calm and none could take that joy of yours away.
On the contrary, your ignorance of how the matter you concern about is going to end will surely make you fear and be troubled. Explaining it in terms of travelling on the road, if you know the end of that road you follow, nothing worries you, does it? Rather, you enjoy your trip. However, if you are not sure whether it is the road you suppose to follow, you’re in a total mess. You feel like you’re driving north while you’re supposed to go south, then, your heart would be greatly troubled.
Our Lord’s appeal is for us alongside those eleven disciples of Jn. 14 to know that He’ll teach us and show us the end of all things, thus, remain calm and joyful rather than be troubled in our hearts. Like a good and reliable GPS device that gives you a perfect, short and quickest way to your destination, Jesus will give us His perfect guidance to our destination, that is, to the Father. So, ‘let not your hearts be troubled!’ Moreover, Jesus assures us that He is going to make us peaceful and calm as He’ll lead us to ‘find the right way’ which is our next point to consider.
II. FINDING THE RIGHT WAY
Everyone’s greatest problem which constantly troubles and stirs up each one’s heart is that no one knows a way, let alone the right way. The apostle Thomas in v. 5 represents all people who are lost, saying, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” His problem was not really ‘not knowing where Jesus was going,’ but ‘not knowing which way to go.’ After all, if Thomas who had followed Jesus the Saviour and Lord of the world for three years did not know which way to go, who could know a way, let alone the right way? Finding a way is a great problem for all people, and finding the right way is the ultimate problem of all in mankind.
To this problem, Jesus gives the perfect solution – that is, Himself as ‘the way.’ Coming to Him is to find the way to the Father – that is, to be forgiven of sins and, being cleansed of sins, be freed from the curse of death. Jesus is the only way to salvation, the right way to the Father’s eternal blessing. There’s no other way than coming to Jesus to deal with one’s sins. Because everyone is born under sin and lives under sin; none can escape from its power and damnation. There’s no one who could help anyone else to be free from sin’s curse because everyone is a slave of sin. Only someone who is free from sin can save and free others from such a bondage; and Jesus is the only One free from sin, thus, able to free sinners. And He gave Himself on the cross to pay the penalty of sin for all who come to Him.
So, if you’ve come to Him and believed in Him, you’ve found the right way of salvation, the right way to become a child of God, the right way to rightly call Him ‘Abba Father’ and enjoy His eternal inheritance, that is, the kingdom of His Son, Jesus!
Yet, there’s a problem we need to consider. Like Thomas of v. 5, some people, if not many, doubt whether they’re on the right way despite they’ve come to Jesus and believe and worship Him, the Lord Jesus. Calling Him Lord and Saviour, some people seem to feel uncomfortable, and they continue their search for a better way. What I mean is that some Christians are constantly in search of a ‘new’ Jesus, dissatisfied with Jesus of the Bible. They do not seem to seek Mammon, the god of wealth and of this world – if that was the case, it would’ve been easier to identify their problem and get rid of that problem. But, unfortunately, some Christians seem to serve a different kind of Jesus. Whereas Jesus of the Bible is unchanging and always outstands above a culture of the day or people’s consensus, that Jesus they’ve found is a modified, altered or watered-down version who only ‘loves’ sinners indiscriminately without identifying their sins, without pointing out their need of repentance. That Jesus easily and happily compromises with any culture of the day and changes his doctrine, if there’s any doctrine. Those people who are after this altered version of Jesus claim that they’ve found the right and genuine way. Doubting Jesus about whom the Bible testifies, they wander off the right way.
To them who doubt, Jesus of the Bible says that He is not only ‘the way,’ but also ‘the truth’ of the Father. All who come to Him, all who come to the One the Scriptures testify as the Son of God, find the truth about the Father. And finding this truth about the Father, they find ‘the life’ of the Father.
So, as Jesus teaches in Jn. 5:23, honouring the Son is to honour the Father, thus, none can claim to know God while rejecting Jesus of the Bible who is the right way and the truth and the life.
III. KNOWING THE TRUE WAY
Another trouble that frequently, if not constantly, bothers many believers is disbelief of what Jesus has said and done for them. The apostle Philip of Jn. 14 is a typical example of this trouble. He says in v. 8, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” I think, if he said, ‘Lord, show us the Father,’ and stopped, it would’ve been alright because that proved Philip’s quiet and spiritual nature. But he added this, ‘and it is – that is, showing us the Father – is enough for us.’ By this, he means what Jesus had said and done were ‘not enough’ for him.
The core of his problem is not ‘seeing’ the Father physically, but ‘knowing’ and spiritually ‘recognising’ the invisible God’s hand working in and among His saved children. When Jesus’ word is heard through one’s ears, that word travels to his heart and stirs it up, challenges its worldly perspective, alters it and finally moulds it according to the will of God. Many Christians – like Philip – often regard this work of God as their work of acceptance through their own intellectual ability or in human ‘free-will.’ So, any internal conviction and faith evident in one’s heart isn’t ‘enough’ for them to prove the power of God and wisdom of God.
‘Show me the Father’ is people’s request and demand made to God to act upon their human terms. ‘I need to see the Father with my physical eyes’ means ‘Prove to me that I need to believe You in my terms than Yours, Jesus; then, it will be enough.’ Do you see what Philip is asking? Do you also hear the voice of many people, sometimes including us? No wonder why many people remain stagnant in their faith and not grow mature in the Lord. People constantly ‘demand’ their terms, ceaselessly ‘bid’ God to prove His existence, prove His love for them, prove His blessings they rightly deserve to receive, and so on.
To them Jesus answers – as He answered to Philip in v. 9 – “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip?” Jesus means that He has been living among them – and us – and many things have been changed and those changes are the evidence of God’s presence with them and with us. Such changes are like these; that Christians are no longer enemies of each other but brothers and sisters in Jesus – we love one another; that through Christians’ life, Jesus’ name is proclaimed to many lost souls in the world, although we don’t usually realise it, but it happens when a Christian is in the midst of unbelievers. They see, taste, find, touch and smell Christ from us.
Moreover, the word Jesus spoke displays the authority of the Father and fulfils His will for all in His created world. In other words, more people hear about Jesus and submit their lives to Him in repentance and faith; God’s church expands to the ends of the earth; spiritual harvest is being made at almost every second from every corner of this world. So the Lord’s message is this: ‘Having seen all these things happening in you, you still do not know that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?’ If anyone doubts Jesus’ word, then he must recognise the work of the Father that is being carried out in the name of Jesus. The works the Father does in Jesus proves that Jesus is the right way, the true way, and the living way to the Father.
So, you and I must come to Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. Coming to Him, we should know that we’re in the right and true and living way, and remain confident in Him, without doubting. Coming to Him, Jesus, the Son of God, you and I should know the end of all things and remain calm and joyful. And what is that end? Jesus who sits on the throne in heaven will return to us and take us to where He is. Nothing and no one can disturb this truth, so our hearts should be calm and rejoicing rather than troubled.
In fact, this is Jesus’ message for us to remember and live by; this is His message for the disciples before His departure to His Father. So, He says in v. 1, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” and again in v. 11, yet, in different words, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.” Believe and be with Jesus of the Bible, then, you’re in the presence of the Father, and that is your joy now and always. ***