Thomas asked, “How can we know the way?” He was asking Jesus to show him Heaven. Phillip got even more to the point. He asked Jesus to show him God. Here, Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for the end of his ministry, but they had questions. They had doubts. They were confused, to say the least. They basically kept repeating the same kinds of questions, each disciple in his own way asking the same basic stuff.
Jesus, you will note, is wonderfully patient with each and speaks to each one’s question, gently and individually. And isn’t that just his way?
I know and have known many preachers, teachers and theological speakers who have everything to tell us about the “Christian Religion.” We must be this or that, do this or that, believe this or that, accept these fundamentals, and on and on. But I think so-called Christianity is not a religion. It will never be found in dogma or doctrine or wise words of any kind. Every other religion on the planet is about who you are, what you do, what you believe, what is acceptable. Christianity is none of that.
To be blunt: Christianity is not a religion because it is a relationship. It is an each and every person relationship with God. It is Jesus revealing himself to you and to me by the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells inside those who are called. And it is about his wonderful patience in revealing himself to us gently and individually, answering our questions and doubts to the best of our ability to understand the answers. And isn’t that his way?
He leads us into community, but his heart is for each of us individually. And the measure of our Christianity is not found in how well we keep the rules or follow the teachings or believe the doctrines. It is found, instead in how close we are to the one who died and was raised on the third day.
You see, Jesus is not the way any preacher or teacher says. He is not ours, we are his. It is always a good thing to remember that. Then in that relationship of belonging to him, it is being able to ask him questions in our own way and our own time and waiting on and trusting in the answers he gives us, personally. Now, I have no more control over the relationship you have with Jesus than I have over the relationship you have with your own family.
He has said we are to draw near to him so he may draw near to us. And this is the way. Christianity is as opposed to something we are or do. Indeed, there is nothing we can do to be more Christian than we are. Instead, Christianity is Jesus who invites us to get to know him and grow close to him, even if we have questions.
Jesus said he was the way, the true vine, the bread of life, the good shepherd, the gate to the sheepfold. He described himself with all these things and more. He said seeing him is seeing the father. He said that where he is we can be also. True, we were not at the last supper to ask him in the flesh. But in a sense, every day is like the last supper and he waits for us to seek him and ask him so he can answer out of the abundance of his love.
Jesus said many things on that night to get his disciples ready for the big day. I am not sure they understood his answers. In fact, I am quite sure they did not. No reason to suppose we will always understand his answers, like when we are sick or in pain, for example, and he says no. But then, sometimes my own father and mother used to say no and I felt they were the most unreasonable creatures on the planet. Thus is life, I suppose.
But then, one thing he said that night is rather puzzling, still – or it was for a long time. You see, he said we would do the works he did and even greater works besides. And I wondered, can we heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead and walk on water? Well, generally no – though sometimes it appears that healing and other miracles can come from prayer. I think, though, that simply comes from the times Jesus says yes. But then, that is not what he was talking about.
I found this passage puzzling for a long time, listening to the way other people interpreted it. They said if the person was not healed, for example, that person did not have enough faith to be healed. I thought that was……… just plain wrong! Then it occurred to me, Jesus said nothing about doing miracles. He talked about works, and I thought, what were the works of Jesus?
Love was a big one. He reached out across all lines and included all people. He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those who were sick or in prison. He walked humbly before the father. He resisted temptation. He left no room for the devil. He came not to condemn the world but that the whole world might be saved through him.
But greater works?
Well, first of all, which is the greater act, loving the unlovable or walking on water? I know which one Jesus would choose.
But then, consider this also. Jesus gave his life for the world but the world remained in darkness. The disciples really had to start it all. Now, it is only through us that salvation is declared to the world. We are the light of the world. He told us that. What he could not speak of himself, we can.
By the grace of God it is only through us that this world has any hope of overcoming the darkness. It is only through us that the love by which Jesus gave his life might not be in vain. It is only through us that the saving grace of Jesus can be told to the world, shared with the world, given to the world until the whole world is saved. And this is our place, to build the kingdom for Jesus our King, one relationship at a time.