Let us pray. Holy God, open our eyes to your presence. Open our ears to your call. Open our hearts to your love. Amen. Please be seated.

Here we are in the midst of the Easter season, but our gospel reading seems out of place as we move back in time to a pivotal pre-resurrection moment. Today, we hear in very clear and certain terms, that there is a specific relationship between our Lord and God’s people. Jesus is a source from which all that we have ever been, what we are now, and what we hope to be, springs fourth. We’re at the Last Supper, part of the farewell discourse of Jesus. Jesus has washed his disciple’s feet. He has watched Judas go out on his mission of betrayal. He has declared his own imminent departure, given his new commandment and predicted the threefold denial by Peter. Now he bids farewell to his disciples and the words he speaks are words of God. Full of the Holy Spirit, of encouragement and consolation. Jesus, empathetic to the grief, anxiety, and uncertainty his friends feel in such an uneasy time says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I’m going.”

It is at this point that we have to be thankful for Thomas’ presence as a disciple yet again.  He’s the one who asked the question that the other disciples are likely thinking but not asking. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way away?” And Jesus says to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.  These words from our gospel this morning, so comforting and assuring are often appropriately read at funerals. Death troubles our hearts and we want to find some balance, some stability, some hope. This text, however, is about more than the afterlife. It speaks to the very circumstances that trouble our hearts. It is something to say right here and right now on this side of the resurrection. Jesus confirms all that he has been, but even more he provides the frame for us modern disciples. So now we hear Jesus’ words in Eastertide because here we find our Easter faith and therefore it deserves our attention this morning.  

After his initial words of comfort, Jesus begins by saying, “I am the way”. He tells us that he is the way to know God. God need not be a mystery to us.  And if we want to find our way to the place that God has created for us, we must follow Jesus who leads us to God. And Jesus’ words are an invitation to know God as well as to provide an example of how to live our lives. We know that God is love, and when we see Jesus, we see God’s love in action. We see love reaching out a hand to care. We see love healing the sick, accepting the outcast, rebuking the hate filled. We see love restoring the fallen, welcoming the stranger and freeing the oppressed. The path through life to God is found through love. As Christian people, Jesus is our way to God, and God offers something that transcends space and time.

God is big enough to have dominion without domination. God is inventive enough to offer abundance without the need to hoard resources. God is creative enough to look beyond the material and the physical and see into the hearts and souls and minds of God’s people. God gathers us in every dimension and God endures in every dimension, and that is the promise. Jesus goes on to say that He is the truth. His life is a witness to the truth.  Through Jesus, and though Jesus was full of compassion, truth was a priority.

Truth, he taught, will set you free. Jesus’ mission was to bear witness to the truth. However uncomfortable the truth may make others feel, however offensive the truth may sound to unbelieving ears, however untimely and inconvenient the truth may appear, Jesus always spoke the truth and so must we. This is even more challenging as we live in a post-truth alternative-fact society. Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” as its 2016 International Word of the Year with the definition, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.  And if we are honest, we would have to admit that in every stage of history where truth was grounded in religion, where truth was grounded in science, where truth was set aside in favor of many truths, people have distorted, compromised and disregarded the truth. We live in a time when people no longer believe they can even know what is true. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes and people are abundantly and absolutely sure about that. Truth has become relative in our day, but in a sense, this is nothing new.

Pontius Pilate asked that question of Jesus nearly 2000 years ago, “What is truth?” The answer is here in John 14:6, “Jesus Christ is the truth”. God’s word tells us that it is the truth that sanctifies us, guides us and sets us free. Truth is that which confronts the untruth.  Truth is that which conforms to actual reality.  And Jesus is the final reality. That truth is not an “it” but the person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus demands the truth from us. When we look at Jesus, we also see the truth about ourselves. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to look at Jesus sometimes. Because when we look at him, we see ourselves, the ugliness of our lives, the sinfulness of our thoughts and deeds, the scars of selfishness and pride, our failure to love. And we are confronted with our failure to forgive, our refusal to show mercy and compassion to those who differ from us. Jesus demands truth telling and truthful living. That is why it is important that Jesus not only says, “I am the way and the truth”, but also that He is the life. Jesus is the life. That is, Jesus reveals the kind of living that endures because of the way and the truth.

When we follow the ways of Jesus, we enter into communities of mutually enduring and fulfilling relationships. When we live into such relationships, we seek a truth, not one that benefits our personal agendas or large systems, but rather one that seeks to illumine the value and uniqueness of every person. When we love our neighbors and when we see their value and when we proclaim our shared connection as God’s beloved, we begin to live and to live abundantly. Without Jesus, there is no life in us.  Left to our own devices, judged by our own thoughts and deeds, there is no hope for us. Without Jesus, there is no life and knowledge of God. No one comes to the Father except by me. And now rather than engage in an old argument about the sentence and who is and who is not saved, these words from Jesus are meant as gospel for us as Christians.  They are Jesus’ invitation to us, to come to him, to receive him, and the gift of life that God has created for us. Finally, Jesus assures us that if we know him, we know the one he calls Father.  God is knowable because Jesus is knowable.

The God we know in Jesus Christ became flesh and dwelt among us, made a home among the poor. Cared for the sick, lived humbly, fed the hungry, blessed the children, washed the feet of his disciples, wept at the death of his friend, promised that death would not be victorious, met his disciples even when they had isolated themselves in an upper room. He went ahead to prepare a place for us. God is with us even in our vulnerability, our uncertainty, our failings, and yes, our fears. How then shall we carry Jesus’ words in our hearts this Eastertide and beyond? Theologian, Thomas á Kempis, captured the meaning of Jesus’ words this way, “Without the way there is not going. Without the truth, there is no knowing. And without the life, there is no living.” Beloved siblings in Christ, our Easter faith is faith that puts us on the path that leads to God. It is faith that enables us to see the truth about our lives and to embrace and enable us to see the truth about God. And it is faith that brings God’s gift of life to us. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. May his way, his truth, his life, be ours this day and always Amen.


The Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan

Canon for Worship