I am the Way

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life:

John 14:6

In the year 1660, a man called John Bunyan was thrown into prison for twelve years for preaching in the way his conscience told him he must. He was a Baptist and thought of as a dissenter, because in those days no-one but a clergyman of the church of England was allowed to preach. Indeed it was a crime not to attend the authorised church.

After his release he again began to preach, and again he was imprisoned, and it was here that the first part of his book , ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress was begun.

His book was centred on a man named Christian who travels from the city of Destruction to the Celestial city, and he meets with many pitfalls and snares on the way. In his book, Bunyan shows us what to avoid and how to keep to the path.

I like the part where Christian is about to begin his journey, but is confused about which direction he should go in, and a character called Evangelist asks him,

“Do you see yonder wicker- gate?”

The man said, “No.”

Then said the other, “Do you see yonder shining light?”

He said, “I think I do!”

Then said Evangelist, “Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto......

In our gospel reading today we have those sentiments exactly. Only, rather than some vague light in the distance, we have Jesus, the Light of the World offering his disciples, directions for living.

He says,

“I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me”

He demonstrated with his own life a short time later, how to die to self and he submitted to crucifixion. The cross became a signpost for others to follow.

Many religious leaders have pointed to God;

Jesus pointed to himself.... in union with God; as happens in our reading today where Jesus reveals the oneness he shares with the Father.

He was actually revealing to us the very nature of God in himself.

When he said :“No-one comes to the Father except through me!”

Philip asks him,

“Lord show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied!” and Jesus replied with those wonderful words,

“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me ?”

Jesus is of the very essence of the Father......he makes it clear that he and the Father are one.

No other leader of any faith has dared to make such claims.

He is not just telling us to walk the way he walked, he is telling us he is the Way!

But in his claim to be the only way to God we must ask ourselves if it was Jesus’ intention that we, as his followers, should think of ourselves as superior, because of his words to us?

Was it his intention for us tothink of ourselves as the elite of the world, a master race, where people not in agreement, or not quite coming up to standard, were to be treated as inferior?

Or was it his intention that we should be servants bringing love and compassion to the far ends of the earth?

Look at religion through history right up to the present day and see that even Christianity is not exempt from sad divisions, terrifying wars, inquisitions, tortures and cleansings. Look at whole cultures and customs of indigenous peoples who have been almost erased by wrong and unloving attitudes of so called Christian countries.

Christians are among those who, with their religious fervour, have sought to wipe out other faiths in crusades, and holocausts and civil wars.

In our search for the wicker gate, we have not always turned the light on, in our blindness and confusion. History bears witness to much that we should be ashamed of.

Yet from time to time there have been those described as shining lights, the kind who in their lifetime fulfilled the words of Jesus, in this same gospel, when he said :-

“I tell you the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father!” . . . the likes of St Francis, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, to name but a few.

So what does it mean to say Jesus is the Way?

Was he trying to say something deeper, in the whole context of this reading,and have we, through the ages, totally missed the point?

This whole passage begins with Jesus telling his disciples that he must go away, and he puts before them what he calls a new commandment :-

“Love one another, as I have loved you!”

Can we honestly say that that has been achieved this?

Wherever and whenever we have failed to live out the gospel of love and have instead sought to enslave people and dominate them, we have failed miserably; we have not loved as Christ would have done.

By saying he was the Way, was he reminding us that unless we are in union and in agreement with the way he has shown us , then we will lose sight of his vision for this world.

By his own life, his actions, his words, his death and resurrection, he shows us the true and only direction for our lives.....the way all men and women of faith ought to live their lives, His Way.

I’m sure it was Ghandi who once remarked,

“I have seen Christianity and it doesn’t work. Your Christians must begin to live like Jesus Christ. You must practise your religion without adulterating it or toning it down. You must put your emphasis on love, for love is at the centre and soul of Christianity.”

We are to be completely one. Christ in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions. This is the light we must look to in order to find yonder wicker gate. This is the light we are told to walk in.

We believe that Jesus is the Way, the only and truest way to know God, and we must keep our eyes on him and not be side tracked with harsh judgmental attitudes, or be driven by greed, ambition and strife which have been at the heart of much of the misery people have suffered over the years.

Jesus is an immovable goal, one who is firm and as solid as a rock. A rock we can rely on.

There was a young farmer once who found it very difficult to plough a straight furrow, so in the local pub one evening he was given some excellent advice. Just keep your eyes ahead, and fix them on some object and plough walking straight for it.

The next night in the pub, the young farmer looked just as dejected as the night before.

“Did you follow my advice?” said the second farmer”

“Aye I did but the furrow was as crooked as ever it was!”

“What was it you fastened your eyes on?” he was asked.

The answer came back..... “A cow grazing in the next field!”

“Do you see yonder wicker gate?” No we don’t we don’t always see the truth at a glance, we think we know all the answers, but there is much that still confuses us in this world. We must learn from the mistakes of the past, and not repeat them.

In order to find the gate that leads to everlasting life, we need to walk towards the light of the whole truth that Jesus taught us, and like signs that are there to warn us of dangers on route while travelling , so too we must avoid all that would lead us into danger or confusion or wrong thinking.

Like Christian in the Pilgrim’s Progress, we must keep our eyes on the goal.