In Gateshead there is a road called Prince Consort Street. It's near the Civic Centre. If you stand on Prince Consort Road where it intersects with Bewick Street you have a little snap shot into life in our town. On one side of the road you will see Gateshead Mosque. On the opposite side of the road you'll see building for Jewish Scholars. If you look down the road you'll see a Baptist Church.
People in Gateshead have different understandings about how we come to God. If you got the imam, rabbi and pastor together for a cup of tea they would disagree about how we come to God. In addition, there are plenty of people in Gateshead who would say, "Hey, there is no God!" So it begs the question, "If there is a God, how can come to him?"
This term we're completing our series on the 39 Articles – the foundations of Anglican theology. The article we're looking at this morning has perhaps become more relevant to us today than when it was written 400 years ago. This article answers with clarity our question, "How can we come to God?" The premise is simple: Jesus is the only way to God. Let me read it to you:
Those who presume to say that every person shall be saved by the rule of life, religion or sect that he professes, provided he makes diligent efforts to live by that rule and the light of nature, must be regarded as accursed. For holy Scripture declares to us that it is only in the name of Jesus Christ that men must be saved.
We're going to see Jesus is the only way to God this morning as we come to John's Gospel, a biography of Jesus. In the first half of John the focus has been on Jesus' ministry. Now from chapter 13 onward the focus is on his coming death. Jesus is preparing his disciples for a time when he will be physically separated from the disciples. They are full of anxiety. After all, they left all they had to follow Jesus! So how does Jesus deal with their anxieties? He offers them comfort. That's my first point:
Look with me to 14v1 to see how Christ brings comfort:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
Jesus comforts the anxious disciples with the promise of heaven. In heaven they'll live with God. He asks them to trust him on this. When he says,"in my Father's house are many rooms," it's as if he's saying there is plenty of room in heaven for each of you to join me one day.
Certainty gives us comfort doesn't it? Well, Jesus offers his followers a certain place in heaven. This is something that makes Jesus unique. Other religions don't do certainty. They don't promise places in heaven based on trust. I have a Muslim friend. He's a doctor. He's a family man. He loves to follow the Koran. I know - he's tried to convert me! But when I asked him, "How confident are you of going to heaven?" He says, "I cannot be confident. I have no guarantees Allah will let me in." To which I say, "Why would I give up on Jesus, he promises me heaven!"
You might be listening in, thinking, "I don't even believe in a heaven, never mind Jesus or Mohammed!" It may be you're not looking for your comfort in God or heaven, but you're certainly looking for comfort in something. It may be your work, your family or your leisure, but you have the same issue as my Muslim friend. How's that? You can't guarantee the comfort you long for. My Muslim friend works hard to please Allah but he has no promise of heaven. You may work hard for the perfect job, family or retirement but there's no guarantees they'll deliver what you hope for. Only Jesus offers true comfort. But how can he promise heaven? How can he guarantee it?
Well Jesus says in verse 2"I am going there to prepare a place for you." Jesus must leave the disciples to guarantee them a place in heaven. Where is it he's going? Jesus is going to the cross to die, then rise three days later and ascend to heaven. But Thomas doesn't get that? So he says, where are you going? Let's see how Jesus responds in verses 5-7:
Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
Jesus claims to be the way to God. That's my second point: Christ's claim. Christ's claim. It's a huge claim. He claims he is the way, the truth and life. Let's think that through. Jesus is the way to God. When he says, "no one comes to Father except through me," he's referring to his death. There's something about Jesus' death that makes it possible for us to come to God.
The Channel Tunnel makes it possible for us to from the UK to France. It took six years for the tunnel to be completed. They used 11 huge tunnel boring machines to blast their way through the rock. It cost £4.7 billion pounds. It required a staff of 15,000.
But it was more costly for Jesus to blast open the way to God. Why was it so costly? Just as rock separates the UK and France, so people and God are separated by our rebellion. Our sinfulness means we cannot be with God. We don't deserve heaven. Instead, we deserve God's anger for our rebellion. But there was one man who always obeyed his heavenly Father. One man who had a perfect relationship with his Heavenly Father – in fact he could say "if you knew me, you would know my Father as well." Yet, Jesus left his disciples to die on a cross. On the cross Jesus was separated from his Father; he experienced his Father's anger. You see Jesus bore the anger we deserved so we could come to God. On the cross Jesus cried out, "It is finished." Jesus has blasted open the way to God for us. If we come through Jesus, the way to God is now open.
Jesus is not just the way to God, but the truth. Jesus reveals his heavenly Father to us. Imagine the world was a like a giant box. Imagine people live inside the box their whole lives. One man says I think that outside the box there are flying green elephants. One woman says, "No, no, no, there is nothing at all outside the box." That's what religion and irreligion are – they're simply faith positions about the world. The best guesses people have come up with. The only way for the inhabitants to find out what's outside is if someone comes from outside. Someone who isn't playing guessing games, but can objectively reveal what's out there. We can all make guesses, but what we really need is God to enter our world and show us what he's like. That's what Jesus uniquely does; he objectively reveals the truth about God. At the cross Jesus displays God's justice, but also God's costly love for us.
Jesus is also the life. John tells us in 1:4 that life is in Jesus. Jesus tells us he is the "resurrection and the life". Jesus died on the cross, but three days later rose again. He defeated death, and offers eternal life to all who come to him. Because of sin we're like the HTG Christmas tree – disconnected from the source which gave it life. Running down to death and judgment. But when we come to Jesus, we're connected to the source itself! Though we will die, we will know the comfort of eternal life.
What does this all mean? Positively, Jesus is the only way to God. Negatively, religion cannot get you to God. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism cannot bring you to God. When I say religion, I mean any understanding that we can blast the way through to God by our own good deeds. I used to think if I was good enough God would accept me. And I was pretty good – I only had two detentions at school! But the problem is, as hard as we try, we cannot remove the sin that separates us from God. Only Jesus can do that. And it's the same with other religions. Religion is about trying to coerce God into accepting you. It's about saving yourself. But the problem is Jesus says, we can't save ourselves. He is the only one who can deal with you sin. All religions are about do, do, do. Only Jesus says, done. Only Jesus cries out, "It is finished."
If you're here, thinking, "Hey, I'm not religious. I don't try to save myself!" let me ask you what you live for? A religious person, sets their hope on being accepted by God. It may be you set your hope on being the best in your company, or having the best family or home. Achieving that hope depends much like the religious person on your performance. It's about do, do, do! And ultimately, the things we set our hopes on will let us down. When we don't get the promotion, when the family lets us down, when our health fails we feel low. When we get what we want, we feel unsatisfied. Religion brings no comfort. Living for the here and now brings no comfort. Only Jesus brings comfort because only Jesus brings us to God.
That may all sound rather arrogant to say Jesus is the only way to God. Firstly, let me say this, to say there are other ways to God is just as much a faith position. The question, is not whether you have a faith position on this, but which one you hold to. Secondly, trusting in Jesus to bring you to God destroys pride. Pride happens when we think we're superior morally or intellectually. If you're trusting Jesus to bring you to God then you've got to admit you're not morally or intellectually superior. Followers of Jesus are not accepted on their performance, but only because Jesus died for their sin and has given them life. So Jesus deserves the glory, not the follower of Jesus.
We've seen Christ's comfort – the promise of being with God forever. We've seen Christ's claim – that he alone is the way to God. Both his comfort and claim require a response. Christ calls us to respond, and that's my final point: Christ's call. Philip, has not fully understood Jesus. He wants to see the Father now in some kind of one off vision. So again, Jesus sets out to correct his disciples. Look with me at verse 8:
Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
Jesus says to Philip if you've seen me, you've seen the Father! Jesus' words are the Father's words; Jesus' work is the Father's work. So Jesus says, believe me. Often people say seeing is believing, but that's not the case here. Rather believing is seeing. When we believe the words of Jesus we will see the Father. If you're not trusting in Jesus this morning, Jesus calls you to believe in him. He wants you to believe he is the way, the truth and the life. He wants you to believe his claims so that you may know the comfort of eternal life.
If you're believing in Jesus already, he calls you to do his work. Look with me at verse 12:
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus calls his followers to do greater things. What does he mean? Jesus says we can do these things because he's going to the Father, that he's going to die, rise and ascend to heaven. This going to the Father opens a new age. An age where his disciples will know by the Spirit, and make known all that Jesus is and does. These are the greater things. Now Jesus empowers his people for mission by His Spirit as they proclaim his word, and pray.
Finally, what does this mean? Two things to remember. Firstly, if you're a believer, you have the incredible privilege of continuing to do the work of the Father. When we hear Jesus' word and believe, we're seeing the Father at work. When we see the word being taught and believed, we're seeing the Father at work! Whether that's here on a Sunday, or in a conversation with a friend at work. Secondly, as we go down Prince Consort Road and engage with our religious and non-religious friends we have good news to share. We're not proclaiming the burden of do, do, do. We're proclaiming the liberating words of, "It is finished!" to our community. Christ's comfort, comes from accepting Christ's claims and call. For Jesus is the only way to God. Let's believe in Jesus to bring us to the Father, and bring Jesus' words to our neighbours.