Unique Realities

Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”    John 14:6

In a world where there are so many ideas competing to reveal the way to humanity’s eternal bliss, how dare Jesus arrogantly declare that He not only has the way, but is the only Way!  In a world where truth is subjected to competing moralities, where what is true is subject to bewildering confusion, where even Pontius Pilate sarcastically asked  “What is Truth?”, how dare Jesus declare Himself as the embodiment of Truth!  In a world where life is best described by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes as “vanity and chasing after the wind,” an emptiness of a short life with no real reward other than the grave, how dare Jesus describe Himself as the Life.

What right does Jesus have to say such an exclusive thing?  He was a Man, He lived a human life, and even died like every other human does.  Perhaps He was especially endowed – but then weren’t Buddha and others religious leaders?  All the other religions’ prophets lived and also died just like Him.  Others claimed godly connections – why is Jesus not just one choice among many?

But there are some important distinctions which Jesus has which makes His story very unique.  Perhaps we should begin by asking why this text appears in the middle of the Easter season.  What was the purpose of Jesus spending forty days of the Easter season with His disciples?

Likely it was on the one hand to help the disciples put two and two together in regard to His life, death, and resurrection.  However, many point out that the idea of resurrection is not uncommon to other religions; even ancient ones had their myths about gods dying and rising again.  So what do you think would be Jesus’ point about hanging around until the Ascension?  St Paul indicates that there was another most important reason in I Corinthians 15[:3-8]:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.  After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.  Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

Paul identifies something so unique about Easter for which no other religion comes close.  He identifies that the Cross to the Resurrection were not once-upon-a-time myths, but rather they occurred within an historical envelope, at a definite time in world history, at a specific place which can be located, and with a hefty amount of witnesses which could be, in fact, were hauled into court to bear witness to the fact that Jesus lives, because they had seen Him with their own eyes, had touched Him with their own hands [Luke 24:36-43; I John 1:1-4], and had spent the rest of their lives braving torture and death without changing their story.

That was one thing which converted to Christianity Chuck Colson, who had gone to jail in the Watergate scandal:

I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it.  Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison.  They would not have endured that if it weren’t true.  Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks.  You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years?  Absolutely impossible.

The historical context is reinforced when the Old Testament prophesies are examined.  Jesus did not appear suddenly on the stage.  Right from the beginning, some 4,000 years earlier, a string of prophesies, rituals, festivals, types, patterns, and traditions were not merely preparation for Jesus’ coming, but validation of Him, essential tidbits which defined everything about  Him: His birth, life, purpose, activity, death and resurrection.

Most people do not realize how forceful the prophecies are in defining Jesus as unique among all religious leaders – there is no other religion which has made prophecies up to thousands of years in advance and has fulfilled them all, even where His greatest victory would be His defeat in death and then would, contrary to all experience, actually rise from the dead.

It is also in those prophecies where we discover that this Man has another uniqueness: He is also fully God in the same Person.  Yes, He is a Man Who has participated in the full range of human life and experience, yet He is also God the Son, God totally involved in all those experiences, even to the point of death and rising from the dead.

This is not from the remote safety of myth which can paint idealistic pictures but instead from witnessing observers who could describe the tears at the tomb of Lazarus, the weariness at the well in Sychar in Samaria, the touch for ostracized lepers, the drops of bloody sweat in Gethsemane, the nails in the hand and feet at Golgotha, along with the catcalls and the mocking of the onlookers.
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Another difference is why this all happened.  It was not for self-advancement, it was not for the admiration from other humans, not was it for raising an impossible standard which others could only wish they could follow.  Instead it was because of deep and committed love from God for a humanity which had gotten itself into such a hole from which they had no escape, to give them a clear and simple solution based upon His own mercy, grace, and forgiveness..

The moment that Adam and Eve rebelled and desired a different way than what the Creator had designed just for them, a terrible spiritual chasm was torn between God and humans.  The depth of that chasm began revealing itself, as jealousy, hatred, murder, self-centeredness, self-pity, and more surfaced immediately afterwards.  Then as page after page in the history of mankind was written, the darkness of their heart became more and more evident.  Even now they really want nothing to do with Him, except for when they think He might be usable, or when the need is so desperate they expect He should owe them help.  Just think of the audacity of that expectation.

Ironically, God does enter into human life to help, but not merely for this problem or that crisis.  He knows that the solution does not lie in fixing spot emergencies; He must deal with the turmoil at its source by bridging the great chasm and inviting humans to rejoin Him.  On a good day, the distance across that abyss may of course seem to be not so far but it is only a trick of illusion, as when on a very clear day mountains seem closer.  The reality is that the rebellion at the bottom of the chasm is far too strong to be overcome that easily.

Perhaps the better way of saying it is that the way between man and God is not one of distance, but of holiness. “You must be holy as the Lord your God is holy,” we find in the Old Testament Law; “You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus repeated.  It is not a relative holiness – in other words, whether you are more holy than 55% of the other people here –; this is an absolute holiness – you must have the same holiness, the same goodness, the same lack of evil, the same kind of love, the same everything which God has.

It is a situation impossible for us to overcome, even we who count ourselves as believers.  What is needed is One Who can straddle the gap and become the Bridge Which can take people from the land of rebellion and bring them back to God.  And of course only Jesus fills that requirement, being both Man and God.  That’s why Jesus identities Himself not as of having a way but of being the only Way to God.  Anything else will not be enough.

Therefore Jesus then is the Truth – this doesn’t mean that Jesus, for instance, doesn’t merely open up the Bible and then point out “now here’s a truth, there’s a truth.”  Rather, it will be that one day all the truths of the philosopher, the scientist, the medical doctor, the society will all be blown away.  They will exist no more.  Only ONE Truth remains, Jesus Himself, the only Thing which matters not just for this world, but also for all eternity.

HE will be all Truth forever: in His Person is all Godhood AND all manhood.  HE is the everlasting definition of God’s Love for you and me, Who has taken upon HIMSELF the very judgment He pronounced against the rebellion of mankind, without modifying or reducing that punishment in even the slightest degree.  Where else do you have any god who did not HAVE to come in person, yet who did not send anyone else?  What other god would deliberately experience the worst heartbreak any person can have, as the Father watched His own Son die?

As Jesus declared to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” so also here:  If you will have Life, then you must have Jesus.  If Jesus is to give you Life, then He must give you Himself.  If Jesus is to give you Resurrection, then you must entrust yourself to Him alone.  You cannot have Life nor Resurrection in any other way, because these are not things which He brings, but rather what He IS.   All of the eternal relationship with God is wrapped up in Jesus and only in Him can we participate in this eternity.

For those who repent of their rebellion and are willing to place themselves into the hands of “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” the Epistle for today  [I Peter 2:2-10] has some wonderful and powerful words of strength, comfort, and hope, particularly in the final verses:

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own People, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were no people but now you are God’s People; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.

We who hold tightly to the message and the power of the Resurrection of Jesus are indeed privileged to participate in all which Jesus now holds before us as He shares “the Life, the Truth, and the Way,” with each of us at His Table.  It is with joy that we exult in the wonderful gift this Resurrected Lord is delighted to share with us.

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