It's Not about How, but Who
“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:5-6).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Are you a “how” person or a “who” person?
Let me explain what I mean—especially for all you “how” persons, who are wondering how this all fits with today’s text.
It was remarkable, the way that Bill and Joanne each approached their surgery. Both were having the same operation: Knee replacement. But each of them approached it in a different way. Bill is a “how” person. He wanted to know all the details. He read up on the surgery and consulted with his physician. He investigated the manufacturer of the knee replacement parts, tuned into YouTube and watched videos of the procedure. He knew exactly how it was going to be done, how long it would probably take, what he was going to be doing for rehab, and what sort of pain he could expect; and that knowledge gave him some comfort, perhaps even a sense of control.
Joanne was different. She did not know the details of the operation. She is a “who” person. She simply knew her doctor. She trusted her to recommend a surgeon. What the doctor and the surgeon said was enough. Now, she simply waited in trust.
Obviously, when it comes to how you handle your health care, either approach may be appropriate. Some people want details, so they are well-informed. Others would rather not know and, instead, put their trust in their doctors. Either way is appropriate as we approach our health care. But what about when we approach our God?
In our Gospel reading, Jesus addresses His disciples who are facing the dawn of a “new normal.” Up to this time, they have always felt secure, assured, and unafraid because of Christ’s personal presence. They have been eyewitnesses when He has proved Himself before the people with mighty sermons and signs. As a result, they all had to respect Him. Even the chief priests and the elders had to be cautious because they worried that the whole nation might rise in revolt against them if they laid a hand on Jesus.
Therefore, the apostles went their way free of care and fear, trusting that Jesus could provide for them. Jesus’ authority and power had gained at least a grudging respect even from His enemies. They reasoned: “So long as the Son of Man lives, we have no cause for worry; for He can easily protect and preserve us.” It was this belief that makes Peter so bold as to volunteer and venture to go into death with Christ, even if all the other disciples would deny Him.
But now things have changed drastically. Jesus has just spoken of a frightening future, His betrayal, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ departure, and of troubled times head; so now His disciples reasonably have questions. Ask any teacher. It is always good to have someone in the class who is willing to ask the questions that everyone else has, but which they are afraid to ask. Peter and Thomas seem to often be filling that role when Jesus’ class is in session.
Peter asks, “Lord, where are You going.” Jesus replies in a way that is less than specific: “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow afterward” (John 13:36). Thomas wants to know “how.” He argues that, if they do not know where Jesus is going, and how they get there, they will never know the way (John 14:5). For these disciples, there is comfort in the details. Faced with a problematic future, they want more than promises. They want specifics. They want times and places. They would like a clear set of directions so they know how to navigate whatever might come.
Jesus, however, simply offers them a promise and His presence. His promise is He is working on their behalf. Without giving explicit details, He says He is preparing a place for them and promises to come back and take them to Himself. When pressed further, Jesus moves from this promise to His presence. He says to Thomas, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
This teaching is exclusive. Take away Jesus and there is no way to the Father. Take away Jesus and there is no saving truth. Take away Jesus and there is no spiritual life. What a contrast to the popular teaching that says all religions reach God, but just follow different paths. Jesus teaches us that there are no other paths. “No one comes to the Father except through [Jesus].” Anyone ever lost in a forest or wilderness knows that taking the wrong path makes a person even more hopelessly lost. So it is with the spiritually lost. Only one Way leads to safety, to salvation—Jesus. It’s not about how, but Who.
Jesus sees His disciples facing future uncertainty and responds not with details about dates and times and procedures to follow, but with His promise and His presence. It is not about “how” but Who. Jesus—He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The disciples may not know where they are going, but, as long as they are with Jesus, they know they are on the way. With His promises to comfort them and His presence to guide them, they can face the uncertain future. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says. “Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1).
Today, our Lord still invites you and me to live in trust.
Viral pandemics create uncertainty. We are not sure where we are in the timeline as the virus unfolds. We are not sure how we can recover from the suffering. With all sorts of conflicting opinions and competing authorities, we’re not sure whom we should be listening to. We’re not certain whether things are getting better or getting worse. We’re not sure of the right way to proceed. Do we hunker down in our bunkers and ride it out until an effective cure or treatment is found? Or do we work to get back to normal as soon as possible because the collateral damage from all of us staying at home seems to be worse than the effects of the virus for the vast majority of the population. The way forward is hard. We want some assurance of where we are going, how we will get there, and precisely what will happen along the way.
But, today, Jesus answers our prayers not with specific details. Instead, He calls you to a life of trust. It’s not about how, but Who. In the midst of a world that is perplexed, anxious, and confused, Jesus says: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).
Jesus doesn’t mock you in your worries, dismissing you and your fears. He doesn’t peddle phony comfort that has no basis in fact. He doesn’t simply give you a pep talk, as though if you just try a little harder to be brave and carefree, it will just happen. He knows that you cannot by your own reason or strength calm your fainting heart. Jesus, knowing the crisis in the hearts of His hearers says: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Then He delivers the solution to your troubles, the answer to your worries and fears, sorrows, temptation, and crises: “Believe in God, believe also in Me.” Just like in Genesis, that Word creates what it calls forth.
Jesus first says these words at the darkest moment to His followers who will suffer greatly. It’s the night of His betrayal, arrest, and trial. He gives them the antidote to despair: “Believe also in Me.” It’s not about how, but Who. And when it comes to Who, Jesus is very specific. He is the one to be trusted. He is the one to believe in. He is God, the God, our God. He explains precisely why we are to believe in Him. It’s not about how, but Who. It’s all about Jesus and what He is doing. All our teaching and faith must revolve about Christ and be centered in this one Person and His work of salvation.
First, He goes to prepare a place for you. It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? He had no place here! At His birth, He was laid in a feed trough. In His ministry, He had no place to lay His head. In His death, He was placed in a borrowed tomb. He was a stranger and alien here, a sojourner. He came from heaven to have no place here for a while, precisely to prepare a place for you in the Father’s house forever!
It’s not about how, but Who! The Lord of all the cosmos wants you to be with Him now and forever. He’s prepared the place for you. Not only will He come again at the end of our days to take you Himself as you live and trust in Him, but also now. He comes in His Word and in His body and blood to give you a place at the Father’s table even now.
Second, Jesus is, in the midst of these uncertain times, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. Here is light for your darkness, comfort in these gray and latter days, and assurance in the confusion that swirls around you. It’s not about how, but Who. Jesus. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. Whatever happens here and now, He is there with you, and will be always.
Third, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The general rule is that no one comes to the Father. We were, after all, conceived and born dead in our trespasses and sins. But thanks be to God that there is this blessed exception: “except through Me.” One path of escape is enough, and Jesus is it. It’s not about how, but Who. Jesus came for you, calls you to repent and believe, forgives you who cry out to Him for forgiveness, remains with you in death’s valley, conquers the Evil One, defeats death, and guarantees that you will rise again.
In His death and resurrection, Jesus has shown you the depth of His love. In His ascension into Heaven, He has shown you the breadth of His rule. While you may not know what is going to happen or how these things are going to happen, you do know Who is in control of it all. You do know you are in the hands of a God who loves you. Out of love Jesus came for you, died for you, rose for you, rules for you, and promises ultimately to return for you. His way is long enough that it leads through all suffering.
His truth is clear enough that it reveals whom to trust. His life is strong enough that it brings you to a new creation. With Jesus as your Way, your Truth, and your Life, you have enough. Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy. You are forgiven for all your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.