Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)
We live in a time when people proclaim that there are many paths to heaven. For some people the only acceptable explanation of death and the after life is one that is an all inclusive possibility. Based on his own words, it is impossible to follow the teachings of Jesus to the fullest human degree possible and not discount the idea of an all-paths-lead-to-heaven belief system.
Jesus boldly and plainly declared that he was the only way to heaven. Why? Because he is the path to God. He is the connection point. He is the intermediary, the advocate, the sacrifice, and the King. We are coheirs with Christ only because he was first an heir of all that God has in store for us.
There is no secret spell. No hidden agenda. No duplicitous schemes in the story of Jesus. He lived perfect. He died meaningfully. He rose again assuredly. For you, and for me. That he might be the way, the truth, and the life for all that would seek after a way to the Father.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35 ESV)
Historians attribute the rapid spread of Christianity to the fiercely unrelenting kindness the early church demonstrated in the face of great odds. Another way to say that is that Christianity spread far and fast because of how well they demonstrated love. Because true love is relentless.
Jesus explained to his followers that love would be the identifying characteristic of followship. His people were to be a people of love. They were to be set apart from the world around them.
Why then does that not always seem to be the case in our world? Sometimes people who call themselves Christians can be the meanest people around. That stands in stark contrast to the words of Jesus.
The call to love is more than a suggestion. It isn’t pop psychology either. It is a commandment straight from the mouth of the Son of God. It isn’t optional. We don’t get to choose who we will or won’t love. We are called, no commanded, to love. It’s time we stepped it up.
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV)
The will is a powerful thing. There are moments in life when strength is diminished, opportunity is dwindling, or resources are exhausted. In those moments it seems as though will alone is what can carry you through to completion. Unfortunately we all too often focus our will on something selfish. We spend ourselves on something that is less than that which God intended for us.
Jesus knew what weighed in the balance. As he cried out to God the Father from the garden that night long ago he expressed his desire to be spared a terrible ordeal. Yet, he also communicated his truthful yearning to see God’s will through to the intended result.
It took the will of the Son to bring about the will of the Father. And I really believe that there are moments and opportunities in life where God allows us to experience what it means to partner our will with His will. I think there are things God intends to happen in our lives that can be hastened along when we take our will and subject it to His. Sometimes our most powerful prayer is, “not as I will, but as You will.”
Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” (Matthew 26:33 ESV)
I really like Peter a lot. Mostly it is because I feel like I understand him. He made a lot of mistakes but seemed to genuinely want to do the right thing almost all of the time.
When Jesus was telling his disciples that they were all about to abandon him Peter piped up to claim that he would never waiver in his loyalty. It was a wonderful sentiment. It was a wholesale rejection of the kind of apparent peer pressure we are usually conditioned against. Too bad it didn’t okay out that way.
Peter did scatter with the rest. He even went so far as to betray Christ by denying his standing as a disciple. It was a tragic moment for Peter. Thank God his story didn’t end there! Peter was so sorrowful and repentant after his betrayal. Ultimately he was forgiven. And eventually he went on to lead the church. What could have been a tragic end became a hopeful beginning.
And Jesus offers each of us that same beginning. We all like to think we are above betrayal. We talk really big. But we have our moments. We aren’t perfect. And we need the loving grace of God Almighty to restore us, encourage us, and point us in the right direction.
They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19 ESV)
Jesus had forewarned his disciples of his approaching trials and death multiple times. They never quite seemed to understand what he was referring to. But when he made the announcement that he would be betrayed they all perked up. They were all concerned it would be them.
Their response reveals a common idea. It is something I have noticed a lot over the years, and have struggled with myself at times. We are afraid of letting God down. We are woefully uncomfortable with the possibility of our own inadequacy. That’s not a bad thing.
Still, the truth is that we really are incapable of doing it on our own. We do fail. We do let God down when we choose to sin. And that is a betrayal of all that He is and does for us.
That sounds pretty harsh doesn’t it?
The good news, The Gospel actually, is that in spite of our failings, conformities, and bad decisions—our betrayals are the whole reason why Jesus died. It is our sin that His death overcomes. Yes, we may fall short of the hope God has for us, but he is big enough and good enough to make up the difference.
Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27 ESV)
Over the centuries there have been a lot of questions surrounding Judas. I feel pretty unqualified to answer them. I am a firm believer in just letting the Word speak for itself on those issues that can be all too easily confused.
Jesus knew Judas would betray him. He called him out about it ina. Very subtle and private manner. He told Judas to do what he was going to do. He told him to do it quickly.
It makes me wonder if Jesus ever looks at you or I and (fully knowing our future) hopes that we will hurry through a particularly troubling season. Maybe he sees a mistake we will knowingly choose to make, but he also knows that we will choose to be reconciled after that mistake.
You see, Judas and Peter both betrayed Jesus. Judas plotted and schemed for money, but Peter denied his connection to Jesus outright. Both were wrong. The difference is in how they chose to respond. Peter sought correction and redemption through forgiveness, yet Judas chose painful rejection without reconciliation.
I don’t believe Jesus wants any of us to knowingly sin, but he also knows just how imperfect we all can be. What if he is less concerned with slow punishment, and more attracted to quick redemption?
But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. (Luke 22:26 ESV)
One of the biggest flaws I fall into sometimes is thinking I am more awesome than I actually am. I just have a natural tendency to think quite a lot of myself. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it is rooted in pride. And it pushes me toward selfishness rather than selflessness.
In the Upper Room Jesus stressed the importance of selflessness to his disciples. He knew that once he was no longer there to physically walk them through every step those guys were going to need to be selfless. The spread of Christianity would count on their willingness to put the message, and the hope it brings, ahead of their own selfish tendencies.
The youngest among Jesus’ disciples was a guy named John. Some theologians believe John was only about 17-20 when he travelled with The Lord. And the Jewish culture of that era was not always one that esteemed the opinions of younger generations. Still, Jesus thought it pertinent to compare leading and serving to becoming like a young man.
The authority of leadership is not inherent in a position, it is a gift from the Father. Position is not had to garner esteem, but it is brandished to enable selfless acts of servanthood. For a wise old leader to be effective, he would have to humble himself, and realizing the source for all he has and does, he must become as the youngest.