Sunday, May 18, 2014

Is Jesus the only way to God?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 14:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "And Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" John 14:6

I am glad that Thomas was as honest as he was in this vignette of Jesus interacting with His disciples. Jesus had just given them a glimpse of the afterlife: the Father's house, mansions (or rooms), "'I go to prepare a place for you...where I go you know and the way you know.'"

But we don't know where you're going, Thomas objected, so how can we know the way?

Jesus replied with one of the most pivotal statements in the Bible. What He said that day is more controversial now than it ever was.

He answered the HOW part of Thomas's question first: "I am the way, the truth and the life" and then the WHERE: "No one comes to the Father except through Me."

He was saying, your destination is God and the place He lives, and you'll only get there through Me.

He had said something similar before when He talked picturesquely of being the door and the only way into the sheepfold (John 10:1-10).

His disciples and the early church leaders understood Jesus' claims of being the only way to God. The writer of Hebrews interpreted Jesus' death in terms of how it satisfied God's sacrifice law requirement. In the temple a curtain or veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holiest room. Only a designated priest was allowed behind that curtain to make a yearly sacrifice for the people. Remember how that curtain ripped at the moment of Jesus' death (Matthew 27:50-51)?

 In Hebrews 10:19-20 the writer says the "new and living way" into the Holiest of Holies comes by the blood of Jesus "through the veil that is His flesh." His body was torn so we can each go directly to God with, as it were, Jesus' blood in a bowl proving to God that the penalty for our sin has been paid.

In Ephesians Paul told the Ephesus Christians then (and us today) that Jesus' death wasn't only for people living at the time, but also for the ones far off, i.e. those living before and after Christ ("for through Him we both [those who were afar off and those who were near - vs. 17] have access by one Spirit to the Father" - Ephesians 2:17-18).

In our culture it's much more comfortable to believe, with the masses, that there are as many ways to God as there are sincere seekers (religious pluralism). But that's not what Jesus said. Let's not compromise on His clear and beautiful message: "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me." Its urgency is underlined as we keep in mind the destination of those other ways: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it" - Matthew 7:13.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for being clear about You being the only way to God. Help me to be just as uncompromising as I face the religious pluralism in my culture. Amen.

MORE: More about the challenge of pluralism

"... for those willing to receive it, our current context can be a fruitful gift. Like Paul, we will no doubt discover that the obstacles often stand taller than we realized and the words we have to offer fall short. Our pluralistic world wants very little to do with a great many of the things we profess. It is therefore all the more vital that we live the apologetic we attempt to preach among the barrage of choices before our neighbors. While we cannot profess that following Christ will bring fortune or erase hardship, or that discipleship will come easily or without cost, we can portray the coherence of the Christian worldview, the primacy of Christ beside life's inescapable questions, and the hopeful reality of forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and new life." - Jill Carattini (excerpt from the article"Pluralism as privilege") - emphasis added.

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