Saturday 19 December 2020

         John 14.  V1/6

Last week, as we approach Christmas, I wrote about the ,mother of the One who Christmas is meant to be what we celebrate. This week, think of the baby Mary bore, Jesus Christ.

In what has become a largely heathen country, there will be many who may ask, who was Jesus, what would you answer?  I would say you should be asking me who Jesus IS?, for he is not dead. As a hymn states,

              I serve a risen Saviour, He's in the world today
                I  know that He is living, whatever men may say
                I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer
                And just the time I need Him He's always near

               He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
               He walks with me and talks with me
              Along life's narrow way
              He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!
              You ask me how I know He lives?
              He lives within my heart
                                        (Words by Alan Jackson)


Jesus was born over 2000 years ago and his name  has never been forgotten or overlooked; Kings, Queens and Emperors have been and gone forever, but Jesus lives on in the hearts and minds of millions of men and women all over the globe.  He continues to save lives these days.

Let us consider the three main stages of his life.

He was born in a squalid inn at Bethlehem, then a small Jewish village, but his family were forced to move to Nazareth when he was young. and he became known as Jesus the Nazarene.  The story of his birth is told in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, and was unique and truly God given, when Mary was told by an angel she would be the mother of the world’s Saviour by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.  The conception and humble circumstances of his birth were fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies for the purpose of God.

We know little of his life until he started ministry, other than he worked in his step-father’s carpentry business (David). When he was twelve years old he was teaching in a Temple in Jerusalem, but his ministry began fully when he was baptized by John the Baptist, after which he faced evil temptations in the wilderness rejecting all put to him by the evil one.  He chose twelve men who became his Apostles and who lived and served with Jesus for the three years of that ministry.

Moving on to his life’s work, he performed all God had called for him to do, travelling preaching and healing many people who saw him make the blind see, the deaf hear, lepers were cured and the dead restored to life.

He preached that the Kingdom of God was coming when men would see the need for righteousness, and sought to free people from sinning. He taught that whilst much was offered for the future, God was still acting then. Many thought he was a prophet and ruler for Israel who would establish the nation as a strong power.  Some recognized the relationship with God and gave their lives to him.

The third stage covers his journey to the Cross to be crucified as a common criminal after being convicted in a fake trial with false witnesses.

On his journey he met his Apostles in what is known as the Upper Room for the ‘Last Supper’ with them, which we remember when we celebrate the service of Holy Communion in our Churches. Whilst there he told them he was going to leave them, which left them devastated, for their lives were lived around him. He called them his ‘little children’, like a father would do if leaving the family for a period.

During that meal, Judas one of his disciples, slipped away to collaborate with the enemies of Jesus and betray him.

Jesus called on them to love one another, a fundamental principle of our faith, yet we find some awful failings to obey that command. He was calling on them to stay together and be faithful to each other, something all Christians should show as an example to the world.  So often Christians are seen to be fighting with each other, due to some following a false line of teaching and not obeying Scripture, when they should be seen as a happy family.  This is a complete turn off to people who do not normally attend Church.

He told  them to ‘love one another’, He meant we should get along with each other.  We are not talking of physical love or even sentimental feelings, but rather fellowship, compassion, tolerance and loyalty.  We are not called upon to ‘like’ everybody, indeed, there are people in the Church you just couldn’t possibly like, they are so unlikeable. 

If we are true to our faith, we can’t be at odds with each other, yet we find people walking out of Church if they can’t get their own way, or are not given the deference they feel due to them.  We should be able to resolve any issue calmly and amicably.

When non-Church people see Christians as a mixed gathering of different ages, different sexes, different backgrounds, getting on and being happy together, they will be inspired by us and respond, but if they see us as an arguing fractious lot, falling out all the time, they will justly say ‘look at those hypocritical Christians.’  .

Jesus was speaking to His disciples, teaching and giving guidance, and that same teaching is passed down for the benefit of all Christians throughout the ages.

Jesus said, ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’.  The heart is the seat of all our emotions and when that is upset it affects thoughts and actions and causes personal disturbance. Jesus wanted to reassure them He was not forsaking them. He calls for trust in Himself as well as in God.   Since we are also disciples of Jesus, we can rightly include ourselves in words like this, we must ask ourselves, "Is it wrong for Christians to be troubled like this? Are we expected never to succumb to moments of pressure, or to feel anxious and worried? Are we supposed to be cheerful and confident all the time?" Many Christians think this is what this verse means. But they forget that Jesus himself was not immune to this kind of reaction to pressure.

Thus, it is clear that we may expect to feel troubled at times. Christians are exposed to pressure and danger. We have the record of the epistles to confirm this. The apostles went through times of great peril, during which they feared and trembled.

He told them they were to believe in Him, as well as God. Most people believe in God, but have less thought for Jesus.  He was putting Himself alongside God and wanted them to trust Him and maintain a personal relationship.

He said there were many rooms in His Father’s house, meaning heaven, and He was going to prepare a place for them.  This meant there was the prospect of living for ever with Him there.

When Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for them, this was referring to the fact He was going to the Cross to die for the forgiveness of sins for all people, and by that one death He was making it possible for them, and for all who through the ages would turn and accept him as Saviour to be forgiven of all sin.

This passage is widely quoted in funeral services when people       assume that everyone is automatically going to heaven.  I have taken thousands of funerals over the years and there has never been doubt in anyone’s mind that the deceased is going to heaven irrespective of the life led, or never even thought of Jesus.  Nowhere in the Bible is this view upheld.  Jesus was very clear in His teaching that it certainly was not so. In parable after parable He spoke of two roads, of sheep and goats, of tares and wheat, of heaven and hell. Of people who accepted him, and those who did not, so determining their future eternal life.

Whilst it may be comforting to believe that we can all get to heaven regardless of one’s beliefs, and we like to please our fellow men and women, it is quite cruel to mislead if it is not true.  It is like telling a blind person standing on the sidewalk of a major road it is safe for him to cross when ready.  If we say to someone who has no Church commitment, has only a tenuous belief in Jesus Christ, never reads a Bible or prays, that they are going to Heaven we are deliberately misleading them

     In this passage before us He is talking to His followers, people who have made a personal commitment to accept Him as Saviour.  This is why it is so important for each person to make his/her own decision whether to follow Jesus in His teaching, commands and demands He makes on us.

If you suggested to many people that by their life and non-belief they could not consider themselves as true Christians, they would be mortally offended if you suggested otherwise. Very few people seem bothered to think of Jesus, even less to do anything about it.

It is easy to say I am a Christian, easy to say I read the Bible. 95% of the population today believe as long as you are honest, kind and helpful to others and do no harm, you are a fully-fledged Christian. Jesus speaks firmly and rather profoundly when He says not all who think they are to enter the Kingdom of heaven will in fact do so.

If you want to go to stay at a hotel in some foreign country, you invariably go to a travel agent who arranges everything for you, and when you arrive at the hotel, they have a reservation waiting. You cannot just turn up because you think you are entitled to stay there without some preparation.

In v 4/5Jesus suggests that they know the way to the place where he was going.  When Jesus said this, Thomas asked Him how they could know when they didn’t know the way.  This brought forth from Jesus that profound immortal statement, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’

In verse 6 Jesus makes a profound statement which goes to the heart of Christian faith and belief. He states He is the only way to God. This is not generally liked, as it is seen as being too restrictive, too bigoted and intolerant, and to be judgmental is not liked.  Consequently, some clergy will not quote it, whilst others just will not accept it.  Frankly, I think if any man/woman does not accept this verse, then they should not be allowed to preach, for they are betraying the Lord who said it, and the Church which they serve.

Jesus warns us that there must be a clear acceptance of His teaching and total obedience to it.  Just to recite a creed and attend Church is not enough. We honour Jesus by calling Him Lord and sing hymns expressive of our devotion to Him.  The lips that sing His praise should never be the lips that challenge Holy Scripture. 

God is present in Jesus as part of the human scene. God wants to bless all people and save them, but God’s salvation brings judgement and all will one day face this for God has appointed Jesus to be the judge.  He warns those who do not do his will face the possibility of eternal loss.

The temptation for us, as Christians, is to say what makes us popular.  Too many preachers have forgotten about being authentic; about being true to the Gospel we have been entrusted with by our Lord; to be true to our values, and to proclaim them without embarrassment and fear. 

The Bible tells us we must contend for the faith once given to Christians.  The faith once given means the faith that which was given by the Apostles, who had been taught by Jesus and which was blessed by God, when the Church was first established.  Let this be the faith we adopt,  and believe and not that now being re-interpreted to suit modern culture.  Our faith is not something someone made up, it is historical and spiritual fact.

May God bless His Word to us and enable us to give our service to Him.

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus

He came to love, heal and forgive

He lived and died to buy my pardon

An empty grave is there to prove my saviour lives


Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Because He lives, all fear is gone

Because I know He holds the future

And life is worth the living, just because He lives


(Words by Kristin Chenoworth) 


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