5th Sunday of Easter – A LSB #’s 908, 715, 741:1, 3, 8
Text – John 14:5-6
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, & the truth, & the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
KNOWING THE WAY
A plane is on its way to Houston when a blonde in Economy Class gets up, moves to First Class & sits down. The flight attendant watches her do this & asks to see her ticket. She then tells the blonde that she paid for Economy & so she’ll have to sit in the back. The blonde replies, “I’m blonde. I’m beautiful. I’m going to Houston, & I’m staying right here!”
The flight attendant goes into the cockpit & tells the pilot & copilot that there’s a blonde sitting in First Class, who belongs in Economy, & will not move back to her seat. So the copilot speaks to the blonde & tells her that because she only paid for Economy she’ll have to return to her proper seat.
But she again replies, “I’m blonde. I’m beautiful. I’m going to Houston, & I’m staying right here!” The copilot tells the pilot that he should probably have the police waiting when they land to arrest this woman because she won’t listen to reason. The pilot responds, “You say she’s blonde? I’ll handle this. I’m married to a blonde. I speak their language!”
He goes back to First Class, whispers in the blonde’s ear, & she says, “Oh, I’m sorry!” gets up, & moves back to her seat in the Economy section. The flight attendant & copilot are amazed & they ask him what he said to make her move without any fuss. “I just told her that First Class is not going to Houston.”
Apparently the blonde didn’t really know the way to where she was going, because she was so easily fooled. But then, that’s the point of blonde jokes, to make fun of how gullible & easily deceived each of us can be under the right circumstances. You see, blonde jokes aren’t just about people with blonde hair, & today’s Gospel reading isn’t just about disciples named Thomas or Philip. Do you know the Way to where you’re going?
Some people believe that going to church every Sunday is the way to heaven. Some people believe that living a good life is the way to heaven. Some believe that all the different religions are simply different ways to the same heaven. All three of those beliefs are examples of human wisdom. Are any of them the true Way to heaven?
Men have been stereotyped for refusing to ask the way even when they know they’re lost. Few women would ever admit having filled the role of the blonde in a joke. And not one of us likes to believe that we are the fool.
But the Apostle Paul warns us about human opinion as he assures us that even the wisdom of this world is nothing more than foolishness in God’s sight. All the PhD’s in the history of mankind would not add up to the lack of intelligence demonstrated in one blonde joke, in comparison to God.
So let me give you a bit of context for today’s Gospel lesson. The setting is the Upper Room the night before Jesus is crucified. It’s Maundy Thursday. Judas has already left in order to commit his act of betrayal, & Jesus has been telling the remaining 11 that He is about to leave them, going where they cannot follow for now.
Peter, in his normal impetuous way, asks, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answers, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows you will disown me three times!” How easily Peter fooled himself into thinking he knew the way.
“I will lay down my life for you.” Such bold words, spoken with such human confidence; it’s easy to smile at them, kind of like “I’m blonde. I’m beautiful. I’m going to Houston, & I’m staying right here!” Yet, if all of us know the Way to heaven so well, how come the detour is so often the road we end up finding ourselves on? Like the little boy & girl that so cutely sang, “Jesus loves me,” who end up living together prior to marriage, because human reason tells them it makes sense.
What about the detour children end up on after they’ve been baptized, but then are not brought to God’s house on a regular basis for training & instruction? Here’s a summary of the vows taken by the parents & sponsors before God. We promise to:
“Remember this child in our prayers, remind this child of its Baptism, give our counsel that this child be brought up in the true knowledge & worship of God, be taught the 10 Commandments, the Creed, & the Lord’s Prayer, that as this child grows in years, we will place into this child’s hand the Holy Scriptures, bring this child to the services of God’s house, & provide for further instruction in the Christian faith.” Know any children on a detour?
How many adults have ended up on a detour from the vows they made at confirmation? “Do you intend faithfully to conform all of your life to the divine Word, to be faithful in the use of God’s Word & Sacraments, which are His means of grace, & in faith, word & action to remain true to God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, even to death?” PAUSE
One problem that other denominations have with Lutherans is that many of us seem to look at life as nothing more than a destination, where detours don’t matter. We forget that we’re on a journey as well; that the day-to-day actions of our lives do make a difference.
Baptism & Confirmation frequently end up as nothing more than excuses, so we can be about the business of the world rather than about the business of our Father who is in heaven. We believe we’re going there; Jesus has done it all for us, so we sleep during the journey: “I know the way. I’m baptized & confirmed. My spiritual life is all set.” That is the detour that many Lutherans end up on. Some are just plain lazy. Some live in fear of becoming confused, so they don’t want to think too much about spiritual things. Still others are just way overconfident & far too foolish. Have your actions ever said, “I’m Lutheran, I’m baptized & confirmed, I’m going to heaven, & I’m staying right here?”
“I don’t have to go to church & I don’t have to contribute money or my time in order to be a Christian. I don’t have to study God’s Word, teach it, or even speak about it with anyone. My faith is only between God & me.” All of those statements have truth in them, but sadly, what they’re missing is an appreciation of the love that God has for us.
People with that attitude, may speak the words, “Jesus loves me,” with their mouth, but they don’t feel them with their heart. They’re on a spiritual detour & have lost their way on this journey called life. They might even be on the road to death without knowing it.
The devil is working 24/7 to fool every one of us into making our own way to heaven, or nirvana. And if, like the blonde, you aren’t sure of the way, you will get sidetracked or deceived. Even lifelong Lutherans end up speaking as Philip did:
“Lord, show us the Father & it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him: “Have I been with you so long, & you still do not know me, Philip?” (John 14:8-9a ESV)
More of us should be humble enough to admit that we need direction, & are fully capable of filling the role of the blonde in many of those jokes. Ignorance is not a problem if we’re humble enough to admit it, but pride is because it prevents us from receiving the help that all of us need.
That’s the point of the Law; to show you how gullible & easily deceived each of us is regardless of the circumstances. There are many Christians being led astray, by things that seem harmless, because Satan is behind them, & he is not harmless. More of us should be like Thomas who wasn’t afraid to reveal his ignorance by his challenge to Jesus: “Lord, we don’t even know where You’re going, how can we know the way?” (John 14:5)
Jesus answers Thomas with His well-known reply: “I Am the Way & the Truth & the Life.” (John 14:6a ESV) Faith in Christ is not just knowing facts concerning Him; like that He died & rose again. Faith is also about knowing Jesus personally, because it’s not the information that is the Way. Jesus Himself is. And He is the only Way.
Hebrews states, “Therefore, due to the blood of Jesus we can now go boldly into the Most Holy Place by the new, living Way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, His Body.” By a miracle of God, His children participate in that Body of Christ at Holy Communion.
And as our Gospel reading begins, Jesus is telling His disciples that He’s leaving them in order to prepare a place for them in the many rooms of His Father’s mansion. Jesus prepared that place as He died on the cross. As His body hung there it became the Way to God’s presence. All of His children will pass through that body on the way to life everlasting.
That’s a difficult & very abstract concept to understand. As the sinful human beings that we are, we’re far too blonde to ever understand the dynamics of it. Yet, Abraham didn’t know the dynamics of the route through which God would lead him to the Promised Land, & still he followed God’s leading by faith in the Messiah.
Likewise, we don’t need to know the physical path, or the way, that God is taking us on. We only need trust in His Messiah, & follow. Jesus Himself has become the Way through His death, resurrection & ascension. As God’s children, we also follow that path of death, resurrection & ascension, a path or way that Jesus has already blazed before us.
From the journey of Abraham & Sarah, all the way across the centuries, to the journeys upon which you & I embark each day, Jesus is still the Way. It is faith in Christ alone that can behold the glory of our salvation at the death of God. In His suffering, death, resurrection & ascension the heavenly mansions of our Father are opened to the sinner. Sin had separated us from God’s house at the Garden of Eden. Jesus once again opens the Garden & He removes the barrier that has prevented us from entering.
Our failures to keep vows that we made at baptism, or confirmation, have been forgiven. The sin of people who live together without being married is forgiven. Attempting to make our own way to heaven is forgiven. Even our failure to appreciate the love Jesus has for us is forgiven. Knowing the way to heaven is no more complicated than knowing the Son of God.
“I will lay down my life for you.” Those were the bold words of Peter, & in the end he did lay down his life for his Lord. Tradition says he was crucified while hanging upside down. Finally, Peter did know the Way. It was through faith in that Way, in Christ Jesus, that the Holy Spirit worked, so that Peter would in reality lay down his life for his Savior.
What a powerful force it is to know the love of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He is a pilot who does speak our language, yet He won’t tell us lies in order to undo our sin. He will not take advantage of our blondeness in order to deceive or mislead us. In fact Jesus takes our ignorance, our suffering, & our sins upon Himself. Then He dies because of them.
Do you see it now? Blonde jokes aren’t just about people who have blonde hair, & today’s Gospel reading isn’t just about Philip or Thomas. They are both, very much, also about each one of us. Amen.
Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea; unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock & treacherous shoal. Chart & compass come from Thee. Jesus, Savior, pilot me. Amen. LSB 715:1.
P: Heavenly Father, we spend much of time on this earth struggling to find our way, whether that’s in school, marriage, careers, friendships, & certainly even in our spiritual lives. Our human wisdom, opinion, confidence & reason constantly get in the way of our relationship with You. Our eyes stray from the cross, & seek out the greener grass we see growing along the detours. Though You have promised us eternal life, grant that we may not take that gift for granted. Teach us to appreciate Your love for us, & through the power of Your love work through us to be Your willing & able servants. As fear & temptation come into our lives, reassure us that our Savior is the one, true & only way to the rooms You have prepared for each of us in Your heavenly mansion. Lord, in your mercy,
Pastor Dean R. Poellet