The Way in a Manger
December 25, 2011 | Randy Smith
The Way In A MangerJohn 14:6
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Pastor Randy Smith
It was the perfect representation of our present society. Everybody was included. The carefully selected songs presented an equal distribution to every aspect of the holiday season. If you like a "Currier and Ives" Christmas, you enjoyed an evening sleigh ride through a grove of decorated pine trees cuddled up with your sweetheart under a warm blanket. If you celebrate Hanukkah, you were able to reminisce about the deep-seated traditions that emphasize community, friendship and peace. If Kwanzaa is your thing, you were entertained with some toe-tapping hip musical arrangements that made it tough to stay uninvolved. No doubt the songs about Santa brought a smile to many of the children's faces. The jolly bearded man in the red suit is preparing his sled filling it with a boatload of presents for all the good little boys and girls. And also included in the public school holiday musical lineup are a couple songs (mostly instrumental) about a baby named Jesus that was born thousands of years ago.
Take your pick! Which one works for you this holiday season? I'm sure to most of the people present that evening at the "holiday concert," the option about Jesus seemed the most impractical - cute, traditional, but completely out of touch with our society. How can a Jewish baby from another time and world possibly have any benefit for me today? That thought has echoed throughout the corridors of time going all the way back to the beginning.
There was Mary and Joseph traveling across the desert to register in a town called Bethlehem. As far as economic status, they were poor. As far as political status, they were nobodies from the nobody town of Nazareth. As far as moral status, they were unmarried and pregnant with Child.
And when it came time for this baby to be born there was no apparent fanfare. His first breaths were taken from a manger in an old stable. His first outfit was some cloths that happened to be available. And his first audience was a few despised and dirty shepherds. If anyone happened to notice Him that evening, I would assume their comments were filled will derision, mockery and scorn. How can a baby, especially a baby from a background like this, possibly have benefit for me today?
No room in the inn for you, Jesus! No room in our holiday celebrations for you, Jesus! No room in my heart for you, Jesus! Case closed!
Unfortunately, I should say fortunately, it isn't that simple. We are not permitted to dismiss Jesus that easily.
I am not aware of any other births that were predicted thousands of years in advance or any other births that were attended with a multitude of heavenly angels. I am not aware of any other lives that have performed so many miracles, have had such a dominant authority over disease, demons, death and nature and have attracted as many followers. I am not aware of any other religious figures that came for the expressed purpose of dying for the sins of humanity and then validating that accomplishment by rising victoriously from the grave. I am not aware of any credible leader who could claim equality with God, accept worship and make bold statements to support His exclusive status. Perhaps the most controversial is John 14:6 - not my words, but Jesus' words from the Bible: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
We cannot ignore those words. Either Jesus is dismissed as a liar or a lunatic, or He is accepted as the Lord and Savior of this world regardless of how dogmatic, intolerant and politically incorrect our society deems these words to be. So Jesus Christ is not one option among many. According to His claims He is the only option. And if He is who He says He is, the token worship at Christmastime about a cute baby in a manger is not enough. Jesus did not and will not permit it.
Let's look at those words from John 14:6 this Christmas morning and affirm the real reason for the season and the primary purpose of Jesus' arrival. Let's see why the One born that first Christmas morning could make such a bold and apparently insensitive claim. Our pluralistic world likes to think of Jesus as, "A way in a manger." However the Bible presents Jesus as, "The way in a manger."
John 14:6 again, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
1. WHAT DID JESUS SAY?
I am the Way
First, Jesus called Himself "the way."
The way to what? The context from the prior verses makes the answer clear. Beginning in verse 1 of John chapter 14: Jesus said, "'Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.' Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way…'" Clearly, Jesus made this statement in reference to going to heaven and spending eternity with Him. "I am the way." Did you catch that? With four simple words, Jesus invalidated all other means as viable options for heaven. Many can and have claimed to be "a way." Only One can logically claim to be "the way" like Jesus did.
And the Truth
In addition to being the way, Jesus also said He is the truth.
Almost on a daily basis my oldest daughter shares with me the conversations she has with others on the school bus. She mentions the resistance she receives when she attempts to tell others about Jesus and His teachings. The responses are exactly what our society has sought to produce with this generation. "That's great for you, but my way of thinking is better." Even though there is no logical basis for their way of thinking, modern culture fights to the death to validate humanism. "Whatever I want to believe is truth!" Truth is subjected to personal feelings. Everything is relative. There are no absolutes! However, Jesus did not permit this. He clearly said in verse 6, "[I am] the truth." He is the litmus test for truth. Therefore anything that contradicts His teaching is falsehood.
And the Life
He is the way, He is the truth and finally, He is the life. The Bible declares that Jesus is Creator so He is the giver of life in the physical sense. Colossians 1:16, "For by Him all things were created… all things have been created through Him and for Him." But the Bible also declares that Jesus is the Redeemer, making Him the giver of life in the spiritual sense as well. 1 Corinthians 15:22, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive."
You see my friends; we are sinners who have violated the laws of a holy God. What we need more than anything else is to be reconciled to God. We need forgiveness. We need a Savior. This is the purpose for which Jesus came. Matthew 1:21, "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." The very baby born in Bethlehem, Immanuel - God who took on humanity - lived the perfect life and went to the cross as a substitute for sinners. He died in our place. 1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God." And we receive this wonderful gift of forgiveness and new life simply on the basis of faith in the Person of Christ and the work He accomplished on the cross. John 1:12, "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."
And part of coming to Jesus Christ is receiving a new life. Jesus called it being "born again" (Jn. 3:3, 7). Not moral reformation but total transformation. Jesus gives His people a new heart, a heart that now beats after Him, a heart that is now able to enjoy life at its fullest. A life that was once in darkness has been given light. A life that was once destined for hell has been given the promise of heaven. A life that was once enslaved to sin has been given freedom. Only Jesus can do that and that is the claim that He made when He said, "[I am] the life" (cf. Jn. 10:28; 17:2).
The way and the truth and the life! In light of its irony, Leon Morris said, "'I am the Way,' said the One who would shortly hang impotent on a cross. 'I am the Truth,' when the lies of evil men were about to enjoy a spectacular triumph. 'I am the Life,' when within a few hours His corpse would be placed in a tomb" (Morris, John, p. 641). In light of its clarity, D.A. Carson said, "Jesus is the way to God, precisely because He is the truth of God and the life of God… Only because He is the truth and life can Jesus be the way for others to come to God" (Carson, John, p. 491). In light of its profundity, Ray Stedman said, "Notice He did not say, 'I show the way, I teach the truth, I give life… Other religious leaders fit into those categories… When you come to [Jesus] you are meeting God; you have found ultimate reality and truth. When you come to [Jesus] you then and there possess life" (Stedman, The Cure for Heart Trouble, John 14:1-14). In light of its beauty, Thomas a Kempis said, "Thou art the way, the truth and the life. Without the way, there is no going. Without the truth, there is no knowing. Without the life, there is no living" (Leadership, v. 5, n. 1).
No one comes to the Father but through Me
And it is because of His declaration to be the way, the truth and the life that Jesus now makes the only logical conclusion in the second half of verse 6 that "no one comes to the Father but through Me."
In a moment I'll explain why Jesus can make this bold statement, but for now, agree or disagree, I want to make sure you understand what Jesus just said. When Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father but through Me," He just invalidated every other world religion. He just asserted that the only road to heaven must go through Him. He just declared that those who reject Him lose all hope of ever being saved. And He just affirmed that all who receive Him must not accept the current truth that there is one God and many acceptable ways to get to Him.
We must admit that the words of Jesus Christ in John 14:6 are clear. There is no mistaking what He said. But we must also admit that they appear intolerant, unfair and perhaps outright offensive. They chafe with contemporary culture that insists that all opinions must not only be tolerated, but also accepted. So how can Jesus make these exclusive claims? Allow me to provide four answers to that question.
2. HOW COULD JESUS SAY THAT?
Because the Bible says it!
First of all, we know the words of Jesus Christ are true because they are found in the Bible. Some say that this is circular reasoning, but if it is not given to us in written form how would we know? Would there be any source with greater authority? Others say the Bible has errors, but I like to challenge people who claim the Bible has errors to point some of those errors out to me. The Bible claims to be the Word of God. God is without error. The Book He has chosen to inspire is without error too.
You see, if this book has mistakes, how will I know what to believe? When I read the Bible, I will now have to stand in authority over the Bible to determine what is true. And in doing so, I will no longer accept God's revelation about Himself, but I will create a god according to my own desires based on which verses I choose to accept.
If John 14:6 is not true, that makes Jesus at best, deceived, at worst, a liar. And if either of these is true, He no longer qualifies to be the Savior of the world. What else was He wrong about? Can I really trust Him? Can He really be my Lord if I approach all His teaching with suspicion? What is then the purpose of following Him at all?
You see, my friends, it is also not just John 14:6. The same theme of salvation in Christ alone is throughout the Bible! Here are just a few. John 3:36, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Acts 4:12, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." 1 John 5:12-13, "He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."
Because Jesus is God!
Second, Jesus is the only way to God, because He Himself is God. Opposite of every other viable religious figure, only Jesus Christ claimed to be God Himself. No other viable religious figure claimed to be God, but Jesus did. He said, "I and the Father are one" (Jn. 10:31). "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am" (Jn. 8:58). "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (Jn. 14:9).
Being a follower of Jesus Christ means following Him as He presented Himself to us in Scripture. And an uncompromising doctrine is to believe that He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Scripture teaches us that the little baby born in Bethlehem was indeed God in the flesh. We read in Matthew 1:23, "'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us.'"
Therefore, since Jesus is God, shouldn't we take His claims seriously? As God is He not the One who has the authority to make these claims? As God is He not the One who has the power to deliver on these claims?
Because only Jesus died for sin!
A third reason we know that Jesus is the only way to God is because only Jesus died for sin. God is perfectly holy. He will not permit sin in His presence. We are sinners. If there is any hope to enter heaven, something must be done to remove our sin. Muhammad did nothing to remove sin. Buddha did nothing to remove sin. The stars and trees do nothing to remove sin. Yet when Jesus entered the scene He was immediately introduced by John the Baptist as, "The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (Jn. 1:29). This glorious fact is the overarching theme of the Bible. It's a love story of redemption. And the great story will live on throughout eternity. In the final book we read about the never-ending activity in heaven: "And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation'" (Rev. 5:9).
Nobody will be in heaven because they helped old ladies across the street or they were weaned in a spiritual family or were devoted to their church or they slipped St. Peter $20 at the Pearly Gates. Heaven is reserved exclusively for those who have their sins forgiven, washed in the blood of Jesus. Only Jesus did that! And think about it this way, if access to heaven could be attained any other way why did God send His only Son to suffer and die on the cross? Such an act would have been unnecessary (Gal. 2:21)!
Because only Jesus rose from the dead!
So Jesus is the only way to the Father because it is taught in the Bible, because Jesus is God, because only Jesus died for sin and finally because only Jesus conquered death through the Resurrection.
The Resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity and without it the great claims of Jesus Christ crumble. For it is one thing for Jesus to make these claims, it is quite another for Him to validate the claims by proving His victory over death, Satan and sin through the resurrection. It is one thing for God the Son to say His death reconciles sinners with God the Father, but it another for the Father to show His approval by raising the Son and seating the Son at His right hand. Every other religious figure died and is still in the ground; only Jesus is the living Savior! Jesus is utterly unique!
Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." Why do we think it strange that Almighty God would select a specific route to His presence? Is it wrong that the gumball machine only accepts quarters or the phone pad only accepts the right combination of numbers or keyhole only accepts a certain cut of metal or the IRS only accepts the recording of specific numbers? Should the living God be any different?
A god who caters to human terms of salvation (which are always changing) is not worthy of our worship. Yet a God who stands above us in authority and has made the way to Him possible through the loving sacrifice of His Son is to be greatly praised and followed. And it is my prayer that all of you who hear these words will worship the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Savior who gives salvation freely as a gift to all who receive Him this Christmas season and throughout the year!