Sunday, May 18, 2014

No One Comes to the Father Except by the Word

Sermon on John 14:1-14
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
May 18, 2014 (The Fifth Sunday of Easter)

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.  It is only through the Word which has been spoken forth by the Father that the Father may be known.  Think about it this way: when you speak, the words that come out of your mouth reveal something about what is going on in your mind.  Even if you’re lying, the words that come out of your mouth are based on the lie that already existed in your brain before you decided to speak it.  That’s what words do: they reveal what is going on inside a person’s mind.  With human beings, the words we speak are both finite and inadequate.  We can only speak one idea at a time, and since that whole Tower of Babel episode the words themselves shift meanings so that even those ideas that do, in fact, come out of our mouths don’t always get into our neighbor’s ears and heads properly (not to mention that you may be speaking another language entirely from what you neighbor is capable of understanding).

With God, however, He is capable of revealing Himself perfectly and infinitely well.  In fact, the Word He speaks by which He reveals Himself is such a perfect and complete revelation of Himself, that the Word He speaks is, itself, God.  And the Breath with which He speaks that Word, and which carries that Word to you, is also, itself, God (by the way, the word breath and the word spirit are the same word in Hebrew and Greek).  Which means that if you want to know what God is like, what’s in His mind and heart, you have a perfect revelation of His mind and heart and will in the Word that He speaks.  Which is why Jesus says that no one can come to the Father except through Him.  He is such a perfect revelation of the Father that it is only by listening to Him that we can know the Father.

So, okay, now we know how to find out what is going on in the Father’s mind and heart, namely listening to the Word He has spoken and which is carried to us by the Holy Spirit.  But what we would like to find out is, what does the Father think about us?  Is He angry at us, saddened by us, disgusted at how we have abused the universe He spoke into existence?  Or proud of us, happy about us, welcoming us into His arms?  That’s where the rubber hits the road for us.  What is the content of the Father’s thoughts as He regards  us, the fallen crown of His fallen creation?  After all, we know we have contradicted Him at almost every point, spoken and acted as if we could simply change and violate His creative Word by turning the things He spoke into existence into things that look like He spoke lies.  We’ve killed and hated our fellow human beings whom He spoke into existence in His own image.  We’ve taken that which God spoke into existence for our neighbor and accused Him of lying when He said it was theirs, by making it ours.  We do this both in terms of people and things.  We’ve even lied in His name, telling others He said things He never said.  How would we react if someone lied about us and turned our words upside down like that?  This is how the Father would see us if His Word weren’t there to intervene in our behalf.

You see, it is precisely because He loves us whom He spoke into existence that the Word itself became flesh.  It is precisely the Word Himself that He spoke who became lied about, spit upon, and condemned by His own creatures, those who were created to be in His likeness.  All the false words, all the angry words, all the covetous and lustful words, all the words that destroy what the Word created, were directed toward the creative Word Himself.  And nailed Him to the Cross.

But the Word of the Father cannot be silenced without the Father who spoke Him becoming nonexistent.  Instead, the creation itself is renewed and restored when the Word Himself is spoken once again in the resurrection from the dead.  And that’s how we know the heart of the Father toward us: the Word He speaks creates in us a clean heart and renews in us a right spirit.  It is precisely in giving Himself for us that He is the one who shows us the Father.  The conversation recorded in today’s text took place on Holy Thursday, in the upper room.  It was precisely the one who gives us His body and blood that says that He is the way to the Father.  It is precisely Him whose human flesh has become united with God’s perfect self-revelation that puts that body and blood into our bodies.  It’s not just our souls, but our whole new selves, body and soul, that become what we eat.  God Himself has worked this.  God Himself has risen us from the dead in His Son.  This is the greatest work that ever could be done, that creation itself be resurrected from the dead.

So how could it be that Jesus says we will do greater works than that?  There are no greater works than that.  But what happens is that He invites us to share in this work.  The church continues preaching His Word and giving out His body and blood, and thus continues again and again, one person at a time, to recreate the new Christ in each of us that was lost by Adam’s sin.  The word which is translated as “greater” there can also be translated as “more.”  Not just the Twelve in the upper room, but thousands upon thousands hear His Word and receive His body and blood and thereby become parts of the new creation, images created by the Word God spoke forth in the beginning.  Those who have not seen what Jesus showed the eleven (including Thomas a week later) have heard the Word and eaten and drunk the body crucified and the blood shed.  Millions have been blessed to hear the Word Himself proclaimed and eat that Word’s body and drink His blood.  Millions have heard that the Father is pleased with them for the sake of His Son, the Word made flesh.  How do we know the Father looks favorably upon us?  The Word Himself is risen from the dead.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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