Christ The Way
1. In this church in which we are meeting there are a number of works entrusted to us by Jesus, and one of them is this matter of missions. The number one thing about missions, [as we see even from the Japanese etymology] is literally "the way of proclamation." So, when we ask what is the way that we should pass on in proclamation it is none other than the way of Jesus Christ as supremely described in the passage we read this morning.
2. As I speak on how the way of proclamation or missions is being brought to mind in the context of the churches of Japan, one of the messages about this matter is printed in a book by a theologian named Yoshitaka Kumano. The story deals with a question taken up by some students of a religious school who asked, "Is the work of proclaiming Christ missions or preaching?" At that time, the teacher at this seminary is supposed to have said the following reply. "We are to pass on the way of Christ, we mustn't do missions any longer." The church just passes on matters pertaining to faith, and it is not good if we just put out teachings. What this teacher may have seen was that letting words loose is insufficient for trusting afterwards in the value system of another person. After the church talks about Christ, then the church takes the message up upon its own self; that is how we make others have the conviction that it is the only truth; this is how we need to pass it on. This is the way to pass on how this path of Jesus Christ is the only correct way. So when we of the Church of Japan speak of how we might carry this out in a concrete way, more than anything we can say about it the way in which we ourselves are truly happy in our hearts shows with accuracy from the start how it is straight up the right way. --If our answer is "missions," we will need a mental attitude that won't see it as just a single vast mass of people. To do this, first of all when we invite a person to church, we don't talk about will happen later, but first it is essential to work hard at passing on to him the "joy" of being saved by Christ. Of course, it is difficult to pass on to another person the inside of your heart. Bound in vagueness and unintentionality as we say to someone "come," words for additional explanation increase, but our habit of obscurity does not tell what we very much want to say. It doesn't work very successfully when we don't have a clear and consciously prepared answer. Therefore the part of the church that speaks forth and passes on messages must always make clear and plain what we believe. Related to this, what we are giving out through the church is a confession of faith. "The Confession of Faith" is concisely arranged, and we say it is for the community to confess, that's good. Whenever I've heard from persons who have left religion or from persons without any faith say, "What on earth is it that you believe?," we can clearly present our confession of faith which our church believes and speak on various points.
3. So, this confession of faith points out something; what did the said Lord Jesus himself do in missions? At the time when he was showing the way through himself, the Lord Jesus did not hesitate a second. He speaks like this in verse six. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." This statement is a message that knows no compromise whatsoever. With one single decisive word, he said, "I am thus." Usually in Greek, except for special situations, one does not use the word "I" much. This is because in the Greek language without even saying the subject of a sentence one comes to understand immediately who is the subject of the sentence after just hearing the declension of the verb. Moreover, based on how the "I" is expressed through the modification made in Greek, there is an affirmation being made about Jesus that says, "I myself indeed am the way." This then is nothing but the affirmation that "I alone am the one and only way, the one and only truth, and the one and only life." Although the three points "way, truth, life" appear here describing what kind of person he was, I would suggest that he is saying the same thing with these three points. He is expressing one fundamental point from three angles. One could say that the way is how to live when we live according to the truth. Also, if you ask, "What is the truth?," one could say that it is a life that genuinely keeps a person alive and full of the best life. In addition, when you say, "What is life?," we can say that as we obtain the way we ought to live life, it is then walking straight along that way.
4. But, as for this matter, the way may be regarded in Japan as something that is not very important. Certainly if you mention the way in this country, everyone will immediately understand that it expresses some kind of religious truth and not just a road printed on a map. If you know about ultimate things, shouldn't you know something about the way of Christ? There are many ways to become a fine person without being in the wrong--I think there are many cases where people think like that.
5. For example, since old times there have been Kendo (the way of swordsmanship), Judo (the way of defense), and Kyudo (the way of Japanese archery), through learning certain methods and styles of martial arts there will also be the learning of a way of life; and in the way we speak about Shodo (the way of calligraphy), Kado (the way of flower arrangement), and Chado (the way of the tea ceremony), we try to find a way of living even from the practicing and training in some aspect of our daily life activities. Even if we have some aspect of "mastering the way" which means that we acquire some kind of mental-spiritual system shouldn't we be particular about Jesus? Actually, aren't there people who are not disciples and are fine people with good ways? Where's the difference? I think there will be many who nod their head yes over this.
6. In this country of Japan the traditions of Confucianism remain deeply rooted, but even the people who say that Confucius was called the founder of this teaching used to say about seeking the way that "If you learn a way tomorrow, you are pretty much dead by night time." In the morning, if you heard a truth, you may drop dead by evening. In short, they felt that to obtain a system of truly being alive it was worth even making an exchange with one's life. Later, the compilation of these kinds of circumstances which were seized upon turned into Confucianism. Such Confucianism developed into a NeoConfucianism that supported Bushido (the way of the Japanese art of war) as many people will know. Even our ancestors sought with their whole hearts to obtain a system for their lives being seized up in such an important matter as this.
7. However, if we try to put our thoughts into harmony, so many kinds of ways have been done and even after so great a many flowershave opened and bloomed, different views still keep coming up. Moreover, since one keeps seeing only pieces of truth the Japanese people will never be able to discover the way to understand reality even to the very end. There are many people who profess these ways. They have introduced ways of all sorts like blowing wind. Moreover, when they give "answers" they don't have any uniformity in how they find their way to the same topics. Therefore, all kinds of ways have arisen. Even if in Japan from the beginning there was no beguilement with trends of times and changes in ideas, why has it turned out as if there is one ultimate [Japanese] way which applies to all Japanese which we tolerate even though the world is changing? More than that, you can say that we didn't need ideas for mastering the various different types of systems and their ways.
8. The key to the problem is where do these ways lead to? What is the terminal point of the way as pertains to salvation? Is such a destination point truly salvation? Whenever we answer that the destination changes, won't people keep saying that it's all the same way? On this point, the way of Christ and other ways are different. Actually, after the Lord said in verse six that "I myself am the way," he added this. "Unless you pass through me, no one can go to the Father." The Lord Jesus who said that he himself was the way, says the reason for his being the way is that through him we sinners can go to the place of God the Father. He is going to the Father. Here is what the event of salvation is. The state of salvation is recovering "a relationship" with God the Father, creator of this world. Concerning this matter of "he is going to such a Father," this morning's passage, from verse one, already showed the thread of reasoning. "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Please believe in God. And please believe in me, too." First he says at the beginning that we can go on with peace of mind about the uncertain roads of this unstable temporal life, this is what believing in God is. So, when one says, "Why in the world does he say 'believe in God'?," this believing in God is described as "It is believing in the Lord Jesus himself." "Please believe in God. And, please believe in me, also." These two line up in parallel and are the same points which show an equal relationship. To believe in is to depend on. If you break the words down further, it is a leaning on something. It is also a deep entrusting of everything unto the Lord Jesus.
9. From the words of the Bible which are being expressed this morning, when we reread them, as for this matter where he says to depend on this Lord Jesus, two points are being expressed to us. The first is written from verse two down. "There are many places to live in in my Father's house. If it were not so would I have said that I am going to prepare a place for you? After I go, when preparing a place for you, and I come back to you I will meet you where I am. Therefore, in the place where I am, you also get to be." What he is saying here is what kind of person he himself is. In short, he is telling about the kind of work he himself is doing. This is how the Lord speaks. He says in my Father's house , it is full of rooms which people go in. These rooms are different from the places we call rooms on earth. It is because in the rooms of this temporal world we have limits to how wide a room is. But, as it says the Lord has rooms, the rooms of God's kingdom are rooms that reach infinitely according to the will of God. The Lord has rooms that continue to spread out on and on, only dividing them as needed.
10. So, after this he is saying that he will return to the place of the Father for a moment to set up the use of those rooms. He says that his going back to that heavenly kingdom is his work of preparing a place for us in his Father's house. In short, he says he is making reservations so that the rooms might become our reserved seats and this reserving of rooms for us is his own job. To speak frankly about it, that is his work as savior. The Lord Jesus says please believe that he himself is such a savior. And on top of that, it's for us. "I go for you..." So, when those preparations have been laid out, he says he will come again to welcome us. As for what this point might mean, after this, there will be no more talk about the suffering of the cross which he decided to receive and the miracle of the resurrection. The cross makes peace for us in our relationship with God which we ourselves had once destroyed. So, the resurrection changes for us our ticket to the underworld for a ticket to the kingdom of God. Finally, when he "comes back" for us again to our place through the Holy Spirit, he will no longer be preparing those seats, any time, even now, as soon as possible he might leave, then it will happen--we will be placed in a seat.
11. Incidentally, in believing the contents I have been talking about, one could say the need naturally arises to have confidence over one more thing. The one more thing to have confidence in is the credibility of the character of the person speaking that message and a trust that that character is not a liar. Before believing the contents that that one speaks, there is the problem which says is this person who is speaking one who can be relied upon? With that, next, after Philip's words came a witness concerning the Lord himself which the Lord proclaimed. It's in verse ten on. "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is inside of me? The words I am saying to you I do not speak them from my own self. The Father who is inside me is performing those works." What he is talking about here is his relationship with God the Father. When the Lord Jesus spoke about his credibility, that is, whether he was worth relying on or whether he spoke as a country bumpkin, he said that his dignity was completely equal to the dignity which relying on God the Heavenly Father was worth. He is saying that he has the same credibility which the creator of this world has. If you say, "How could it be?," his own word has the same credibility as what is actually here in this world which the creator made by his word. For that reason, the Lord Jesus says that what controls his heart from top to bottom is only the heart [or will] of God the Father. In short, the desires of God become his own desires. Pertaining to how much we could trust him, if you did not believe you should look at the works he did to date and perhaps he asserted as much when he said you should see for sure the cross which follows shortly and the miracle of the resurrection. He was full of the feeling that he was completely controlled by the Father's will. Precisely because of this, don't have a worry in the world, look at the miracles, that's why he could state definitively God's will is visible by his miracles and deeds.
12. Secondly, when he said "I, myself" this "I" was a revelation from the one and only God, and he has the one and only salvation for humanity to cling to. The path, on which God has extended his hand ofsalvation for us from above, is only through Christ who as God truly became a human being. If we look at the details, the way we can know God's will for ourselves is only through the direct and unforked road where Jesus who is a human being is at the same time fully God.
13. The relationship with God the Father is free, and occurs solely by the gracious blessing of Christ and only in the form that is according to the grace of Christ. Therefore, recovering a relationship with God the Father is in relying on Christ the only son sent by God. For example, it is a big mistake acquiring some excellent way of living according to self instruction and discipline. After picking up some kind of methodology on how to live, if you spend time the way the manual teaches it's wrong to say you can live in ease without any more troubles or distresses. Just, meet Christ, it's only in fully depending on him. It's by this very same way only, and certainly you do not find your way here by some other way. Because it is the way which God himself forgives us and because God cannot show anything except through God's only son.
14. Therefore, previously in verse seven, he speaks contrarily like this. "Since you are believing on me, you have come to know even my Father. From now on, you see the Father. Yes, you already have seen him." When you have understood this path, you will understand the will of the Father who waits wanting to save you. Yes, through the confidence that he is waiting, when you look back, already by now, he says that one can see all that is gotten by the plan of salvation and even how the will of God to save us was in first place in the past. Therefore, he says there is no way outside of him to arrive at such a destination point.
15. Incidentally, the disciples of that time, as I have been saying, did not understand these points. Thomas answered back with the following. "How can we know the way?" Also, Philip mutters the following. "Lord, please show me your Father. If you do that, I'll be satisfied." Rather than their saying we have the very way right in front of our eyes and though he was there with them, the disciples are still seeking with all their might in a different place the way of Christ like it was one of the previously mentioned ways of Bushido, the tea ceremony, etc. Even though he showed all of God's will by having spent quite some time with them, by the miracles which revealed the kind of person he was, and by the content of the things he spoke about, and in spite of Jesus himself personally making directly visible the will of God, the disciples still have a way besides that one and were far from any thought near the truth based on the previous discussion.
16. Even today we can see something similar. While some think there are several ways outside of worship and some think only in worship is the way of salvation, actually the situation is that human vision is not directed towards worshipping. For instance, through worship as the self gets used to being able to very naturally associate with people, the case is that one petitions as though getting used to obedience. As though the timid self so disappears. As though worship became a popular way to associate with very warm companions and friends who always wear a smiling face. As though the inconvenience to the self has changed. Under these standards, the situation seems that we have ended up seeing worship as a way to be granted these things. The situation seems that we have ended up thinking that making successful human relationships and getting good connections is first and foremost in worship. Before we know it, we are seeing through our worship and we have more than a small amount of seeking after the types of associations mentioned above.--Certainly, when applied person by person these things may be something given as the results of salvation, and one could say it is a very happy thing when these things are granted. In verse thirteen because it says, "When asking in my name, I will grant anything," the requesting for these things is never out of place with the will of God. Moreover, in light of that, for argument's sake, when a person doesn't accustom himself to a character that we call a good person, will he not be saved?
17. When the Lord says, "I am the way," these are clearly pointed out as conditions not required for salvation. What Christ said repeatedly was the person who believes that he was redeemed by the Lord's cross and miraculous resurrection and is without any natural virtues at all is unconditionally saved. For example, even if you are not able to become an obedient person, leave off timidity, or be adept making warm friendships, if you depend on Christ, you are already saved. When Christ said I myself "am the way, the truth, and the life," that's what he means. He rejected all the systems of self discipline connected with salvation. "The person who believes is saved." Nowadays this phrase has a little cynicism used with it. Although this is excessively simple and is a well-performed service for us, and we simply find hard it to believe, he has shown that it is the way of Christ.
18. The truth is his best witness is these weak believing disciples and what they look like later on. Now in this scene, it is as though the did even notice the Lord Jesus as the one and only way right in front of their eyes, but afterwards they take a 180 degree turn and call the Lord Jesus himself as the only and only savior and go out propelled into missions. The fruits that they ask for in Jesus' name are surely even requests that they asked at cross purposes or irrelevantly, but afterwards, they are granted with the truth. Though the disciples did not notice the mystery right in front of them, salvation was extended to them. Also, after they who gathered in the church one by one were also in like manner added, they would have to follow this way.
19. "Clearly I say to you. The person who believes in me does miracles which I am doing and he will do very great miracles. For I am going to the Father. What you ask in my name, I will grant whatever it is. In so doing, the Father receives glory from the Son. If you ask for anything in my name, I will grant it," (John 14:12-14). In believing Christ as sustainer, I want to humbly walk together with him all week long.