Friday, January 20, 2012

Up to the privilege

It's Thursday...still. Or just barely. Lately I don't even have a moment of quiet to think about these posts until late in the evening. But this week's hard work, which we've done despite the unusual blizzard outside (though in some ways there's both a correlation between the bleakness of the ice and snow with the winter of Grampie's life; and, practically speaking, because of the weather--and school closures--Beve's had the whole week off!), makes this dwelling with Jesus' powerful words to us about Himself necessary to me.  I wonder what you--dear readers (as writers of the 1800s would say)--live as you listen to Him speak such words.

Today's "I AM" comes at the beginning of the longest discourse in John's gospel. The setting is the upper room, the time is the last meal Jesus shared with His disciples. I have often thought that the memory of these words must have seared themselves in John's memory because they were spoken at that table, with those select few. It was a family dinner. And--we must remember this--twelve hours after that meal ended, He'd be hanging on the cross.  The long shadow of the cross hangs over every word in this passage.

John 14.  The very first words Jesus speaks fairly drip with His shed blood and sing of His victory over death. "I go to prepare a place for you."  The great end of that journey will be a home--for US--in His Father's house. And not a simple shack, but mansions.  "In my Father's house are many mansions," and one of Jesus' jobs is to prepare those abodes for us.  Of course, Thomas (who didn't earn the nickname "Doubting Thomas" for nothing) has to have these enigmatic words clarified. If Beve had been there, his hand would have been raised right along side Thomas'. Come to think of it, so would mine.  We just don't get what Jesus is talking about. I can just imagine Jesus shaking His head, saying, "Thomas, Thomas, Thomas!"

And then He says this, "I AM the Way, the Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14: 6)
There are three distinct qualities to this "I AM the..."

I AM the Way...No one comes to the Father except through me. "The Way" means a couple of different things. Primarily, as always, it refers to salvation. "No one comes to the Father except through me," is another way of saying, "I AM the Gate, the Good Shepherd, The Resurrection and the Life." Jesus never strays far from His central message. He is The one true Way we must believe.
However, once we believe,  Jesus is the way, as in the highway on which we walk. As Paul puts in (repeatedly, but this is from Philippians 1: 27), "Walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." The very name we are called as His followers, is Christians--Christ-ones. This word speaks to ones who are walking in the Way that Christ walks. Doing, responding, living, BEING Christ the Way He is.
And, He is the Way of prayer.  Jesus tells us numerous times in this long discourse alone that we are to "ask the Father anything in My Name." (John 16: 23) There is much more to say about prayer than I have time for here, but what is relevant is that Jesus is The Way to the Father in prayer. However, His Way is NOT simply mumbling "In Jesus Name" at the end of any old request, but aligning our desires with His so that what we want is what He wants for us.  It's about using the Garden of Gethsemane as our chief model, not Gideon and his fleece.

I Am the one comes to the Father except through me.
Truth is very important in the gospel of John, used more in this gospel than any other book in the New Testament (I looked it up one time but have forgotten the ratio if I ever knew such a thing), and is connected to worship (4: 23); being set free (8: 32); the Holy Spirit (4: 23; 18: 13), the Word 17: 17), and being made holy (17: 17).  Pretty impressive list, right? A whole lot to hold on to, these things that Jesus, THE Truth, tells us He does (or will do) for us. This is not truth as a philosophical concept or some kind of moral virtue, but a relationship with a Person whom we can trust.  This is the Incarnation of Truth, and therefore, we can trust it--Him. What He says He will do, He will.
He says about the Father, "Your word is True." (John 17: 13), and also tells us that the truth will set us free. Again, it isn't an abstract truth that frees us, but the Incarnate Truth. The Living Word made flesh that is the I AM Truth. HE sets us free. He alone has the power to free us from what enslaves us. There is no other freedom and no way to come to the Father but through the Truth which frees us.

I AM the one comes to the Father except through me.
This is the only time Jesus repeats one of the I AM's. So it must be important. It is important. There is no Life apart from Jesus, and He is the embodiment of Life. Here and now and everlasting. AND, He gives us life. The Life He is--in us--is spoken of repeatedly in the New Testament (mostly by John):  "In Him was Life, and that Life was the Light of all people." And..."I have come that you might have life and might have it more abundantly."  "He who has the Son has Life, he who has not the Son, has not Life." (1 John)
Again, don't overlook the context that He says He's The Life mere hours away from dying.. It makes these words both poignant and powerful. He knows what He's saying. He came to die so that we could have that Life. He is the Life and will give it away so that WE will share in it.

What we do each day as we go about our business--whatever that business it--is extend Christ to those around us. We get to hold out THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE very LIFE to others. Are you up to this privilege?
Don't waste it.

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