On The Way

By Joel Hess

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A father and son went hunting for morels on one spring evening in May. They drove deep into the Manistee National Forest and found a patch of ash and elm trees.  Perfect! They both found themselves head down staring at the ground and wandering through the woods.  After a little while, the sun began to sink below the tree line.  The boy looked up and he didn’t see their truck anymore.  Every tree seemed the same.  He couldn’t tell where they had been or where they were going! He felt completely lost and he looked at his dad and said, “How will we get back home?”

His dad came over to him.  He didn’t show him a map.  He didn’t point in a direction.  He didn’t get out his iPhone.  He grabbed his hand and said, “I’ll get you back, trust me.” And the boy felt completely safe. Even though he didn’t know any more than he did before, he had his dad.

The disciples were with Jesus on Thursday before Good Friday.  Things were getting crazy. All of Jerusalem was tense.  The chief priests and leaders were conspiring against Jesus.  The crowds wanted Jesus to be king.  Showdown in the OK corral!  But Jesus was the culprit of the disciples growing anxiety. He kept talking about going somewhere. About dying.  It was starting to freak them out. They felt lost.

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Looking at their worried faces, Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. Inmy Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

Do you know the way?

For many years we have been learning the way.  At home, at church, in Sunday school, in confirmation class. We have learned right and wrong. We have learned forgiveness and eternal life. We have learned the meaning of communion, baptism, loving your neighbor as yourself. We have learned how things began and how they will end.

But sometimes life gets a little crazy. What’s going on in our lives doesn’t make sense. We feel lost. We feel scared. We can forget all we learned as darkness swells around us.

I think we can relate to Thomas.  Jesus had been teaching his disciples for 3 years as well.  The same things!  Good and bad. Repentance and forgiveness.  How things began, how they will end.

Yet after Jesus says, “you know the way I am going.”  Thomas said to him as boldly as honest questions burst from my students, “Lord, we do not know where the heck you are going. How can we know the way?”  In other words, “what the hell are you talking about! I’m lost!”

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Jesus didn’t get out a map.  He didn’t review three years of teaching.  He didn’t point him in the right direction.  He simply said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Just take my hand. Just stick with me. I am the way.

What is the answer to everything?  The answer you frequently sarcastically give in class, mocking how easy confirmation is!? Jesus. All of our learning, all of our teaching is not about giving you a map and setting you out on your own to find God.It’s about learning about the one who has found You!  The one who holds your hand even through the valley of the shadow of death.We don’t learn in order to find God.  We learn to know more about the one who has found us!

When you feel separated from God, when you have sinned and hurt others and rebelled against God, when you feel you have gone astray and you are lost in the woods, (and you will, I’m sorry!) and you don’t know the way. What’s the answer? Jesus – he forgives.

When you don’t know why bad things happen.  When things don’t make sense to you and you wonder what in the world is God doing up there! What’s the answer?Jesus – you know God’s heart.  He loves you more than you do.  He loves the world more than you do.  He proved it with His own blood!

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When you are facing death.  And you try to remember all the things you were taught.  What is heaven like? Does God really forgive me for that terrible sin? What lies on the other side?Jesus. He has risen from the dead.  He will raise you up too!  He is risen.

There are many people that tell you they know the Way!The Buddhist tells us the way to God and eternal life is through intense concentration and the collection of good deeds. The Muslim tells us the way to eternal life is to pray five times a day and do this and do that to appease Allah.

Even Some Christians tell us you must do this, then this and this and maybe over that dune you will reach God.

All these other teachers want to put all these burdens on you that you must carry on a narrow road up a hill to God!

Only one teacher says, “Come to me all you who are wearied and I will give you rest!”  “Don’t let you hearts be troubled, trust me” “I am the way, the truth and the life!”

He did not come to put burdens on you and make you climb up a hill to God!But he came down to us.  He put all of our burdens on himself, all of our sins, and carried them up the hill of Calvary and nailed them to the cross and buried them in the tomb!And rose again without them!  They are gone!And don’t you ever let someone put them back on you again! You hear me!  That’s what all those other teachers want to do!  They want you to be a jackass for them.You are free!  You are jewel in the crown of the freaking King.

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And don’t let anyone tell you that there are all sorts of ways and they all lead the same way. There is a clever Buddhist parable that attempts to break Jesus claim of being the only way.  You will likely hear it from people who believe themselves to be smart. Goes like this -Men who were blind from birth were gathered together in a room with an elephant. Each man was led to a different part of the elephant — one felt the head, one the legs, tail, ears, and trunk. Afterward they were asked, “What is an elephant”? They began arguing when one claimed it was a plowshare, or a tree trunk, a brush, etc. The conclusion is that they all saw one part of the greater whole. In other words, we who argue about truth are arguing about the same god that has been revealed to us in different ways.

There is one problem with that parable.  The guys are blind!  And that is exactly what blind people might conclude about God.  And it certainly explains other religions.

But brothers and sisters in Christ.  You are not blind.  Your eyes have been opened.

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