Jesus and the I Am Statements

Good morning Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and it’s a pleasure to speak with you today.  I’d especially like to welcome anyone who is visiting us for the first time today.  We started Journey Church nine years ago this month, and it’s always a blast to visit with people who are newer to starting or restarting their faith Journey, and if that’s you we are especially glad you are here.

One of the things that we’ve come to understand is that people believe what they believe for good reasons.  And so it’s not a small thing to become a follower of Jesus.  It takes some measure of humility and courage to come to the point where you say, you know perhaps I’ve had it wrong.  Perhaps Jesus really is God in the flesh and perhaps he really is trustworthy enough to place my life in his hands.

But this is exactly why John wrote the book we’ve been studying – it’s called the Gospel of John.  It is one of only four accounts of the life and times of Jesus in the bible.  John was Jesus closest friend.  And at the end of his life he sits down to make sure what he knows gets passed on to future generations.  And he himself tells us at the end of his book, that , “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John is driving us toward a decision.  He is not content with his readers getting to the end and booking the book down and saying, “That’s interesting.  I liked that.  I find him interesting.”  And then walking away.  He, more than all the other gospel writers, forces the issue and demands that his readers come to terms with Jesus.

And today we’re going to read about some words of Jesus that are pretty big obstacles to some people when it comes to believing in him.  Jesus said some things about himself that are hard for some people to swallow.

Most people, almost nobody that I can think of – respect Jesus for his works that he did.  People look at his works and they say – great stuff.  They see the compassion and the kindness and the love.  They see a man elevating the status of woman, of gentiles, of the poor – they see he is tender and gentle and that he heals people and feeds the poor and raises the dead – all these works of Jesus are being done and people like it – they aren’t exactly controversial.  Who wouldn’t like to see a miracle?

But when it comes to his words – well it’s a different story.  For instance – the portion of scripture we are studying today is mostly one verse.  John 14:6.  Where Jesus says, Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

For reasons we will discuss in a bit, some people find these words offensive, narrow minded, even perhaps arrogant.

So they like the work of Jesus but don’t like the words of Jesus.  But the problem is that they are actually connected.   You can’t separate them.

What is the connection between Jesus works and Jesus’ words?  Jesus says back in John 31 “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid.  So Jesus is saying – If I just showed up claiming to be the Savior of the world, then what Is ay about myself could not be considered trustworthy.  Makes sense.  But Jesus points out that John the Baptist was a witness – but then he says this interesting thing…

36 But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.

Here it is.  The connection between Jesus works that everyone respects, and his words that people have a hard time with.  Jesus is telling us the miracles validate the words.  The works are sent to confirm the trustworthiness of Jesus’ words…

Ever hear the phrase put your money where your mouth is?  The miracles are the money.  His works confirm his words.

The words of a man who raises dead people back to life shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.  So what are we to make John 14:6   Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  After all, Jesus isn’t saying he is A way – but THE way.  It’s uncomfortably exclusive.  Jesus is saying that the only way to God is through faith in Jesus.

And I’ll start by saying that it’s understandable why people bristle.  And on the surface, it even sounds humble, and honorable, respectful to say, well, that seems too narrow.  Too restrictive. I mean if Jesus is true than people from other religions are heading down dead end streets that will never lead them to God.  And that seems like an arrogant and intolerant thing to say.

In response, let’s take a look at four of the most common objections people make to Jesus’ claims.

First comes in the way of an illustration.  Ever see something like this?  The picture of an elephant?  Some people like to say, well, trying to describe God is like having five blind men try to describe an elephant.  And depending on where they are, they are all describing one aspect of the elephant and they are all correct. One guy says an elephant is like a spear.  And another says it’s like a snake and so forth.

The problem with this of course is that it requires placing Jesus into the picture as one of the blind men.  And it also requires the you, if you are the one making this argument – you are the one who sees and Jesus is the blind one.  But didn’t Jesus say that he came to bring sight to the blind?  And he’s not talking about just physical sight.  But that we are spiritually blind to the truth?  And he came to help us see what God is really like.

So Jesus is the one who claims to be able to see the entire picture.  So who is right, you or Jesus?  You can’t both be right.  One or the other is not seeing the entire picture.

Jesus says, well, let me do a miracle to show that I am really from God.  How about I feed five thousand men with a couple of loaves of bread and some fish.  Your turn.  And don’t forget the woman and children!  (Well I make a mean pot of chili.  give me the resources and the time and I can…)  And when you’re done with that raise someone from the dead.  I’ll wait.

See the works validate his words.  We can’t separate them.  It’s not just Jesus’ words against yours.  Right?

A second argument one might hear is that well, all religions are the same.  There are many roads to heaven.  That all religions are equally good.

The real problem with saying that all religions are the same, is that no other religion would agree with you.   If you put a Muslim cleric on stage we would both tell you our religions are tremendously different.  And we would both want to try to respectfully debate in order to convince you why we think we are right and the other wrong.  But what neither of us would say is that we are basically the same thing, so whatever.

So for someone to make the declaration that all religions are basically the same is itself, a new religion.  One you just made up.  They are the founder of a new religion.  Because no religion agrees with you.  So what proof do you bring with you that shows you are right and Jesus wrong?

Jesus promised to He would be resurrected three days after his death and he delivered on that promise.  What do you bring to the table that validates your beliefs?

Common sense, I can hear someone saying to themselves.  But how is saying that two religions that say completely different things about how to be made right with God are the same?  There’s nothing common sense about that.

Well then you’re both wrong.  Okay – that’s at least intellectually honest.  No back up your claims.  What proof do you bring that your exclusive claim is better than Jesus’ exclusive claim?

So Jesus claims to be the way, the truth and the life and he claims that no one finds the Father apart from Him.  Period.   You say it doesn’t matter what you believe, if you believe it with all your heart.  It’s you or its Jesus.  It cannot be both.  You are right and Jesus is wrong.

Lastly, someone might say that it is exceedingly arrogant or narrow minded of Jesus to make an exclusive claim to the truth.  And I would say it’s not more arrogant a claim than you just made.  How arrogant of Jesus to say that he is the way to God.  I say there’s tons of roads that lead to God and that’s the truth!  Well, how arrogant of you.

Maybe this conversation is leaving you uncomfortable.  Or annoyed.  We don’t like it.  There’s something inside of us that wants to pretend that what we believe is ultimately subjective.  There is no such thing as truth just truth for me and truth for you.

But then Jesus jumps in the middle of the conversation and declares, I am the truth.  Truth has a name.  Truth can be hugged.  I am the way and the truth.  And I am the life you’ve always wanted.

Now do these differences in religion mean we can’t get along?  Of course we can get along.- guess what –you built medical centers in a country that is 95% Muslim.  In partnership with a predominantly Muslim government that wants to bring health to their people.  But we go and we bring Jesus with us.

Can I show you these pictures of Ian Vickers – one of our elders who sat in this dusty field where a group of Malian believers were trying to build a church?  With no help from Christians in the west they gave and they saved until they built that church and here ten years later is the picture of followers of Jesus in worship service – their first worship center in this church, taken just a few weeks ago?

We give to the Mali project and we build health centers and we bring Jesus with us!  Yes we do.  And by the way, I’ll tell you that – pick a country.  Pick a hell hole.  And you will find Christians there ministering for people in need.  Caring for the hurting.  Christians who are both full of good works that back up their good words.

Why?  Because Jesus tells us that he can turn us into the kinds of human beings who love people we don’t agree with.  That he can make us the kind of people who care for the poor and the hurting and the outcast even if they hate us. So yes, we can get along.  I don’t even mind the sticker you see that says Co-Exist.  Yes, we should co-exist with love, but we are not co-equal or co-the same.  We all make exclusive claim to truth.  Jesus says He is the way and the truth and the life and that no man comes to the father except through him.

And he forces our hand.  He wants an answer.  And take the time – do the research – but don’t stop until you’ve made up your mind.  If you search for God you will find him.

And what a God you find.  What a Jesus!  Can we just bask in these realities- if these things that Jesus says about himself are true – then we’re set!  We are good to go!  Because, Jesus says…

In John 6:35  (After feeding the five thousand)

35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 

You know, I love bread man. Love it.  You know where I went that has really good bread?  France.  Who would have thought that?  And Costco.  I was in Costco and they have French bread and it’s delicious with some cheese and a stick of butter.   Am I right?  And Jesus made bread one time – fish and bread – I bet you that bread was ridiculously good.

Jesus says, He is the bread of life.  It’s not a bread to feed your body – it’s nourishment for a soul that hungers to be nourished.  And it’s the best.  He is the best.   Jesus IS the bread – Taste and see that the Lord is good.

I am the light of the world  8:12 12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

He’s not a light.  He’s the light.  Ever been scared by the dark?  No need to be scared any more about this dark world in which we live.  He is the light.  He is the light unto our path, a lamp unto our feet.

The Bible says we were born by default into a kingdom of darkness.  Colossians 1:13  For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son.  Notice it doesn’t say the kingdom of light.  It’s not from darkness to light.  It’s darkness to Jesus.  Because Jesus is the light of the world. And if we follow him, then we will never walk in darkness again.  That’s the promise from Jesus to us.

I am the Gate – 10: Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.  The Doorway into a different life.  A different kind of kingdom.   The Kingdom of Jesus.  Who promises to take care of us in this life and the next.

And the gates to this kingdom have been thrown wide open – so that whosoever will may come.  Come on in.

See religion closes door.  It’s why Jesus continually clashed with religious leaders.  Because Jesus knew that religion closes doors in people faces.  Check out Jesus blistering the religionists of his day – he says in Matthew 23

13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

Jesus is the gate, and it’s been thrown wide open for me and you and all who come to think highly enough of Jesus to trust him.

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.

In doing this Jesus directly links himself to Psalm 23.  For the Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  Whether green pastures or dark valleys – I fear nothing, for thou art with me.

And it almost seems absurd to hear Jesus say a good shepherd lays down his life for sheep.  What kind of shepherd does that?  Well, what kind of God does it?  What kind of God would lay down his life for you, personally.  Out of love for you personally.  And me.

Some people say, well there’s plenty of ways to get to heaven.  He just showed us one way.  Well if there is any other way to God, then didn’t Jesus die for nothing?  Wasn’t that silly of him?  Why wouldn’t Jesus simply have said, do your best to be good.  We’ll weigh the scales at the end of time.  Good luck.

No, instead he lays down his life for us, out of love.

I am the resurrection and the life.  11:25   25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.

What is Jesus saying here?  He’s unmasking death as an impotent foe.  Death itself has been stripped of it’s banner.  It’s been defeated soundly by Jesus.  And Jesus says, death has nothing on you either.  Where’s your victory death?  Where’s your sting?  Vanquished by the resurrection.

Victory is ours through Faith in Jesus.  How wonderful to be able to face death with assurance and confidence.  To not have to live with the fear of dying.  Jesus makes death a mere blip on our timeline.  Our true self continues – onward and upward.

The final I am statement that Jesus makes comes in John 15:5

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.

A promise of a fruitful life.  Of growth and fruit.  So long as we stay in the vine.  And we allow his life to flow through ours, then we get to live a meaningful life – purposed.  Proud.  Salt and light and love for all.

Oh it’s all for you.  It’s all for you.  Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.  Bring what you’ve got.  Your accomplishments, your morals, your trophies and your trash.  Your regrets and pains.

Bring it to Jesus, and let him make something beautiful out of you.

These words, they don’t leave room for someone to say, I like Jesus with reservations.  He will allow us to sit on the fence for a while, investigate.  But at some point, we cast a vote.

Next week we celebrate and remember Palm Sunday – where Jesus rode into Jerusalem and made no doubt he rode in as a king rides in – forcing the hand of the religious leaders.   It was either a crown or the cross.  But they weren’t allowed to say of Jesus – I like him with reservations.  Jesus doesn’t give us that option.

If you are ready, then let him know.  In your prayers, tell him as much.  Jesus I am casting my vote and I choose to believe you.  I’m crowning you king.  Help me learn to trust you.  Teach me what I need to know about in order to think highly enough of you to trust you.

Forgive me sins.  Teach me what life in your kingdom looks like.  Make me a new kind of human.   I’m ready to walk through the gate to a different reality.

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