Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jesus: The Only Way to the Father - Comparing John 14:6 with Matthew 11:27

This morning in my daily reading time I came across a passage in scripture that stopped me in my tracks. I love when this happens, all of a sudden you feel like one of these “ah-ha” moments has just occurred and you want to share what you found.

Just recently one of my students in the ministry came to me with a problem he had been struggling with for some time now. He was gripped by the power it had over him and he was looking for a way out and an opportunity for victory over this sinful area in his life. We sat down to a dinner one night with another friend who had overcome a similar situation in his life and we shared with the student the hope that he could have for victory in this area. We shared our struggles but we also shared the wins that we experienced and the power over temptation that can be ours when we put our trust in Christ Jesus to deliver us from the common struggles of life (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13). We encouraged the student to remember the tools that he has at his disposal and to remember that his God is more powerful than the grips of sin. We all left that night well encouraged and the student seemed to have a deeper understanding of the struggle and was prepared and better equipped to fight the good fight.

I saw him that next Sunday night and he came up to me and told me, “Dude I figured it out. I had a serious epiphany and God showed me what I was doing wrong in this area and it was amazing. I can’t believe I didn’t see this before.” This was his “ah-ha” moment and was the point in which he broke free from the snares of the evil one and realized what was hindering his victory in this area for so long. I am proud to see the growth of this student and I feel honored God placed him in my life to witness this “ah-ha” moment in his life.

Now my experience this morning wasn’t that type of experience per se where I had to overcome a particular area of sin in my life but that doesn’t mean this type of “ah-ha” isn’t just as important.

When you spend daily time with God, particularly getting to know Him better through a prayerful and purposeful study of His word, you will often find yourselves reflecting on a revelation that God has given you from a passage that you might have read over a hundred times before. This time however, it was different, something leapt off the page right into your mind, soul and heart and you just had to share it. This morning I wanted to share what just leapt out and struck me this morning while spending some time with God’s Word.

Lets look at the passage first before I tell you why this was so deeply impacting for me:

“All things have been committed to me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.
Matthew 11:27 NIV[1]

Maybe we should also look back a few verses to grab the context here so we can understand why this is so important for us to grasp. Jesus was teaching here to His disciples after the two messengers and disciples of John the Baptist had been sent back to John in prison telling Him of the miracles of Jesus and that Jesus was indeed the one whom John had laid the foundation for before His coming. Jesus was plainly, the Messiah come to rescue Israel.

After sending them away Jesus then turns His focus on the cities in which He performed many of His greatest of all miracles. In Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum they had the privilege of seeing many of Jesus’ works and they had the opportunity to accept who He was and follow Him. Yet the people in these cities because of their pride and arrogance shunned Christ at His coming and turned aside to His teachings. Jesus rails against these cities by pointing out that such evil cities as Sodom, or Tyre and Sidon would have freely accepted the teachings of Jesus and turned from their wicked ways yet Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had chosen to freely reject Him. Because of this, the Day of Judgment will be very harsh indeed for these cities.

As Christ finished His talked He no doubt saw the disciples in need of some encouragement. Before this however, Jesus turns to recognize God for the work that has been done despite the fact that these cities refused to see God’s handiwork in the person of Jesus and His subsequent miracles. Christ says,

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”
Matthew 11:25-26

It seems as though Christ would be saying,

“Father, the world might be tempted to see what you have done by judging Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, as evil and that you did not force the truth on these cities as a bad thing. But, Father, I recognize that you have nothing but good in store for this act though the world condemns it as evil. I know this was done because of your goodness and if you had a good reason for doing so it must and has to be right!”

Jesus understood that if God is good, then what He both wills and does is good. Certainly whole cities being lost because of unbelief is a hard pill to swallow for most people. Yet when we look at this, Jesus revealed Himself to the people of these cities in the most miraculous ways of His ministry on earth. The people of these towns freely denied the message and in so doing condemned themselves on the Day of Judgment. Is God then evil for not ensuring the people of these cities positively received the message? Certainly not! They freely chose to deny. But what Jesus was most impressed with was that the Father had revealed His simple truths to intellectual and spiritual babes.

Remember if you will, in Judea at the time, the people were puffed up. They thought that their intellect and knowledge of God’s moral law could save them. Yet they seemed to have short memories because for lying in their not to distant past was a history of doubt and mistrust in the one who came to choose them as His people on earth. The Israelites saw the most amazing physical signs by our God ever performed. They witnessed the parting of the Red Sea (not to mention the other 10 plagues on Egypt), the fall of Jericho, Samson’s slaying of 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone, the defeat of Goliath by David, and the list could go on. They witnessed some amazing stuff yet through all of this the people fell away. God realized the formula of great physical feats could not coax His people into genuine relationship with Him so He chose another way. He came in the form of a man, and in doing so He performed many great miracles to send a message to the people that the Lord is with you. Yet these cities, much like the Israelites of the past, refused the message and denied its truth and turned their backs on it.

So what did God do? He turned to people who the puffed up Israelites would look upon as inferior and not worthy of inspiration from God. The Israelites looked down on the uneducated men such as Peter and John, yet they were quick to forget how they had fouled up in recognizing the inspiration from God a long time ago, and many times over. Jesus was so pleased that God had chosen the low to reveal Himself to and pass-over the so-called intellectual giants of the priesthood and Pharisees.

Lets get back to the passage then about, which, my “ah-ha” moment came. Have you ever come across someone that said, “When Jesus says what he does in John 14:6, that He is the way, the truth and the life, he only referred to Himself as being “the way” once in this manner in scripture. Plus John was written latest so he could have easily read into the meaning of Jesus’ words and changed it. Jesus didn’t mean He was the only way, just a way.”

Whether or not you have come across someone like this or not, trust me they are out there. The point is in the passage we read earlier where Jesus was making reference to who knows the Father, Christ uses a formula we see reflecting in John’s passage. Here is Matthew’s passage once more for a quick reference:

“All things have been committed to me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.
Matthew 11:27

So why do I say that Jesus uses a formula similar to the one found in John 14:6 to describe Himself as being the only way? Lets look at the elements of the verses that point towards this fact about Jesus.

First, lets see how Jesus referred to His exclusivity of knowledge about God. In the passage in Matthew he begins by stating, “All things have been committed to me by My Father.” With this first statement we can see clearly who has granted power and authority to Jesus. The Father in Heaven has given power to the Son to reveal Himself to the world. All these things have been given to Christ Jesus.

Next, even though Jesus was in the world, and even though Jesus had many who followed Him and 12 who were His closest of disciples, Jesus was not fully understood by any of them. See His own words for this, “No one knows the Son except the Father…” This relationship needs to be seen for the amazing form of intimacy in which this statement is made. Remember, since the dawn of time God has revealed Himself to His creation (cf. Romans 1:20). Yet even after all this time, men still do not know who God really is (cf. Romans 1:21). The same can be again said of Jesus, though many followed Him, most knew not who He was and why He came into the world. It was only after His resurrection that the disciples realized who He truly was. But amidst all of this the Father, because they are a divine Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit), has always known the Son and as more of the statement confirms, “…no one knows the Father except the Son…” It is in this deep intimate relationship alone that Christ and God the Father can be fully known. No mortal man can fully fathom the wonders, majesty and power of the Great God in Heaven, yet it can be given to the Son to reveal upon whom He chooses.

To finish lets look at the verse in question and see again how Christ completes His statement, “…and to those who the Son chooses to reveal Him.” So we can see from the whole of this passage that it is through the unique and divine relationship of the Father and the Son that the person of the Father can be fully revealed to man. But, once more, it is only through the Son that the Father can be revealed. It is the person who Christ chooses to reveal the Father that shall have an opportunity to know who He really is. Though, again, as mortals we cannot fully know all the mysteries of the Heavenly, glorious One, but through Christ Jesus we can get a glimpse of the remarkable love He has for us.

So how is this similar to the passage in John 14:6? Does it use the same formula of exclusivity to knowing the Father as Matthew’s verse does?

Here is the verse in John 14 in its entirety:
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ”
John 14:6

Let me add verse 7 as well to help solidify the point before I even make it:
“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. …”
John 14:7

So what do we see here contained in these verses? Do they fit with Matthew 11:27 which we reviewed earlier?

I believe the answer is yes. Lets look at why I say this.

It can be seen in verse 6 that Jesus emphatically declares Himself as God. With the phrase, “I am…” Jesus is using the name the Father first revealed to Moses in the story of the Exodus. When Moses asked God who should he say that sent him, God replied, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:14) Jesus knew the people He was addressing and He hoped, in this case the disciples, that the hearers would understand. Jesus in the verses following 6-7 explains to Philip that He is in the Father and that the Father is in Him. They are both one. So if the Father is the “I AM” then it seems that this title would be applied to the Son as well, considering as Christ put it, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”(John 14:9)

Next Jesus says to the disciples that He is the only source to which one can come to the Father. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Does Jesus really mean this here? Well lets look back to Matthew 11:27 and see. In Matthew Jesus says, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. So if no one knows the Father apart from the Son and if the Son chooses to reveal Himself to whomsoever He wills, then those who see the Son see also the Father. Do you now see how these two verses solidify the idea that “through Christ, the Father can be known?” Yet there is more, not just through, but, “only through” the Son can the Father be known. This is known as Christian Exclusivity and is the way in which we believe that Christ, and only Christ, is the way for salvation through our faith. We don’t believe all who are good and are nice and believe in Buddha or Allah or whomever they call god is okay and all paths lead to Heaven and eternal life; what we believe is that only one path leads to Heaven and eternal life and that is through the Son Christ Jesus! We are not saying the people who believe this are bad, but we are denouncing this system or the systems of belief that the people have believed in. The person is our mission in Evangelizing; the belief system is our mission in Apologetics.

So to summarize briefly, when we look at the figure of Jesus, we can be sure of a few things from the verses we read. First, Jesus wanted the disciples as well as all who would hear of His name to know that He was God. When He stated that He was the way and the truth and the life he was using the definite article “the” to describe whom He was, as in, the way, the truth, and the life.

Second, Jesus wanted us to know that knowledge of the Father rested in Him alone. When Jesus says that He is in the Father and vice versa, He is telling His disciples how knowledge of the Father can be obtained.  It is through the divine relationship of the Trinity, that the fullness of the Godhead could be understood, to a certain degree (as is humanly possible), by man, through the revelation of the Son Jesus Christ.

Third, Jesus made it a point to the hearers that He was the person who chose whomsoever would receive this knowledge of God. Jesus did not happen to stumble upon His disciples; He chose them to follow Him. Think about the call to follow me to Levi, called Matthew, the tax collector. Jesus simply comes to him and says, “Follow Me” (Matthew 9:9 NIV). Matthew gets up and does accordingly, thus showing us Matthew did not pick Christ, but it was the opposite that Christ chose him. This is the way the Lord would have it for all who would receive. God chose us to hear of His great fame and glory, but we choose not to follow and learn. He desires all to come to repentance and knowledge of Him (cf. 1 Timothy 2:3-4), but we freely choose to follow or not.

Lastly, as stated above in the first point, Jesus wanted all to know that He, and only He was the way to the Father and eternal life. When He stated that He was the way, the truth and the life, he wasn’t saying that he was just one path of many to which knowledge of the Father could be obtained, He said He was the only way!

It is awesome how God shows those who choose to dive in and seek Him great truths like the one that occurred to me on this particular “ah-ha” moment. I love the gentleness in which our Father reveals the truths of His scripture through the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture should always be read in such a manor. By prayerfully approaching the Word of God we can be sure that what God wants us to glean will be given to us.

I hope this message was a blessing on you. It sure filled my brain with thoughts of the unique and special relationship Christ intends for those who choose to receive what He has chosen to reveal to all of mankind. We must be alert and awake to the fact that our God is revealing Himself to us through the person of Jesus Christ, and we should seek to know Him more.

[1] All scripture references are from the New International Version of the Holy Bible


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