Jesus Only
Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation on this fifth Sunday of Easter comes from our Gospel text, especially where John records, “Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me …’” Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …

We’re back on the night when Jesus was betrayed. Judas has just left to go and do what he must. Jesus has given His new mandatum, His new commandment, that His disciples love one another as He has loved them. He’s told Peter of His impending tri-denial, and now, knowing how their hearts are troubled by the content of this discussion, Jesus tells His dear disciples to instead believe in God, and in Him, the incarnate Son of God. He’s going to prepare a place for His people in His Father’s house, and more than this, He promises that He will return and take us to be with Him. From where we sit, the context should be clear, but when He tells those gathered around Him that they know the way to where He is going, Thomas confesses his continued confusion: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” And Jesus responds, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” 

Hear that? No one. No one gets to the Father, to eternal life, to salvation and the glories of heaven … except through Jesus. It’s only Jesus. It’s ever and always been … only Jesus. His self-sacrifice on Golgotha’s cruel tree is the only way that sins are atoned for, paid for, for all mankind, and only those who trust the promises He alone, as God, can give, receive the benefits. It’s only Jesus. It’s not Jesus and something else. It’s not Jesus and our “good” works. Not Jesus and being of one political persuasion or the other. Not Jesus and being a nice person. It’s only Jesus. It’s also not any of the false gods or philosophies that have infected our world. It’s not Buddha or the Dhali Lama. Not the Islamic Allah nor the Jewish Adonai. Neither Zeus nor Thor nor Baal. And, it’s most certainly not ourselves. Nothing and no one in all creation gives eternal life except … Jesus.

But that’s hard. It’s a difficult teaching to our modern sensibilities, our notions of fairness and niceness. It sounds mean to say that one is only saved by believing in Jesus because it means that everyone who doesn’t … is wrong, and being wrong here carries a heavy price: eternal damnation, and no one wants to hear that message! It’s a hard teaching now, but it was a difficult teaching back in Jesus’ day, as well – not so much because Jesus was supposed to be “nice,” but rather because He wasn’t what people expected. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,” Paul tells the Corinthians, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” The Jews were looking for the next King David, a might ruler to rout the Romans and establish a new worldwide kingdom. The Gentiles saw this weak, unassuming, apparently conquered and killed rabbi from the backwaters of Judea … and laughed at the idea that this man … was God! 

But amongst both Jews and Gentiles, there are those who believe – then, and now – that it is only Jesus who has saved the world from the wrath to come! That includes you, my dear Christian friends! Peter is including you in his letter when he wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Once, you were the possession of the enemy, children of wrath, slated for damnation. But because of what Jesus did, and only because of what He did, the Father deigns to call you His own beloved child. He plucked you from the net of sin, washed and made you clean in the blood of the Lamb through Holy Baptism, and marked you with His seal. You are His, and it is only because … of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is only because of Jesus.

All who believe this, who cling to these promises, know how this story ends. They know that like Stephen, even though their eyes may close in death, still, with their own eyes they will behold their Redeemer, and not another. That’s the beauty of the promise Jesus is giving His disciples in our gospel text. Irrespective of the life circumstances in which we find ourselves, the Way, the Truth, and the Life remains constant. Indeed, He is the only constant in the lives of His people. Friends can be fickle; they can come and go. Families have fallings-out and members die away. Cities change, nations rise and fall, wealth comes and goes. Even in the Church, things are in flux. Denominations break apart, dissolve, or are absorbed into others. Fealty to pure doctrine can wane in favor of sycophancy to the world. Pastors and other leaders … retire, resign, or receive Calls to serve elsewhere. No, the Church is no exception. Things in this life change ... except for Jesus. 

The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, declares in the midst of this chaos and cacophony that He will never leave you, nor forsake you. The Way, the Truth, and the Life promises that you are in the Father’s hand, and that nothing all creation – even pastoral absences – can snatch you away from Him or separate you from His love for you in Jesus. The crucified and resurrected One has gone to prepare a place for you, and since He has gone, and is even now preparing your eternal dwelling place, He gives His solemn promise that He will come back and take you to be with Him, that you may be with Him where He is forever.

That’s why this day is … bittersweet. It’s bitter for obvious reasons, as we say our goodbyes and farewells for now. I will miss this place, and more specifically, the people. But it is sweet because I know, as do you all, that this is not a forever goodbye. We will either see each other again on this side of eternity, or as we stand before the One who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. That’s a guarantee. 

Jesus said to [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me ….” It’s only Jesus. It’s ever and always been only Jesus. He is our Redeemer. He is the Savior of the Church, not any one pastor. He is your Lord, and the promises that He has made to you, He will keep. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Let not your hearts be troubled, my dear Christian friends. It’s only Jesus, and thanks be to God that our salvation is only in Jesus.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.