Jesus begins the "Farewell Discourse" by telling them that he will only be with them for a short time, but that he has a new commandment for them. By the way, this is where we get the term Maundy, which is Latin for the word "Mandate." In other words, Jesus is giving a "New Mandate" to the disciples. We celebrate this on 'Maundy Thursday" during holy week. The new command, which is repeated throughout these discourses, is "love one another and I have loved you."(John 13:34)
Let's pick us the story after Peter asks Jesus where he is going in John 14.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. 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, so that where I am, there you may be also.
And you know the way to the place where I am going."
Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."
Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (NRSV John 14:1-13
The Way, the Truth, and the Life: More than a Litmus Test:
If anyone knows what "snipe hunting" is, you will immediately find humor in this story. One weekend, I went to northeaster Tennessee to preach one Sunday. On Saturday night they kept telling me all about "snipe hunting" and how I needed to try it. When it got dark outside, they took me out in the middle of this field and gave me a bag. They told me that the way to catch a snipe was to wait until they blew a loud horn and then I was supposed to hold a bag on the ground and wait for it to run inside. After they had taken me out in the middle of this field, with no flash light, they all walked off. After about 10 minutes I realized I was in the middle of a huge field with no flashlight, all alone. They were all back at the house, amused that I fell for their joke.
You should know that this is no way to treat a visiting preacher. I couldn't count the number of cow patties I stepped in on the way back to the house. When I arrived back at the house, they were still laughing. I should have asked been more specific with my questions about "snipe hunting" because I didn't get the joke. I think some of the disciples thought Jesus was playing a practical joke on them as he continually told them that he was leaving.
Jesus begins chapter 14 by answering the question, "Where are you going?" This is a no-nonsense kind of question. If I told my wife "in a little while, I am going to be gone" she would natural ask, "Where are you going?" Peter is just asking this same question of Jesus. His explanation is fourfold: (1) I am going to a place that has many dwellings (2) I am going to this place to prepare a place for you (3) I will come back and get you (4) And.. by the way, you already know the place I am going.
Thomas is still confused about Jesus' answer and says, "We do not know where you are going, so how can we get their?" Jesus answers with one of the most famous lines from the Bible, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me." In this verse, Jesus answers two questions. (1) Where is he going? Answer: To the Father. (2) How do they get there? Answer: Through Jesus. In the next verse he answers the Why question: Because if you know Jesus, you also know the Father and have seen him. In verses 8 and 9 Jesus says that he is in the father and the father is in him.
Christians today use John 14:6 as a litmus test to see if people really believe the right things about Jesus. The question is normally asked like this: Do you believe Jesus is the Way, the truth, and the life and that no one can get to the Father except through him?" Or, is Jesus the only way to God? I want to be clear about this: I do believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. I also believe that Jesus is the only way to God because I believe that Jesus reveals to us who God is. When we read about Jesus, we read about God.
HOWEVER… most of the time, we miss the whole point of Jesus' sermon because we fail to move below John 14:6. I wish following Jesus was as easy as believing this to be true and answering yes to the question, but Jesus is not finished with what he wants the disciples to know. Notice in verse 11 he tells the disciples to believe in him because he is telling them this, but if they do not, then they should believe in him because of the WORKS THAT HE DOES.
Jesus then sums up the material for us thus far. He says in verse 12, "The one who believes in me will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." WOW. Jesus is saying that if we believe in him, we will do even greater things than he did. Believing that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life means more than having to acknowledge the truth of the statement, it means that those of us who believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and life are the ones who will do greater things that Jesus did because he goes to the Father.
Live the Jesus Life
Our former senior minister by the name of Charles Neal used to have a saying that I liked. He would say, "Life the way Jesus lived so that others would see the truth of his life." I liked this because if we are to do greater things than Jesus and we do them the way Jesus taught us to do them, then others should see the truth of his life lived out in ours.
I remember in high school I wore a tee shirt around all the time with the logo, "Don't just talk the talk, but walk the walk." I thought this was the coolest shirt that had ever been made. Some people believe this saying originated from the Ancient Greek Philosopher Socrates. It was said that when he would discuss such topics as ethics and politics, he would do it while walking around, hence the call to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk.
In the first part of Jesus' "Farewell Discourse", he does not come out and tell those listening, "Don't just talk the talk, but walk the walk" but he does say some things that leads one to this conclusion. He does tell us that believing in him means we will do great things in his name. He is clear that following him means walking in his footsteps and living the way he taught us to. Let us be people who 'Walk the Talk"