How Can I Find the Way to Heaven?
A few years ago the Algerian President Mohammed Boudiaf was assassinated by Moslem Fundamentalists. According to Time, in a speech given minutes before he died he said, "The life of human beings is very short. We are all going to die. Why should we cling to so much power." A good question? Just a shame he didn't appear to have enough time to find an answer. We have. Life is a journey. It has a beginning and an end. Birth and death. That much is certain. What happens in between is the unpredictable part. But the part we have some choice in.
We're all travellers somewhere on that journey, for ever on the move, learning, growing, changing. Having just moved to Virginia Water, we have experienced many changes. Some have been unsettling like saying good-bye to friends, some have been exciting like discovering beautiful parts of Surrey we didn't realise existed. Change can be traumatic or therapeutic. It depends more on our attitude than our circumstances.
On one memorable occasion in the Gospels, Jesus took his disciples aside and explained to them quite bluntly that they were going to travel to Jerusalem where he would be arrested, tried and crucified. Jesus wanted his friends to know why. Naturally they felt sad and uneasy when Jesus began to talk about leaving them.
There was uncertainty and fear in their questions. Peter, always one to speak his mind asks, "Where are you going? Why can't we follow you now? It was then that Jesus spoke these words to comfort them. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." Jesus describes heaven like a hotel at an oasis in the middle of the desert. He says, he must go on ahead to prepare it for them. Then he adds the comment "Of course you know the way don't you...." Thomas spoke up for them all, "Lord we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Because they clearly didn't understand Jesus uttered those famous words, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
What did Jesus mean? Why did Jesus have to die? Life is a journey, and we are all travellers. Sometimes, maybe right now, for you it seems like a desert. Sooner or later we all get lost, we lose our way, we need someone to show us the way, a Pathfinder. Jesus says to us, as he did to His friends, "I am the Way". Jesus is the road to God, the only road that leads to God. Where does that road start? It starts at the foot of the cross. The disciples would discover later after the resurrection, that for Jesus this must involve him taking the punishment and death we all deserve, in our place, on the cross, in order that we might be made right with God, be forgiven and receive eternal life. In a world of competing religions and guides, prophets and gurus, Jesus says "I am the way to God". Not "a way" but "The Way". As the One who created the world, who sustains it, who died to save it from destruction, to reconcile it to God, Jesus is uniquely qualified to lead us into a new relationship with God. And He came back from the dead to prove He had done it. To show there is life after death as well, that he knew the way back to the future. I often make the mistake of starting out on a journey thinking I know the way. I invariably get hopelessly lost. Five minutes with the map before starting out can save hours of wasted time and mileage. Jesus is the way, and his words in the Bible are the truth, Its like a map to show us the route to take. The route he has marked out for us. But Jesus promised more.
He didn't just say, "Follow my example, read my book, bye for now, see you there, hope you make it." That would be like pushing a car instead of filling it with fuel. Jesus said "I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life." He is the life as well. As we depend upon Jesus he lives his very life in us. We cannot do it in our own strength. Its like taking the best Olympic swimmers in the world and telling them to swim the Atlantic. No matter how good they are, they are not good enough. Neither are we. Jesus promised them, "I will come back and take you to be with me."
By his death and resurrection, Jesus has shown us that death is not the end of the journey, that we were created for eternal life, a living relationship with God as our Father. Now and for ever. When does this eternal life begin? The moment we chose to follow Jesus. It is his life, renewing us, changing us, transforming us, into his likeness. Is it foolish to trust in Jesus with the future we cannot see? Jim Elliott was a missionary in South America. Before he was martyred he wrote this, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Following Jesus involves giving our life to him, which we cannot keep anyway, and in return receiving his life in ours, a life we can never lose. Where ever we start out on that journey, Jesus gives certainty about where we are going. He gives meaning and purpose in a mixed up, confused world.
In the midst of life's journey, with its uncertainties, joys and tragedies, Jesus comes along side us with his arms open wide promising an experience that has come true for millions and millions of people over the last 2000 years, "Come unto me all who are weary from life's journey, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls."
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