Mid-Week Lenten Vespers
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 7 PM Central Time
The Hymn # 142 A Lamb 1:21
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 3 p. 123
The Lection The Passion History
The Sermon Hymn #5 Open Thou My Heart 1:93
The Sermon – The Way, the Truth, the Life
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace p. 45
The Hymn # 46 On What Has Now 1:62
KJV John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. 8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
This passage from John is an excellent example of how much teaching can be found in one paragraph of that Gospel, yet the thoughts are expressed in the simplest words possible.
I noticed when attending another service that many passages in the Bible fall into poetical cadences, short phrases, easy to remember and understand. In this particular case, it was this part of the birth story for Christmas:
KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days,
that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus,
that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed,
every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee,
out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David,
which is called Bethlehem;
(because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife,
being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there,
the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son,
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger;
because there was no room for them in the inn.
We can easily imagine the angelic message being memorized and passed on as poetry or as a hymn:
10 And the angel said unto them,
for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day
in the city of David
which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.
I noticed the poetic structure because the minister ran everything together as prose.
John’s Gospel is considered the most poetic, because all of Jesus’ sermons fall into the short, simple repetitive phrases of poetry. That is one reason why they are remembered so well. Try reading them that way.
There are two main messages in this paragraph from John. One is the relationship between the Father and the Son. That is constantly emphasized in the Fourth Gospel but also found elsewhere:
KJV Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
That is also in poetic phrases.
The point in this passage is illustrated by the foolish statement of Philip, “Show us the Father and it will be enough.”
The response dispels the notion that the Father and Son are entirely separate, although they are distinct persons of the Trinity. Hearing the Son means hearing the Father. Seeing the Son means seeing the Father.
Everything Christ does is from the Father. Thus, anyone who tries to make three gods out of the Trinity is wrong. The Gospel of John teaches the Three-ness of the One God and the Unity of the Three Persons.
Some might ask, “If so much is said about the Father-Son relationship, is the Holy Spirit neglected?”
John’s Gospel also includes one of the most extensive sermons on the Holy Spirit, one so significant that every pastor should memorize it as much as possible.
Notice that John’s Gospel does not have Chapter 1 – The Father, Chapter 2 – The Son, Chapter 3 – the Holy Spirit. The revealed Word is not at all like a Confession of Faith (by man) or a theology textbook. But from the Word of God we can put together what God teaches.
John 14:5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
This is a word play, which we also use in English. The way is literally the road, often used or abused in the term synod (walking together, although flash mobs are more organized and better disciplined).
There is a transition from “Where are you going?” to the great I AM statement:
I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
This completely repudiates those opinions which treat Jesus as one more great religious teacher. This era is no different from the pagan era, where people were glad to welcome Jesus as another religious leader, as long as they could buy His magic (they imagined) or associate Him with others.
This sentence alone cannot be confessed while also stating that there are other paths or roads to salvation. While that sounds tolerant and open-minded, to equate Jesus with Buddha and tree gods, it is just the opposite. Those who compromise the faith to allow pagan religion are soul-murderers. They are more dangerous than pagans because they blend a tiny bit of truth with a dominant supply of error.
The second part of the statement leaves no doubt with its litotes, or double negative to illustrate a positive in unmistakable terms. No one (negative) except (negative).
That does not permit any special cases, for no one can possibly know the Father except through knowing the Son.
This gives us the greatest confidence that in John’s Gospel we have the true revelation of the grace of the Father in giving His beloved Son to die for our sins.
The Bible judges all books. If someone comes up with a theory or a great work of bogus scholarship to set John’s Gospel aside, we know better. No book judges the Fourth Gospel, but John’s Gospel judges all attempts to interpret it.
If someone is looking for sermon books, get Luther’s sermons on the Gospel of John. He gave those sermons reluctantly when he said he would rather be working in the garden, retired.
There is more truth in one page of Luther’s correct interpretation of John than in all the “practical” books of the moderns.
John’s Gospel is a constant source of God’s grace, a way to build up one’s confidence in the Word, and a great comfort and guide. The Fourth Gospel is Jesus speaking to us in His simple, yet profound sermons.