The following is written by Dale Pratt from Cedar Community Church. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org:
So, what’s going on is, I’m exploring my way through the life of Jesus, through the perspective of the Apostle John, in his Gospel record. John has an interesting and unique take on who this Jesus was and I like it – well, sometimes I like it, and sometimes it’s rather alarming! It’s confrontational! Like, Jesus gets all weird and talks about how he’s the bread that comes down from heaven and if we don’t eat of that bread – unless we eat of his flesh and drink of his blood … his reference to the symbolism of what we call Communion and to the sacrificial death – that our eternal life isn’t possible (John 6).
A significant number of his disciples got all tweaked at him over this teaching and quit following him, saying: “This teaching is way too hard and I can’t buy in!” But, bodacious Peter – I love that guy! – boldly asserts that the inner core of the 12 disciples – for whom Peter is speaking – couldn’t possibly quit following him, because where else could they go, because he alone has words of eternal life!?
Then Jesus makes the statement suggesting that he’s equal to God and nearly gets himself stoned (John 8). A little later he gets all philosophical, again, and says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to Father God except through Me.”
“Whoa! Jesus! Really? You are one weird, narrow-minded duck!”
This guy has some interesting stuff to say and after I listen to him for a while, I have to decide what I’m gonna do with him. My mind-meandering today is taking me down the path of thinking and feeling and deciding – i.e., I’m reviewing what I think and how I feel about what I’m thinking and what I’m deciding to do about how I feel about what I think. I spend a lot of time meditating on what the Holy Bible has to say and while I build teachings and sermons out of stuff I find in the Holy Book, I first of all make personal application, and then build the teaching out of what I’m applying. It somehow feels disingenuous to preach something I don’t believe and something I won’t live.
So I ask myself intimately personal “what if?” questions as I ponder the implications of Jesus being “the Way, the Truth and the Life” before I suggest to my listeners what it might mean to them – and I do this on all the info I find in the Gospel writings, or in the epistles of Paul and the other New Testament writers. What if Jesus is life? I mean, the Book says so! And, what if the Father loves me – us – and that’s why he sent his son, Jesus, to live a life and model relationship to this “higher power” we refer to as God, and what if it’s possible to emulate that relationship thing somehow and live in some sort of intimacy with the “Father” – here and now, not just there and then? What if?
Big question: “How do I know there’s God and that Jesus is who he said he is, and that life – both here and now as well as there and then – will play itself out the way he said it will?”
Big response: “I don’t!”
Big assumption: I simply take in the information from these long-dead guys (the apostles), review their lives in light of what history says about them, explore the cost to them of believing and the benefits – possible and alleged – of their faith in Jesus, and ponder if the benefits were worth the cost, and ask myself, “What if this stuff is true? What would the benefit be to me?”
And as I consider this information I’m taking in, I also observe how I feel about it: i.e. the cerebral and visceral weave together – and I make a decision on what I’m thinking about how I feel, or how I’m feeling about what I think.
Big decision: “Yes.”
Yes, I’m willing to bet my life here, and my eternity there, that this Jesus is just who he said he was – and still is.
Possible benefit: Jesus says it’s all about life! Real life – body, soul and spirit, and renewed by the spirit – and it passes through the crack in time that we call death and on to the other side.
Possible cost: Jesus says it could cost me my life. But, considering the benefit transcends this life, it looks to me like there’s not really a cost and I really can’t lose.
What if this Jesus really was the son of God and really did sacrifice himself for me and really did come out of the grave alive again, and what if there really is a life payoff if I put my faith in him?