Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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 (John 14:1-3).I had a love hate relationship with the Army. There were things about it I couldn't stand one bit. And there were things about it I loved to no end. Among them was that being a soldier to me felt like a privilege. I could defend something that I believed in. All of the training and preparation was geared at one simple task - defending freedom. Sounds cheesy yes, but I loved it. However, it didn't take long for me to realize something that tore me up inside. No matter how much I fought and sacrificed everything I stood for would eventually be gone. Nothing in this world lasts forever. Nations come and go. Political philosophies rise and fall. And soldiers live and die. In my heart I felt I needed to dedicate my life to something that would last beyond a Hollywood flick or a history book. I needed to fight for something that would last forever.
John chapter 14 begins with a promise. Jesus calls it "My Father's house". He speaks of mansions, rooms, preparation, a place. He talks about coming back and he talks about relationship - "I will come back and take you to be with me". It doesn't take a scholar to recognize that Jesus is using heaven language here. He is talking about that eternal home we call the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of God, and eternity. And it is in response to this amazing promise of Jesus that we once again bump into the elusive Thomas.
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way” (5)?
In our last post we saw that the resurrection of Lazarus was a cataclysmic event in Thomas' spiritual journey. And here, just a few chapters later, we start to see a change in Thomas. We no longer see the sarcastic disciple. Now we see someone who is really interested in what Jesus has to say. And he asks one of the most profound questions known to man - "how can we know the way?" And today, if we pause and ask this question we will find a whole slew of answers none of which seem to be satisfying.
The atheist would respond by saying that there is no heaven. The pagan would agree but would go on to argue that we must create our own heaven here on earth by striving to make the world a better place. The religions of the east would also deny the existence of heaven opting instead of a "oneness" or non-relational "reunification" with the divine. In other parts they may refer to their final destination as an escape from desire, nirvana, or "the end" - all of which are achieved through the excersize of the will in the performance of strict religious duties. If Thomas had asked his religious leaders that question he would have gotten two different responses as well. Some would have said that heaven was not real, and others would have said that in order to reach heaven you have to work really hard at keeping the law of God. But no matter which way you turn, it seems like the answer is terrible. Either heaven is not real, or it is real but way out of reach to the average Joe.
But suppose you took the second option. Suppose you decided to try and work your way into heaven. Would you succeed? Not a chance. Even if you managed to do everything perfectly, you can never undo or outweigh the sins you have committed. If you are going to get into heaven, a different way must be made available or else you simply have no hope.
But what is that way? That's what Thomas wanted to know. Jesus, how can we know the way? Is it going to church every week? Is it reading my Bible every day? Is it praying three times a day? Is it doing everything really good? What is the way?
And here comes Jesus response:
Jesus answered, "I am the way... No one comes to the Father except through me" (6).How weird is that? The way to heaven is not a series of behaviors. Its not a set of beliefs. Its not a way of life. Its not even a religion. The way to heaven is a person and his name is Jesus. He is the door to heaven. He is the path to heaven. He is the entrance to heaven. A person. Not a concept. Not a philosophy. Not an exam. Not a church program. A person.
Entering the kingdom of heaven is not about what you do, its about who you know. Do you know Jesus? Or do you only know about him? Do you talk to Jesus? Or do you only talk about him? Do you walk with Jesus? Or do you only talk about walking with him? Do you know him?
Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that you earn heaven by achieving level bff with Jesus. This isn't about measuring whether we know him a lot or a little. This is simply about asking if our faith in Jesus is based on a real relationship or if its nothing more than information in your head. Because the way to heaven is not information. Its Jesus himself. He wants you and he is calling you to go from being a Christian by default, to entering into a real relationship with him.
In this series we have been asking, How can I experience God? We have looked at some answers from the life of doubting Thomas. The first step toward experiencing God for real in your life to is realize that he wants you despite your flaws. The second step is to answer his call over your life. The third is to follow him even if you don't know why. When you do, God places you in circumstances that lead you to experience him more and more. But now comes the fourth step and perhaps the most important one - to actively seek to build a relationship with him by realizing that following Jesus is not about religion, its about relationship.