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I am the way, and the truth, and the life

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Topic Scripture: John 14:1–6

Today is Mother’s Day. If you still need to get a gift, take heart: number one on the list of gifts most moms want may surprise you and can be provided at low cost.

According to a recent survey, a whopping 52 percent of moms want more sleep. Next to more sleep on the list, moms wanted a spa day. Who wouldn’t? Third was a great day out with family. Jewelry ranked lowest on the list.

The answers shouldn’t come as a great surprise. A poll of over one thousand new moms showed that 90 percent said they feel tired or exhausted on most days. There are no days off for mothers, and research shows that the average hours moms work per week is 98, the equivalent of 2.5 full-time jobs. No wonder they want more sleep.

On April 13, 1989, in Los Angeles, California, a little girl named Tiffany Schaffer was walking home from school clutching her teddy bear. Mrs. Johnnie Matheston, mother of one, was waiting at a red light where Tiffany was crossing the street.

All at once a man turned right on red and headed right for little Tiffany. Mrs. Matheston blew her horn, but it was too late. She watched in horror as the blue Datsun ran over the little girl. The car stopped, with Tiffany directly under the motor. Before anyone could react, Johnnie Matheston got out of her car, ran to the twenty-six-hundred-pound car and picked up the front end four inches while someone pulled Tiffany out.

Tiffany escaped with only two broken bones and some abrasions. Mrs. Matheston pulled two muscles but was otherwise unhurt. Though six months pregnant, she dead-lifted over one thousand pounds—something no man has ever done, but one mother did.

Today we come to our sixth “I Am” statement of Jesus, one that offers us a remarkable promise. After we explore our Lord’s words, we will apply them to this special and sacred day. And we will learn that, next to our Lord, we owe our mothers an incalculable debt for their faith, hope, and love.

Truth is now tolerance

A friend once told me this less than spiritual story. It seems a lady called a Baptist pastor to say that she’d been visiting and wanted to join. “That’s wonderful,” he replied. “Yes, but first I’d like to ask you something. My dog just died, and I’d like to bury him at the church.”

The pastor was shocked: “Ma’am, we don’t do such things in the Baptist church. Maybe the Methodist church down the street would do that for you.” “I’m so sorry,” she replied. “I was thinking of giving half a million dollars to the church.” The pastor immediately answered, “Oh, you didn’t tell me it was a Baptist dog.”

Being Baptist or Methodist has never mattered less than it does today. For the first time in American history, Protestants comprise less than 50 percent of the total population. The proportion of Roman Catholics in the general population is 20 percent. The group growing the most quickly is composed of those who declare no religious affiliation at all.

The watchword in our culture today is “tolerance.” Only 35 percent of Americans believe that moral truth is absolute. It is conventional wisdom today that truth is personal and subjective. To claim objective truth is to be insensitive and intolerant.

Four claims of Jesus

In light of this “new” morality, consider Jesus’ statements to his followers on the night before his crucifixion.

Our text begins: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). The Greek syntax indicates the stopping of an action currently in progress; the phrase could be rendered, “Stop letting your hearts be troubled . . ..”

Jesus has just instituted the Lord’s Supper, at which he told his disciples again of his impending death (13:33). Imagine a loved one who just told you that he or she would die tomorrow—it is no wonder that they were “troubled” (the same word used for the “troubling” of the waters at Bethesda, John 5:7).

If anyone deserved to be comforted while facing his own “troubled heart,” it was Jesus on this night. Soon he would suffer the worst torture and execution humans can invent. And yet he is the one comforting them!

Jesus will soon die for their sins, abandoned by them at the cross. Imagine a victim comforting her murderer, a Jew comforting a Nazi, a black slave comforting a lynch mob. And so, Jesus comforts us still with these precious words.

Consider four claims by our Lord:

First, Jesus claimed that he is God.

“Trust in God; trust also in me” (v. 1). The Greek construction makes clear that the first and second phrase are parallel, equating the two. In this brief sentence Jesus clearly defined himself as divine. In verse 9 he added, “Anyone who has seen me as seen the Father.” Earlier the authorities tried to stone him to death “because you claim to be God” (John 10:33). Other religious leaders claim to reveal God; Jesus claims to be God.

Second, he is preparing heaven for us.

“I am going there to prepare a place for you” (v. 2). Earlier, Peter had asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (John 13:36). Now he fulfills that promise with this one.

“Prepare” means to go before and make ready for the arrival of others (cf. Hebrews 6:19–20). This word was used for the “preparations” made by Peter and John for the Passover meal just completed (Mark 14:12). Other religious leaders told their followers how to get to heaven; Jesus is preparing heaven for us.

Third, he will take us there himself (v. 3).

“Take you to be with me” means “to walk alongside of.” Jesus didn’t return home after leaving directions for finding our way there—he promised to come back and lead us there personally. Other religious leaders pointed the way to heaven; Jesus will take us there personally.

Fourth, he is the only way to God (v. 6).

His Greek was emphatic: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Still later, Jesus was even more emphatic: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). No one in all of human history ever made this claim. Other religious leaders said, “I know the way, truth, life”; Jesus claimed to be the way, truth, and life.

We need to be clear on these claims to absolute truth. Jesus said in essence: I am God; I am preparing your place in heaven; I will take you there; I alone can take you there. Acts 4:12 asserts, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” The Bible clearly claims that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, the only life.

Gratitude for godly mothers

How is this text relevant to Mother’s Day?

First, if your mother is no longer living but made Christ her Lord, she is in heaven with him right now.

Your mother did not die when her physical life ended. She stepped from time into eternity, from death into life, from this fallen world into God’s glorious paradise.

I remember my mother’s homegoing as if it were last week. She had been ill for years and in rapidly declining health for several days. It was a Sunday. My brother and I were with her in her hospice room. We were talking together and looked over to check on her when we discovered that she had died.

In that moment, something died inside of me. There is something we cannot fully explain about the death of the person who gave us life. My mind flashed back to so many moments when her love was so real for me. It was impossible to imagine a world without her in it. But I knew in my soul that I would see her again, that she was home and she was well. And that fact gave me the comfort I needed.

Two days later, I was alone with her body at the funeral home, and the finality of her death became real for me in an even deeper way. Once again, the fact of her eternal life with Jesus enabled me to stand beside her dead body and know that she was alive.

Because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, our mothers who trust in him are with him forever. As we will be one day.

Second, if your mother helped you know Jesus, you owe her an unpayable debt.

The courage of Moses’ mother saved his life and gave the world all that he did. Hannah’s godly faith gave us Samuel, the last judge and first prophet of Israel. Elizabeth’s faith gave us John the Baptist. Mary’s sacrificial surrender made her the mother of our Lord.

The great expositor G. Campbell Morgan said, “My sermons were Bible stories which I had first learned from my mother.” The remarkable evangelist Dwight L. Moody admitted, “All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

The greatest Baptist preacher ever, Charles Spurgeon, agreed, “I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother.” The mother of John Newton’s final prayer for her young son before she died was that he become a minister. He led a wayward life of sin before he came to the Amazing Grace of which his hymn testifies.

William Wallace was right: “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

If your mother helped you trust in Jesus as your way, truth, and life, thank her today. If she is with the Lord, thank him today.

Third, if you have been given the privilege of motherhood, lead your children to your Lord.

Your influence in their lives cannot be overstated. What you do and say will be with them forever. You are truly writing on the clay of their souls. You have the eternal privilege of helping them receive eternal life.

If they are already believers, continue to help them follow their Lord. You are never too young or too old to minister to them. What Jesus has done in you, he wants to do through you. And your family is your first kingdom assignment.

Conclusion

Since my mother is with Jesus today, I’m remembering her with great gratitude. I’m remembering her courage, her intellect, her unconditional love for me. I’m remembering all the ways God used her to bless me and to draw me to himself.

How would you express your gratitude to or for your mother today?

Let’s close with Peter Marshall’s beautiful Mother’s Day prayer and express in its words our commitment:

“On this day of sacred memories, our Father, we would thank Thee for our mothers who gave us life, who surrounded us early and late with love and care, whose prayers on our behalf still cling around the Throne of Grace, a haunting perfume of love’s petitions.

“Help us, their children, to be more worthy of their love. We know that no sentimentality on this day, no material gifts—no flowers or boxes of candy can atone for our neglect during the rest of the year. So, in the days ahead, may our love speak to the hearts of those who know love best—by kindness, by compassion, by simple courtesy and daily thoughtfulness.

“Bless her whose name we whisper before Thee, and keep her in Thy perfect peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”