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A Sermon To Read: “Believe Also In Me”

John 14:1

That lonely Sufferer, of whom David sings in the 22nd Psalm, was, of course, none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. He was the One who was a reproach of men and despised by the people. He was the One whom they scorned, saying, “He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.'” He was the One whose bones were poured out like water, whose hands and whose feet they pierced, and upon whose vesture they cast lots. He was the One from whose holy and innocent lips the cry of desolation was pressed out, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Yes – and all of this suffering was already in His mind’s eye as He sat at meat with His disciples on that last Passover eve, and washed their feet, and instituted His holy supper, and calmly spoke to them of His approaching betrayal and death. And they were the ones who were agitated, and confused, and so He spoke to them, in the continuation of His “Upper Room Discourse,” of peace and faith in Himself: and it is at those consoling words of His that I would have you all look this day, John 14, vs, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”

The consolation of our Savior is both negative and positive here and it is vain for men to urge us to avoid the one or the other in our speech, and especially in our instruction, for it is impossible (isn’t it?) to affirm anything of substance and significance in this world without denying the opposite! – and so it is here. He begins with a word of caution. They have been filled with dismay and with despair, but they are to leave all of that! They are to stop their worrying. And He repeats this caution towards the end of His speech to them, as you recall in v. 27 – and even adds to it, “Don’t be afraid!’ They are to believe in God instead – and it is hard to tell from the original whether we are to take this as an imperative, which is likely, or as a statement, as our traditional translation has it, “You believe in God,” that’s assumed! It doesn’t make any difference – the second part is almost always regarded as an imperative, “Believe also in me!” Does He make Himself “equal with God’ here? Indeed He does – and the implication
is as unmistakable here as it is elsewhere in the gospels: we are to repose in Jesus, even as He hangs in utter physical weakness on the cross, the same faith and trust that we place in the Almighty God, the Maker and Ruler of heaven and earth! And nearly all that follows in this wonderful, and, I am sure, familiar chapter of St. John’s Gospel is basically an expansion of this marvelous direction: we’re to believe that He is the Way (v.6), and we are to believe that He is in the Father and that the Father is in Him, (v.11) and we are to believe that He will give us peace (v.27) – and I should like to take up these matters with you today, one by one,

1. And, first of all, that we are to believe in Jesus Christ, that He ls the way! “I am going away.” He says – and it has been a repeated statement of His in this whole discourse beginning in the previous chapter at v.33, and v.36, and now in chapter 14, v.2, and in the succeeding verse He also assures them that, in His going away, He will not forget them. They cannot come with Him at once, but He will come again to them (and there is obviously a double reference in His words at this point, both to His resurrection which reconstitutes His fellowship with them, and to His ultimate and triumphant return in glory at the end of the age). Then they will be with Him – and He says, v.4, “You know where I am going and you know the way there, too!” He means, of course, that He is going to His Father’s house and that He has instructed them often enough and well enough of the Father and of His will for them that they should know the way: but, alas, they are confused. And Thomas never one to hide his doubts and questions, you see – speaks out for the rest of them, “No, Lord, we don’t know the way! How can we know the way? We are all confused, Lord, help us!” And I believe that His question – and the implied plea for guidance – must strike a responsive chord in the hearts of most of us today who must live out our lives in a world and in an age which is as confused about almost everything as any age before us!

It has been an age of revolution in which we have been living almost as long as we can remember, beginning with political revolutions earlier in this century which swept away so many of the landmarks and institutions which had stood for centuries. When the Russian Bolsheviks overthrew their czar and established the Soviet Union some 70 years ago it was a comparatively young dynasty that they destroyed, but when the Hohenzollerns and the other royal and princely houses of Germany and the Hapsburgs of Austria-Hungary fell, there fell with them nearly a thousand years of history – a break with the past that could not fail to be significant for the whole western world. And surely before very long, and following in the footsteps of these political revolutions there came all sorts of others as well – a social leveling, perhaps, such as the world has never seen before so that few men and women any longer know their “place” in society – which sounds awfully “stuffy”‘ today, but which is really and truly a very unsettling thing, and one of the keys to that “rootlessness”‘ and “identity crisis”‘ of which so many complain in this age. There has been a widespread change in our moral ideas, too, as those things which from time to time immemorial were considered right have been questioned and those which from time immemorial have been considered wrong are freely proposed and even advocated in what has been called a “new morality!” Accepted teachings have been challenged especially in the churches, those traditional guardians in our western culture of men’s attitudes and viewpoints – and Protestant orthodoxy was the first to go as “liberals’ and “modernists” denied the truthfulness and authority of the Bible and discarded more and more the system of doctrine and ethics that the Bible contains the Roman Catholics orthodoxy soon followed it, and that huge church, which for all of its faults had stood for centuries like an impregnable fortress of continuity, has entered upon a sea of troubles, leaving many of its followers as confused as many Protestants and asking with St. Thomas of old – “How can we know the way?”‘ Is there a way at all?

All kinds of alternatives have been proposed today and Dr. Francis Schaffer names three of the chief contenders, and you will have no trouble recognizing them, though you may never have heard the names
he gives them. The first, he says, is “hedonism,’ which means, essentially, doing whatever you please as long as it doesn’t get you into trouble – and you’ve heard this argument over and over again, haven’t
you? Why shouldn’t I take dope if I want to, they ask – I like it, and it hasn’t hurt me yet, and it does you no harm either, so let me alone! Or why shouldn’t I have an abortion if I want to – I don’t want the child
and it’s my business anyway.” Or why shouldn’t I divorce my wife or husband – our marriage is a mess and I’ve fallen in love with someone else And so it goes – but it’s an awful way to run a railroad, as they
say, or a world isn’t it – when there are basically no standards but our own! The second alternative is less liberal, perhaps, but equally odious – what Dr. Schaffer calls the dictatorship of the 51% – or the so-called democratic law that the majority is always right, a maxim that was never believed by our forefathers who thought that checks and balances were always needed to keep the fickle majority from running off wild with the mechanisms of society, and who thought that the “law”‘ was somehow or other a timeless truth that was built into nature itself, but which is now being applied by the high courts or the land!
What is the will of the majority? – they are asking. Do they want Sunday shopping, for example – then they shall have it. Do they want “adult” book shops – pornographic movies – legalized prostitution homosexual school teachers – or whatever? Then they shall have it, and no questions asked. The third alternative has not been seen in the western world, but produced the clean, crime-free, full employment societies of the east, namely, the dictatorship of an elite, a few, who decide for all the rest on whatever basis they may choose – and so far it has usually been Marxist doctrine – but these are some of the ends to which we are coming in the world today because, essentially, we’ve lost the way!

Jesus said (John 14:6), “I am the Way,” and He went on to claim that He was the only true way, that brought life to men, and that had the Father’s approval – and we who call ourselves Christians still in this crazy, mixed-up world must take that very seriously today. We must believe in Him the Lord, the Standard which cannot be changed or shaken, come what may! Do you so believe?

2. Well, if you answer, Yes, or if you’re even inclined in that direction, on what grounds do you do so? Are you being as arbitrary as the rest of the world in choosing a path, a way, by which to go? That’s what you’ll probably hear in one form or another from your friends who are not Christians, and even from some who are, but who would rather not take it too seriously (and we may well wonder whether or not they “are” Christians, or just claim to be!) – but they’ll say something like this, as a rule. “It’s fine for you to think that way, but that’s only your opinion! As for me, I look at it differently,” and they’ll go on to explain that, while they can accept some of the teachings of the Bible (which is the source of our doctrine, of course), they can’t accept them all – that some of them are unscientific, and some of them are outmoded and too old-fashioned, and the rest – I’m sure you’ve heard the “line’, haven’t you?

Now I don’t believe that any of the apostles were of this way of thinking, and yet were a little shaken, apparently, by Jesus’ unqualified assertion that He was the Way and the only way by which we may come to the Father at all, and they sought some support! Philip was their spokesman this time, and he said, v.8, “Lord show us the Father, and it sufficeth us!” He was not the first to make such a request. In fact, a far greater than he had done so many centuries before! It was Moses, you recall, who was overwhelmed, it seemed, with the task of leading Israel from Mt. Sinai even unto Canaan, and who asked (Exodus 33, v.18), “I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory!” And the Lord acceded to his request – in part – and passed by him whilst He hid him in the cleft of the rock and covered him there with His hand, and Moses saw his “back parts”, whatever that may mean, but His face He did not see! But with Philip and with the others He was more generous, Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father!” and again, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me!” Could there be a clearer declaration on His part of His essential deity?

The doctrine of Christ’s deity was challenged by the modernists in the 1920’s, and it is being challenged in theological circles once again today. A group of English theologians, both Anglican and Reformed in background wrote a book entitled, “The Myth of God Incarnate,” which they sought, as so many have done before them, to dispose of this basic Christian claim – but, my friends, there is no Christianity without it! We say that Jesus Christ is the Way and that He always has been and that He always will be – because we say that He was, and is, and will be in the Father and the Father in Him, or that He was and is and will be God, the Creator, the Ruler and the Judge of all the world, the Absolute! It is said that Galileo, the great Italian scholar, was forced by the Inquisition to recant of his contention that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa, but that as he left the room where the Inquisition was meeting he was heard to mutter under his breath, “Epur movere, that is, “It does move anyway.” His denial didn’t change the fact. And, friends, the fact that so many of our contemporaries would label Jesus Christ and the Way that He exemplified and taught another opinion, and no more, does not change the fact that we believe in and confess with all our hearts: that He is God and that His way is Truth and stands alone!

3. But believe me – we may find often enough in this world that we stand alone in our faith! We may be surrounded by fellow believers in the church: but not in the factory or office where we work, or in the school where we teach, or in the classroom where we are supposed to learn. There all men may laugh at us, often enough in our faces, and more often still behind our backs and call us “religious fanatics”, or
something of the sort. Christ asked once, “When the Son of Man cometh, will He find faith on earth?” And we may well wonder at this! But even in this! has provided for His own, v.18, “I will not leave you comfortless,” or more accurately still, “I will not leave you, orphans!” And it is in this connection that He promises the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost. And the word that He uses here – which our common translation renders “Comforter” is one that means essentially someone that is called to our side to assist us, hence He is called by some translators the “Helper” and by others – because the word is usually in Greek in a legal sense, or a helper to one who is in trouble with the law, it is translated “the Advocate,” but however the word is rendered, the idea is the same. The Christian who believes in Jesus in very truth, and who believes that He and He alone is the Way, and that He is in the Father and the Father in Him, hence divine, all-authoritative, and who therefore – out of love for Him as for the Lord our God Himself, seeks to keep His commandments, whatever others may say or think, will have this personal support – a Spirit within who is both the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, the Strength of all the weak, and the Hope of glory still to come – and therefore,

4. that believer will have the Peace of the Lord in his heart always, and his troubles and his fears will be dispelled! What a promise it is with which He concludes here – v.27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I
give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” What peace have these followers of their own sinful desires? Are they not consumed at last by their own passions, and will they not end up as miserable
wrecks of humanity, if they even last that long? And what have they to look forward to after that? What peace is there in the democratic morality, which is ever-changing as the restless minds of the people rush from one thing to another? What peace will there be even in the dictatorship of the elite, as one elite succeeds another in power as its predecessors go one by one the way of all flesh? There is a little Danish hymn which was translated into English and for a while enjoyed a certain popularity in student Christian circles, and it went like this: “That cause can neither be lost nor stayed which builds itself on what God hath made, And is not trusting in strength or tower but silently grows from hour to hour!” So it is with our faith in Jesus Christ, the Way, God’s Way of comfort and of peace in this evil and confused world! Do you believe in Him?

There is a well-known incident in the gospels (Matthew 8, Mark 4, Luke 8) which tells of Jesus sailing with His disciples in a ship on the Sea of Galilee – and there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves; but He was asleep. And His disciples came to Him – as you recall – and awoke Him and said, “Lord, save us: we perish!” or as Mark reports it, “Carest thou not that we perish?”‘ And Jesus arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. In a different way He did the same thing, did He not, on the last night with His disciples before He suffered, but the storm was in their hearts as it so often is in ours, especially in these strange days in which we live. Not winds and waves, but doubts and fears beat upon the fragile bark of our lives: but we have One in our midst for whom these things are no match, Jesus, the Way, the Father’s Son, the Spirit’s Giver, the Prince and Author of peace! “Peace, be still.” is His Word to our troubled and fearful hearts. “Believe in God.” He is the sovereign Lord of all. “Believe also in me!”

Have you so believed? Do you and will you abide in that faith? Will you so believe, if you have not already done so? You’ll not be disappointed in Jesus Christ, my friends. He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. He’ll lead you instead by the infallible way and bring you peace, His peace, forever.
Amen.

 

Sermon written by: Rev. Charles W. Krahe, Seventh Reformed Church 

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