“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:5-6 ESV
Guys! Jesus is the life!
I’m talking, “your best life, now!” But probably not in the American dream version of your best life you may have heard about on megachurch infomercials or on the covers of certain New York Times bestsellers. Apart from John, who enjoyed a luxurious oil bath, drank exotic liquids and then retired to the Greek island of Patmos to work on his apocalyptic literature, the disciples didn’t exactly live lives of health, wealth and prosperity. No, instead they experienced hardships, persecution, torture, imprisonment, regular beatings and agonizing deaths… and they counted it all joy!
It’s amazing how full our lives can become and yet be so completely empty at the same time. Especially around this time of year, the temptation to accrue more stuff is almost palpable. I mean, you literally have multiple people in your life asking you, “What do you want for Christmas.” When I was a child, I had no difficulty at all filling out a full page, front and back, for my Christmas wish list. Now, as a parent, my greater joy is found in being able to pick out gifts for my kids and seeing them opened. (Full disclosure, I am definitely the guy who wants my kids to open the presents as soon as I buy them because I just hate waiting, but my wife has taught me the discipline of patience in this particular area.) One of the things we are intentional with them about when it comes to Christmas presents is that we set a limit of just 3-4 gifts for each of them. We want to observe the holiday and celebrate by giving gifts, but we don’t want Christmas to become associated with getting stuff. We have our own family traditions that we keep and add to each year in order to keep our thoughts about Christmas fixated on the blessing of Christ coming into the world. The presents are fun, but our kids know that these little things will never bring them true and lasting joy. That can only be found in Him.
The real, nefarious message that can get wrapped up in the packaging of the presents we give in receive is the subtle belief that the joy of my life will be found in the accumulation of worldly treasures, but even deeper than that is the idea that our happiness is even the point. It’s not. Your best life, the life that Jesus presents, is not in conflict with the suffering that the disciples endured, but is actually part and parcel of it. It is, in fact, often our pursuit of happiness that conflicts with our experience of true joy. We fixate on what we want, what we are convinced that we need, that we don’t even recognize the immensity of what we have. There is an old hymn which sings of this truth, “Take the world, but give me Jesus.” He is the life. He is all-sufficient, all encompassing. We literally have no need but Him. If the Gospel we preach isn’t a Gospel that equally humbles and equally inspires hope to all - if its message cannot be an equally obtainable reality to the affluent lords of the western world and to the starving child in Sudan - then it’s not the Gospel at all. Jesus isn’t the means to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; He is the pot of gold, He is the rainbow, He is everything and from the moment of salvation, He is ours! We already have the greatest treasure of all time! We already have the final source for the fullness of joy! He is life! There is no substitute. What can man do to us? What circumstance could life throw our way?
36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus is the life! Amen.