Letter from the Vicar (April 2008)
Doubting Thomas is one of the people we focus upon at Easter. He was the one apostle who wasn’t there at Jesus’ first appearance and who, understandably, asked for concrete proof that Jesus was risen. But this wasn’t the first time Thomas had wanted clarification.
In John 14 he asks a very important question and gets a very important answer. Jesus comforts his followers by saying that he is going to prepare a dwelling place for them (a ‘mansion’ the Authorised Version has) in his Father’s house after death. He goes on, “And you know the way to the place I am going.” Thomas, not unreasonably, retorts, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” And here is Jesus’ resounding answer: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In life and death Jesus is the plenitude, the fullness, the totality of all that there is and all that we need.
According to John’s gospel “all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made.” So whether in life or death the path that we are called to tread is the pathway of Jesus, for he is the way; the truth to which we are called to aspire is the truth of Jesus, for he is the truth; the life we are called to live is the life of Jesus, for he is the life.
But where, we may ask in fear and trembling, is this path leading? The answer is plain. It leads to our heavenly Father. If we tread the pathway of Jesus in life we have no need to be anxious about treading it in death for it leads us home. It leads us to the one from whom we come and the one to we must return that “all may be well and all manner of thing may be well.”
But; “No one comes to the Father except through me.” These are words which are very difficult to interpret and which, in my judgement, have been sorely abused down the Christian centuries. They have been used, for example, to damn to hell millions of innocent, good people many of whom have simply not heard the gospel or have not been able to receive it for all sorts of understandable reasons. The words “no one comes to the Father except through me” must not be expanded to say, “no one comes to the Father unless they have a conscious trusting faith in Jesus”. This is how they are often interpreted. Let the words stand as they are. What they mean is, surely, the only way in which a person can enter into the presence of God the Father in this life and beyond death is through Jesus.
But what ‘through Jesus’ means is very hard to say. I can only tell you what I think it means. I believe that these words are saying that people must pass through Jesus on the way to God, it is always Jesus who escorts us to the Father. But whether people are always conscious of it being Jesus who is their escort on the way, the truth to which they aspire and the life they feel called to live is another question. If people are genuinely and honestly seeking to live according to the highest principles in their own religion or their personal way of life, I believe Christ will be with them whether they know him or not. Furthermore it is not for us to stand in judgement. I leave that to our gracious, loving and merciful heavenly Father who in his Son said “do not let your hearts be troubled.”
But that does not absolve us from the responsibility of conveying the message of Christ, the unique path to the Father, to those around us. Indeed a large part of the evangelistic task is to disclose to people that Christ is the only way to God and that if they have been seeking God or goodness or whatever name they give their best aspirations, they have been escorted by Christ. And surely it is better to know the one who is conducting you, the one who is the way, the truth and the life.
For he alone brings peace to troubled hearts, he alone brings joy to sorrowful souls, he alone brings peace to disordered lives. Whether living or departed it is and will be Christ who died and rose again who brings us to God the Father for in him the Godhead dwells in its fullness.