We are born with a sense of place. We are born into a family, into a community, into a nation. We have a geography, something that locates us on a particular set of GPS coordinates that we occupy. We are not made to wander aimlessly without a place. When God made Adam and Eve, He didn’t just have them roam over the face of the earth. He put them in a place, an ordered place, a garden. Gardens are places in the proper sense, organized and ordered spots. The wilderness is no-place, chaotic and disorganized. Wild. The garden of Eden was Adam and Eve’s place, the place where humanity was most like God, reflecting His image to the creation, enjoying the fruits of creation, walking with God in the cool of the day.
Sin displaced us. It drove us from the Garden. It took us from the place where we were most at home and set us in a hostile wilderness of weeds and sweat and pain and death. Sin took away our place and drove us into lostness. We are not at home. We’re lost, longing for a home, a place that we can’t seem to find. We’re restless. We move from one place to another, hoping, longing, searching for that place called “home,” that garden place where we can once again be ourselves, but we can’t seem to find it.
The apostle Paul described that longing for home in this way:
2Cor. 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
We are, as it were, on something of a “camping trip” in the wilderness of this life, living in an earthly tent longing to put on our heavenly dwelling. And therein lies the difference. It’s the difference between a temporal “tent” and an eternal “dwelling.” So long as we are living in a temporal tent in the wilderness, we will be restless and not at home.
Now the “tent” of which Paul is speaking should not be understood as “the body.” To be alive is to be in the body. We are creatures of body and soul, spiritual creatures with a body. When the body and spirit are separated, we’re dead, not alive. That’s the definition of death, the separation of body and soul or spirit. To be alive is to be in the body. Eternal life is eternal life in the body. That’s why we confess that “we believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” And we believe that in that order. First the resurrection of the body, and before that the death of the body, and then life everlasting in a body that is suited to dwell in eternity. Now we live in a tent, a temporary home. Then we will live in a house built by God, an eternal home, a “spiritual body” as St. Paul calls it in 1 Corinthians 15, a home eternal in the heavens. Then we will truly have our place again in the fullest sense of place. Then we will be at home with the Lord.
You know that “groaning” of which the apostle Paul speaks. It may be the groaning of arthritis or cancer or heart disease or any number of other little reminders that you are not living in a permanent dwelling and that this body of yours has an eviction notice and destruction date stamped on it. “The wages of Sin is Death,” and Sin always pays out its wages. The groaning is also a spiritual groaning, a longing to be free from Sin but being unable to free yourself. It’s the longing for peace, love, justice that seems unattainable in this life. And it is unattainable precisely because your old Adam works against it. He needs to die.
Jesus told His disciples on the eve of His death that He was going to prepare a place for them. Their hearts were troubled. They were afraid. Jesus had warned them of His impending death. The future was uncertain. They had left their jobs, their families, their homes to follow Him, and that journey seemed to be coming to a very bad end. Jesus’ word to them is “faith.” “Trust God; trust Me.”
He said He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s home. He would come again and take them along, so that they would be where He is. Jesus was speaking of His death, resurrection, and ascension by which He took our humanity through death to resurrection to glory. That was the way, the only way to come to the place that is truly “home.” “You know the way where I am going,” Jesus said.
But the disciples didn’t know the way. Well, they knew it, because Jesus had taught them, but they refused to believe it. They didn’t want to hear it. They were like we are: death-deniers, not willing to see that the only way to life is to die and rise. There is no way to improve this humanity of ours, not by genetic engineering or by a million years of evolution, if such a thing were possible. Sin is inherent in humanity, and so is Death. If Sin and Death are going to be destroyed, they must be destroyed in the flesh. Our human flesh.
This is where Jesus comes in. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He stands uniquely between the Creator and the creature, between the Father and fallen humanity. He is God of the essence of His Father, or as Jesus said to Philip, “The Father is in me, and I am in the Father.” He is also Man of His mother, true humanity, bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh. And so He stands in the breach as the only Mediator between God and humanity. In His flesh, our flesh is redeemed. In His flesh, Sin is put to death, Death is destroyed, and the Law of God is filled to fullness with His sinless life and death. There is no other man who can claim to be God and not be lying. There is no other man who can mediate between God and Man and who can reconcile a fallen world to the Father. There is no one in this world other than Jesus who embodies in His body Truth and Life.
Jesus doesn’t simply speak the truth, He IS the Truth. Our age is as cynical as Pontius Pilate who stared at Jesus and sneered, “What is truth?” We live in an age where truth is malleable, a wax nose, a plastic, elastic concept that can be bent around our whims and wishes. We no longer believe in truth in any absolute sense, as though something could be true in itself. For our age, truth is all relative. What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me. It’s all really a matter of opinion, which is why we decide what is true by straw polls and votes. And, of course, the majority is always right, right?
Jesus is the Truth. The absolute Truth. The Truth beyond which there is no further truth, and the Truth to which all truths point. He is Truth enfleshed in our humanity. There is nothing false in Him. He is the antidote to the Lie that poisoned our humanity and drove us into the wilderness of Sin and Death. He is the Truth of God’s love for the world, His passion to save, His mercy toward sinners.
Jesus is the Life. He is the creator of life and He Himself is Life. His words are Spirit and they are Life. He is the Life that enlivens every living thing. He is the Life that Death itself cannot overcome. Jesus goes into Death and Death must surrender the spoils. It takes God in the Flesh to do this. No one else can. And so there is no other Way but Jesus who is the Way. There is no other door that leads to life with God than the narrow door of His death and resurrection. There is no other Truth than the words of truth that come from Jesus, words that Jesus speaks not on His own authority but with the authority of the Father Himself as the apostle of the Father. The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Spirit, and you are on the blessed receiving end of the speaking. You hear the words of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and in hearing you are set on the Way, the Truth is revealed to you, and you have Life.
Let not your hearts be troubled. Is your heart troubled? By your past, by your present, by your future? By your sins, your failings, your death? Whatever the cause of the trouble, whatever the anxiety or terror or fear, trust the Father, trust Jesus His Son. Jesus has gone the way of death and resurrection to glory and has brought you along with Him in His humanity. You are baptized. You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s treasured possession. You are a part of the body of Christ, you are a member of the household of God, you are a priest in the royal priesthood of Jesus. He’s gone to prepare a place for you. He will raise you from the dead on the Last Day so that where He is you also will be. In Him you are already there.
You have a place. You have a home. In Jesus, you are never lost, but always found. In Jesus, you are never dead, but always alive. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. He and no other. Trust Him.
In the Name of Jesus,