Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:5-6)
Do you feel right now like you don’t know the way forward? I’m right there with you. But we lost sheep can cling to a simple truth through grim days:
“I AM the way.”
I’m “stuck” this week on “Holy Week”–remembering the climactic final days that led to Calvary. You might well be doing the same. It’s hard not to be struck by the contrast between the way that week began–palm branches waving, songs of praise filling the air, coats flung heedlessly on the dirt before Him–and the turn it took at the Last Supper.
How high the disciples must have felt they were riding at His triumphal entry, when the crowds greeted Him with the acclaim He so richly deserved!
Christ’s Entry Into Jerusalem by Harold Copping
Waving palm branches symbolized joy, victory, peace–and to the Jewish crowd, were especially typical of the Feast of Tabernacles, which celebrated the expectation of “God with us.”
The crowd lifted up Messianic hymns and shouted Messianic titles–to the point where the Pharisees were aghast.
Coats were strewn on the ground only before very great men. Ancient writers depict the practice in the case of generals and emperors. It was the ancient version of rolling out the red carpet, I suppose!
But from there it all went south–because His enemies thought they could “cancel” Him by killing Him. But the joke was on them, right?
My spiritual gift is teaching. In Greek, that’s διδάσκω, didaskó, from which we get our English didactic! Perhaps that explains my penchant for auguring into esoteric detail. 🤔 By contrast, it hits me that Yeshua’s message was often very straightforward. For example, at the Last Supper:
“I AM the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt 9:35-36)
“Distressed and dispirited” in the face of disease and sickness. Another translation renders it, “harried and helpless.” Isn’t that the condition of our day?
Lost sheep (and heartbroken disciples) don’t need a twelve-point sermon. The message here isn’t complex or elaborate. They need something simple. Something REAL to trust.
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 10:7)
What did Yeshua do for the poor, defenseless sheep?
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness…. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them…. “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ ” (Matt 9:35 – 10:7)
He sent his disciples out with power to meet physical needs, and with a very simple message.
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 10:7)
Or, in other words: “Look up, for your redemption draws nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
The Lord had a tremendous plan for that generation–just as He has an amazing plan for ours (Matt 24:34). He put those plans in place at the dawn of time (Gen 3:15). But the “lost sheep” of our Lord’s day didn’t know the details of that tremendous plan. And maybe many were too sick and weary and harried to care. Many followed Him around the countryside for pragmatic reasons—He was their only hope of healing. He gave them their fill of bread and fish (John 6:2, 26).
The followers who just wanted their bellies filled fell away when the message got tougher, leaving only those who sought the “words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68). At the Last Supper only Yeshua’s inner circle remained. And they stood on the eve of events that would rock the world.
There, too, the message was simple—although it befuddled the disciples because it defied their expectations.
“Where I am going, you cannot come.” (John 13:33)
Things were going to look grim—desperately grim. But all would soon be well.
“You cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later…. Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places… I go to prepare a place for you…. And you know the way where I am going.”
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:1-6)
What did those heartbroken and bewildered sheep need in that moment? They didn’t need a plan to regain political ascendancy–although a political messiah was what many expected in that day. No, they needed to know the Way, the Truth, the Life, and to cling to Him!
The Bible includes only one other instance where coats were spread in someone’s path: the coronation of Jehu (2 Kings 9:13). But that one instance is illuminating.
Now this took place so that what was spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold your King is coming to you,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” (Matt 21:4-5)
David Stern comments on the significance of this prophetic fulfillment, which is one of the relatively few events recorded in all four gospels:
“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See your salvation comes!
See, His reward is with Him,
but His work lies ahead of Him.’ “
The word for “salvation” here is “yesha’,” identical with the name of the Messiah, Yeshua, except for the optional letter vav. Moreover, Isaiah describes this “yesha'”as a person, and not just any person, but God–since a person who is salvation must be God. English translations, including Jewish ones, which capitalize pronouns referring to God recognize this fact by capitalizing “His” and “Him” in this passage, as is done above. One may even say that in this verse Isaiah, writing 700 years before Yeshua was born, refers to him in his divine aspect by name.
Zechariah 9:9 has these lines in it:
“Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!…
See, your king comes to you.
He is triumphant and victorious,
humbly riding on a donkey,
yes, on a colt, the offspring of a beast of burden.”
By combining the two verses Mattityahu gives a hint… that God, the Salvation of Israel, the Messianic King and Yeshua of Natzeret are one.
– David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary,
And let’s talk about the precision attached to the timing. Yeshua arrived, at that moment, precisely according to a predetermined schedule!
How many times had Yeshua turned from public acclaim, as His time had not yet come? But on Palm Sunday that time had emphatically come, and Yeshua accepted the kingly greeting, rebuking the Pharisees’ complaints.
But now, after such a glorious start, Yeshua has all this heartrending talk of leaving them!
After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matt 26:30)
Ancient olives in the Garden of Gethsemane
Did you know this? We’re reasonably confident we know what hymn Yeshua and His heartbroken disciples sang as they started for Gethsemane (Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26). The same hymn the crowds sang before Him on Palm Sunday! An ancient Jewish rite for many festivals, including the Passover, is to sing the Hallel (Psalms 113-118). Check out these words that close out Psalm 118.
Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter.
I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation. (“salvation”=לִֽישׁוּעָֽה. Yeshua!)
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone….
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;…
The Lord is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I give thanks to You; (Psalm 118:19-22, 26-28)
It blows me away, honestly. How prophetic is this? On the way to Gethsemane, they sang out their proclamation that Yeshua was THE gate (or “way”), their salvation, THE rejected stone, THE festival sacrifice, and the living God! (And portions of that hymn had also been sung by the crowd on Palm Sunday [Matt 21:9], in unknowing anticipation of what Yeshua was about to do for them!)
May the Lord use these present trials to cause many to pass through the Gate of Righteousness (John 10:9), recognize the Chief Cornerstone (Matt 21:42), understand that the Lord has become (the verb here is related to the divine name, יְ֝הוָה) their salvation (in Hebrew, Yeshua), and cry out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 118:26, Matt 23:39)!
The Last Supper was a Jewish Passover Seder meal. The Seder meal also reminds the Jewish people that it was God Who made their way through the wilderness, granting His shekinah glory as a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day (Ex 13:21). The cloud and the fire are identified with the Angel of the Lord—the pre-incarnate Christ (Ex 23:20-21), “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb 1:3). Here again, Yeshua is THE way!
We recently watched Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. It struck me again how many times, humanly speaking, the Hebrews’ situation was impossible. And Who was THE way for them? Yeshua, their cloud and fire!
Also from the Hallel, the hymn Yeshua and His disciples sang on the path to Gethsemane:
I shall lift up the cup of salvation*
And call upon the name of the Lord….
(* which they just did, during the Passover meal, and Yeshua declared it “the new covenant in My blood” [Luke 22:20])
Passover Seder: “The new covenant in My blood…” (Luke 22:20)
Does your situation look impossible?
Got bonds you need broken?
An order for bricks without straw?
A sea that needs parting?
Hungry and thirsty in the wilderness?
Wait for it…
Yeshua is THE Way.
But He isn’t leading us through this wilderness just to bring us back to our old “leeks and onions and garlic.” No way. He’s leading us to inherit a new and better kingdom.
And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:15-16)
A couple of fabulous observations, from my friend and frequent guest blogger, Lauren Crews: (PSSST: Lauren’s first book, Strength of a Woman, is out now–and what a blessing!)
In Hebrew, truth is the word emet, spelled Alef, Mem, Tav–the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. God’s Word was made flesh and God’s Word encompasses truth in all things from the beginning through the end.
One more thing! If you remove the Alef from the word emet, you’re left with the Hebrew word for death. Alef represents God and His preeminence. If we remove God, or if He is not first in our lives, we are left with death.
Life is a fundamental promise that pervades scripture, from the Torah of Moses (Deut 30:15-16) through the Revelation to John (Rev 22:1-2). Yeshua is our source for that life. He pledges to be our conduit of living water (John 4:10-14, John 6:54, John 7:37). Before that Last Supper, He promised life twice in His previous I AM statements.
And He powerfully demonstrated the validity of these claims by raising people from the dead (Mark 5:41, John 11:43-44).
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24)
Note that the verb translated “has passed over” is “perfect active” that expresses completed action: “this one has already crossed over from death to life.” In other words, the gift of eternal life is a “done deal,” though it is only experienced as we truly surrender to the love and grace of God from a heart of faith. The “basis” of life is now radically new and of a different order.
The bottom line?
Even in something as awful as a plague—or a series of them—our God reigns. There is a plan, a purpose… and a timeline. Do I pretend to know exactly what that timeline is? No. But, as the disciples sang on their way to Gethsemane,
“God is FOR you” (Psalm 118:6), and you needn’t fear—even death—IF you know Him.
As Jeremiah encouraged the Israelite people who’d been dragged into exile in Babylon:
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’ (Jer 29:11)
Or as Paul encouraged the nascent church under persecution in Rome:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us….
We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose….
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Just as there was a prophetic “appointed time” Yeshua fulfilled with His first coming, there is an appointed time for His second as well.
And if you don’t see the signs of that appointed time exploding around us, I have to think you aren’t looking.
Just a few days earlier, Matthew 24 and Luke 21 record Yeshua’s discussion of signs that would attend the final days of this world system. We’ve been seeing those “birth pangs” for decades, but in the past year, do you have a feeling they’ve intensified? If so, you’re not alone. This article documents how large areas of the world are currently experiencing plagues of Exodus proportions. We even have an upcoming candidate for the “mark of the Beast” (see this).
I looked at this in more here detail here, but we are the generation Yeshua spoke of–the one that has seen the fig tree put forth its leaves (Matt 24:32-35). God’s timepiece is wound and the clock is running down.
I’m not sure exactly what “short” means, but I know time is short. The generation that heard Jesus’ Matt 21 prophecy saw it take effect in 70 A.D. Even so, the generation that witnesses the rebirth of Israel “will not pass a way until all these things” described in Jesus’ end-times discourse in Matthew 24-25 take place.
How long is a generation? Eighty years? Ninety? And are we counting from 1948, when Israel was established by the U.N., or 1967, when the Israelis won back Jerusalem? The answers to these questions aren’t clear, but any way you do the math…
If the widely-held interpretation that the budding fig tree in Matt 24 represents Israel’s rebirth is correct,
The clock is ticking. Time is short.
One final thought from John J. Parsons:
In the Greek New Testament, the wording of Hebrews 13:5 is highly emphatic: Οὐ μή σε ἀνῶ, οὐδ’ οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω: “Not ever will I give up on you; no, not ever will I leave you behind.”
If you haven’t yet acknowledged your “calling according to God’s purposes,” if you haven’t yet made the decision for Christ that will make you part of God’s remnant for whom “all things work together for good,” which He will never forsake or “leave behind,” I urge you. Hesitate not a minute longer.
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Yeshua (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.
Click on the image for an informal trailer, or….
Dave made aviation history in WWII’s daring Doolittle Raid. Now he’s a downed pilot on the run.
Miyako made a vow to bury a knife in him. That vow could cost them both their lives.
Winner, Cascade Award
Finalist, Christy and Carol Awards
Inspired by Actual Events
“A taut, crisp debut achievement that colorfully evokes the Pacific theater of WWII. Start this one forewarned: it’s a stay-up-all-night read.” –Jerry B. Jenkins, 21-time New York Times bestselling author
China, 1942. Desperate and fleeing a brutal enemy, U.S. airman Dave Delham loses all hope he’ll live to see home again. If he manages to survive this mission–somehow–he swears he’ll answer God’s call on his life.
Japan, 1948. In a world where honor means everything, what would you risk to salvage yours? The war has reduced Miyako Matsuura to a street-hardened prostitute, forced to sell herself out–body and soul–to survive. But when the pilot whose bomb stole her little brother’s life returns to Japan, she sees her one chance to salvage everything. That quest drives her like the point of a dagger.
Two competing vows. Two war-damaged people racing along a deadly collision course. Can their tragic histories be redeemed?
If you like pulse-pounding tales of redemption that brim with deeply drawn characters and taut suspense, you’ll love Linda Thompson’s powerful debut novel. Immerse yourself in this award-winning story of courage and redemption today!