Easter 5 • John 14:1–11 • May 22, 2011
by Charles Arand
“And That’s the Rest of the Story”[This text provides an excellent opportunity for instruction on the Trinity. The following provides a potential pattern for how the sermon could be constructed. It moves from our knowledge of God in creation to our knowledge of the Father through Jesus Christ to the trinitarian life that shapes the Christian story.]
Paul Harvey, the well-known radio personality, would always tell a story that had a surprising ending. The listeners would think that the story was going in one direction, but then they were nearly always surprised by the ending. In some ways, that is also the case when it comes to the grand story that Christians share with the world.
On the one hand, God has made himself known by what he has made. His beauty, power, and goodness are manifested within creation (Rom 1:20). I am constantly struck by how, when I read the writings of scientists or naturalists, they describe creation with sentiments like awe, mystery, wonder, and reverence. In other words, they sense that the world cannot be reduced to materialistic and deterministic explanations. In theological terms, they are encountering the creator in his creativity. So we need not dismiss people entirely when they say that they sense something of God in their encounter with creation.
On the other hand, it’s not the entire story. There’s so much more to the story. Who is this creator? What is he like? What else has he done? That’s where Jesus comes in: “No one comes to the Father but through me” (Jn 14:6). What does that mean? No one comes to know the creator as Father except through Jesus. That is to say, we cannot know God’s fatherly heart apart from Jesus. Limited to natural revelation, God the creator may appear capricious and arbitrary (consider the earthquake that hit Japan). But it is through Jesus that God is known as Father. As Luther put it in the Small Catechism, “With these words, ‘God tenderly invites us to believe that he is truly our Father . . .’” On the cross, Jesus endured God’s judgment upon humankind. And when God judges, creation comes undone and unraveled. It falls apart. Yet like a lightning rod, Jesus dissipated God’s wrath until it was no more. And then in the resurrection, we find the Father renewing and restoring his creation. So Jesus goes to prepare a place for us within that new creation.
Let’s not forget the Spirit either. In “Jesus as the way to the Father,” we find a pattern that describes the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit to each other. The Father sends the Son who brings us to the Father. But then as we read a little bit further in John, the Father sends the Spirit through his Son who brings us to the Father through the Son. This highlights the close relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. We don’t know one without the other. And so we have a trinitarian pattern here that shapes our faith and life. We approach the Father in prayer through the Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit.