Everyone needs purpose in life, but it’s harder and harder to find these days. In the aftermath of covid people talked about the great resignation, a trend where millions of people left their jobs, where exhausted workers in health care and education and many other fields simply quit. People are burnt out and don’t see much of a point in what they do. Ask any business and they will tell you how hard it is to hire and keep employees today. We have an electrician coming soon to fix some lights and he’s delayed, why? Because one of his guys quit. 

And ask any working person and they will tell you there may be jobs out there, but how many of them are really worth doing, with your one and only life on earth? People don’t see the point in working if they can’t make enough to own a home, to support a family, to afford healthcare. People don’t see the point in doing what they used to do. At the end of the day, we all need to have an answer for the big questions of life: why am I doing this? What’s the point? Where am I going? 

Our scripture this morning shows us a man who did not know where he was going in life and it comes from John chapter 14 verses 5 through 7 which you’ll find on page 877 of your Bible and I’d encourage you to turn there. We’re continuing our series in Lent of looking at some of the last words of Jesus from John 14, the things Jesus said the night that he was betrayed, the night before he died. Here, Jesus has just finished telling his disciples not to be troubled and that he would go to prepare a place for them, but Thomas has a question. Listen to John chapter 14 verses 5 through 7. 

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. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Thomas is often called doubting Thomas. After Jesus death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples but Thomas was absent that day, and when the disciples told Thomas what had happened, Thomas doubted and said “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Thomas had his doubts. 


And in this passage Thomas shows his usual skeptical attitude. Right after Jesus comforts the disciples by saying “in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” and assures the disciples that “you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas questions him “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Thomas doesn’t get it and he admits he doesn’t get it. Probably some of the other disciples didn’t understand what Jesus meant either, but none of them had the guts to say it. 


I used to work as a teacher, and they say in education that if one student has a question, probably a third of your class has that same question and are just too afraid to ask it. And when Jesus tells them that he is taking them where he is going, Thomas asks the question on everyone’s mind, where are you going? And how can we know how to get there? 

Jesus answers “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus tells them the destination, God the Father; Jesus will bring them to God the Father. And Jesus tells them how they will get there, through him; he is the way, and the truth and the life. Jesus is explaining where they are going in life and how they are going to get there. And this morning we’re going to look at three parts of Jesus’ answer, that he is the way and the truth and the life. And through these three things, Jesus explains the purpose of our lives, coming near to God and how we can achieve that purpose. 

Let’s start with the first one, the way; what does it mean for Jesus to be the way of our life? A way is a direction, it’s the path we are travelling on. The Bible speaks often of ways, roads, journeys. Our call to worship this morning from Isaiah described how God would make a Holy Way for his people to walk on. John the Baptist spoke of preparing the way of the Lord. Peter described early Christians as pilgrims, journeying towards God. And the foundational story of the Old Testament, the Exodus, the story of God freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, leading them through the Red Sea, through the wilderness, and into the promised land. A way, a journey, a path is one of the central images in the Bible that expresses our relationship with God. 


Christians view life on earth as a journey towards God. We are being taken to the same place Jesus is going, the presence of God the Father. The purpose of our lives is to draw near to God. Our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And we all need a purpose like that in our lives, we need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a reason to go to work, a reason to do the right thing. And as Christians that reason is God, our desire to serve him, to enjoy him, to glorify him, that is what motivates us, we are trying to reach our destination, the presence of God and everything we do should help us along that journey. 


And when you have a destination, a goal, a purpose in mind, you need a way to get there. You need a road to follow. If you’re going to Boston, you need to get on 95 North. If you’re going to Providence, you need to get on 95 South. If you’re going to be rich, you need a job, you need investments, you need a way to make money. If you’re going to be a great athlete, you need to train, you need a coach, you need to win, you need a way to achieve your goal. 

If your goal in life is to draw near to God, Jesus is the way. Jesus brings us to God. He’s the thing that gets you there. And we can think of Jesus as the way to God in two senses: he is what we follow to draw near to God and he is what makes it possible for us to draw near to God.

To get to your destination, you need to follow the way. If Jesus is our way, that means following him, obeying him, living like he lived. The same way we follow the signs along the road telling us where to go, we follow Jesus' instructions on how to speak, how to love, how to worship, how to spend our money, how to live. Anyone trying to reach a goal makes a plan and follows it. You follow the directions until you reach your destination. You follow the diet until you lose the weight. You follow the budget until you’re out of debt. Jesus is that thing that we follow to get to God. He is the example we follow, the pattern we copy, the role model we look up to in every decision we make. 


Second, without a road, without a way you can’t get to your destination. Now I grew up down on Cape Cod and we have two bridges to the Cape: the Sagamore Bridge and the Bourne Bridge. Without those bridges, those roads, those ways, there would be no way to drive to the Cape. And when everyone wants to go to the beach on the Cape in the Summer, what happens to those bridges? We all know. They get backed up; the roads back up for miles with people heading to those bridges because there is no other way for people to get to their destination. You can’t get to your destination without a way. 

And Jesus is the way to God. As Jesus said in the previous passage we looked at last Sunday, he is going to prepare a place for us; through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus made it possible for us to enter in God’s presence. Without Jesus, we as broken, sinful creatures, could not enter the perfect, holy presence of God the Father. 

And now in these verses, Jesus expands on what he said before; not only is Jesus preparing a place for us, not only is Jesus going into the presence of the Father and promising to bring us with him, on top of all that Jesus adds: No one comes to the Father except through me. No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the way and he is the only way. This is not like going to Boston where you can take 95 North or route 1 or the backroads or 495 to the Mass Pike. This is not even a Cape Cod situation with two bridges. This is a one bridge situation. 


Most roads are not the only roads to their destination. If 95 is closed or backed up, there are other ways to Boston. A new road may make it easier to get to a destination, but it’s not necessary. But Jesus is saying he is the only way. It’s not that Jesus has made it easier to come to God, it’s not that Jesus is a faster, smoother route to God, it’s not that Jesus is the best way yet to come to God, no Jesus is the only way to God.


There’s a church down the street from us, the congregational church, and their full name is the Orthodox Congregational Church of Mansfield. And that word orthodox, which means right belief, is in their name, because in the 1800s many congregational churches became unitarian universalist churches, many churches stopped beleiving that Jesus was God and that Jesus was the only way to God. That church wanted people to know they were orthodox, they still believed Jesus was the only way to God. 


And while there may be something appealing about universalism, about the belief that there are many ways to God and everyone is heading towards God in their own way, that belief does not agree with what we see in the Bible and what we see in real life. In real life we see so much evil and suffering and pain. 

How can we make sense of all that evil, if there is not going to be some sort of punishment, some of justice? And if we are all heading towards God, why does God allow us to remain on earth, where he is far away, where so much is broken and wrong, why doesn’t God just whisk us all off to heaven if that’s where we are going? Universalism, a view that all roads lead to God, cannot explain why God allows suffering in our world. 


But orthodox Christianity, a belief that man is sinful, that God is just, that God sent his Son to save us, to heal us and forgive our sins if we believe in him, Christianity can answer these questions. Whereas some people would say there are many ways to God, Jesus gives a different answer, Jesus says I am the way and no one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the way we are brought near to God, he is the way we follow and the way that makes it possible. 


And this talk about universalism, about Jesus being the only way to the Father has to do with Jesus’ second point, that he is the truth; he is the way and he is the truth. There are many ways, many paths out there that claim to be the path to God. There are many ways out there that claim to be the way to happiness, to fulfillment, to a good and meaningful life. But Jesus is the true way.  


Now I am not very concerned this morning that any of us are about to run off and pursue another way to God. I doubt that any of you are sincerely thinking about trading Jesus for Buddha or Zeus or any other religion. Christianity is the normal religion in America, if people are looking to draw near to God, Christianity is the route they normally take. 


However, these days many people look for meaning and happiness and fulfillment in something other than God, and that is something to which we can all fall prey. And when we look for meaning and happiness and fulfillment in things other than God, that is idolatry, that is putting something else before God, making something else more important than God. And Jesus’ reminder that he is the truth is a warning against idolatry, a warning against following any other way to meaning in life. And we should be careful not to seek our meaning in things other than God. Here are three false ways many Americans look for meaning and purpose in their life instead of through Jesus. 


First, money. Many Americans make wealth the point of their whole life. While we all know it would be nice to be rich, most of us know better than to count it for happiness and meaning. But even if we know that intellectually, on a head-level, many of us live as though money is what matters most. Our work is our top priority, our bank account is our measure of our success, the thing that absorbs most of our thoughts and cares and worries is money. And if money becomes more than just a tool, more than just means to do what really matters in life, it’s an idol. And seeking meaning and happiness in money won’t end well. Let me tell you a story. 

Thomas H. Lee went to the Belmont Hill School, an elite private high school outside of Boston and then on to Harvard. He became an investor and helped pioneer what’s called the leveraged-buyout. He bought the Snapple Corporation early on and then resold it a year later for 32 times more than he paid for it, a 3200% profit. He had five children and two grandchildren. He was a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He was worth more than 2 billion dollars. On last Thursday, February 23rd, at his office in downtown Manhattan, he committed suicide. He was 78 years old. 

It’s a tragic story and a story we’ll never fully understand because we don’t know why he chose to end his life. But his story gives the lie to a belief many Americans harbor, that if we were wealthy enough, successful enough, powerful enough, we would be happy. Wealth does not guarantee happiness or meaning. It’s an idol, a false god, a false way to God, which will let us down everytime. 


Second, politics. Many Americans find meaning and purpose in life through politics. We feel we are doing right and making the world a better place by supporting our party and opposing our enemies. While of course it is a good thing to want a more just world, to want to improve our town, our state, our nation, our world, we cannot look to these projects for our ultimate meaning. Ultimately all political projects slowly fade away with the passage of time. 

In 15th century England, there was a civil war, the War of the Roses, fought over which branch of the royal family should inherit the throne. In this war there were an estimated 100,000 casualties, more than 5% of the whole population of England at the time. And at the time, the people must have felt that they were fighting for something of real importance, for justice and peace in their land, but as we look back 500 years later the war has become like any other war, a largely forgotten tragedy of history. People were willing to fight and die over right and wrong in a conflict that now means nothing to us. 

We cannot allow ourselves to put too much weight on the political conflicts of our time, which will surely fade away into history just like everything else. Politics certainly matters. And as Christians we ought to try to promote a more just, fair society. However, the problems of politics, the victories and defeats of politics are temporary, and Christians live forever. Christians have been promised eternal life and living for that eternity with Jesus matters much more than who wins or loses in the petty conflicts that seem so important in our brief lives. 

Third, happiness. Many Americans seek meaning in just being happy. More than anything else, they want to feel good, and they will seek that out through leisure, through vacations, through food and drink, through social media, through drugs and alcohol, through whatever they can find that will make them feel happy. But again this is a false way, not the true way to find meaning in life. 


Life is about more than just being happy and no one can be happy all the time here on earth. Living in a world full of pain and suffering and evil means we will not be happy all the time and we see this in the life of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t always smiling. When his friend died, he wept. When the Pharisees refused to believe he became angry. When he saw a crowd of hungry people, he was moved with compassion. Life is about more than just being happy. And if we dedicate our life to merely seeking happiness we will never achieve it. 


Jesus alone is the way to God and Jesus alone is the true way. There are many other ways people attempt to follow to find meaning in their lives, but they do not work. Only Jesus brings us to God. As Jesus said no one comes to the Father except through me. And Jesus said not only I am the way and the truth, but also the life. How does that fit in? What does it mean for Jesus to be the life?


A person who has found a way, a road to travel on, and a person who knows that is the right way, the true way to their destination, that person will not get one step closer to their destination unless they're alive; they won’t go anywhere unless they’re alive. We need life within us to follow the true way, to get where we’re going and that life is Jesus Christ himself. 


How do we do it, how do we find the energy, the motivation, the strength to follow Jesus everyday? We don’t. We can’t. None of us can do it on our own, but Jesus can. Through the power of the Holy Spirit working through us, we can follow the way Jesus has made for us and Jesus will bring us to the Father. Jesus is the life within us which moves us along the way to God the Father. 


Jesus is life itself. Peter calls Jesus “the author of life” and John says at the beginning of his gospel that “in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” Jesus is the life. He is so much life that even though he died, even though he bled and breathed his last upon the cross, even though he was buried in the tomb, even though he remained in the tomb for three days, even though he descended into Hell, he came back to life.


The rest of us, we have a limited amount of life on earth; our life slips away from us day by day. But Jesus is so full of life that death could not hold him, that he counquered the grave and rose again. And through his death on the cross, Jesus took the punishment we deserved for our sins so that if we believe him we might have eternal life. Jesus has offered this same eternal, overflowing, abundant life that he possesses, that he is, to all who believe in him. 


Maybe you’ve been feeling like you can make it through life, that you can’t put up with it, you can’t solve your problems, well maybe you really can’t, but Jesus can. Jesus is the life that lives within us and empowers us to do God’s will. And what is God’s will? That we beleive in Jesus as our savior. That we follow the way he has made to God, the only true way through the power of Jesus living within us. All that is available to us in Christ if we believe. 

And if we do believe, if Jesus is bringing us to God as he has offered, then there are consequences for us today. Our eternal life with God does not begin when we get to heaven, no our lives with God begin here on earth and continue right on through when Jesus brings us home to God. And from this story we can learn three things about how to live our lives now through the doubting disciple Thomas. 


First, admit. Thomas admitted he didn’t know what Jesus was talking about and that’s what led to this whole passage. Only when we admit that we don’t know something, admit we’re wrong about something, can we learn the truth. When was the last time you actually admitted you were wrong? How did it feel? 


And yet the Christian life is a life of constantly admitting we are wrong; the Christian life is a life of reprentance. If we are going to improve as followers of Jesus we need to admit our flaws, where we have gone wrong, as we will do in communion in a few minutes. 


Second, ask. When Thomas didn’t understand he asked a question, he asked for help. The Christian life is hard and we cannot make it on our own. We need help from Jesus who is the life within us and we need help from our fellow Christians along the way. 



Thomas wasn’t afraid to ask for help. He wasn’t embarrassed to ask for directions. Christian humility means being willing, being eager to ask others for help and guidance. A lot of us take pride in doing things our own way, in not needing help, but that is not the Christian way. The Christian way is dependence on Jesus, asking Jesus for direction in life everyday. This is why daily prayer and scripture reading is so important. In prayer we ask Jesus to show us the way and in reading the scriptures we listen for his answer. We need to ask God and ask his followers for help in everything we do. 


Third, act. Thomas did something about what he heard. Although he doubted, after Thomas put his fingers in the wound in Jesus’ side, he believed and he did what Jesus commanded: he went and told the world the good news. Thomas traveled all the way to the coast of southern India where he founded the first churches there which to this day are called St. Thomas Christians and whose worship is performed in the Syriac language, a variant of Aramaic, the language of Thomas and of Jesus. 


Jesus is calling us to follow him and that means doing what he tells us. However much doubt or uncertainty we may have in life, just as Thomas did, once we come to faith, once we know the way we must follow it and never swerve one way or the other. We must make sure all our actions align with God’s will, with the way he has made for us to live in Christ Jesus. 


And that way leads us to God. Jesus brings us to God. And what comfort it is to know, through all the trials and tribulations of this life, that Jesus will use whatever happens to us, that Jesus will walk alongside us everyday of our life until he brings us home to God. Let’s pray.