John 14: 1-7 (MsgB)
“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust Me. There is plenty of room for you in My Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on My way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”
Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where You’re going. How do You expect us to know the road?”
Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him. You’ve even seen Him!”
Earlier in this blog series, we’ve explored the first five of seven Great I AM statements Jesus gave His followers. Let’s review them:
“I AM the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48, 51).
“I AM the light of the world” (John 8:12).
“I AM the door of the sheep”(John 10:7, 9).
“I AM the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14).
“I AM the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25).
Now, here we are in John 16, face to face with Jesus’ sixth great I AM.
As I see it, this intriguing conversation between Thomas and Jesus unlocks some key answers to the core issue we’ve been discussing in this blog series on leadership. Thomas, you see, is a budding new leader in the church of Jesus Christ. And he is focused. Focused exclusively on getting things squared away in his mind.
And to be fair to Thomas, it’s only appropriate to believe that any one of us might seem equally confused (like Thomas does here) when Jesus begins talking about hitting the road even before He accomplishes all that the disciples believed He was here to do.
As I see it, Thomas’ line of questioning reveals an awful lot about the way we leaders in the church tend to go about the business of church work. Getting things straight. Crossing every ‘T’. Dotting every ‘I’, and expecting Jesus to end every question we have with a nicely processed, neatly compartmentalized conclusion. An end result. A final score.
You see, when left to our own devices, every westernized leader in the church today is much like our 1st-century friend Thomas, focusing exclusively on projects that must have a clear beginning, a well-defined middle, and most certainly, a conclusive ending. This pursuit for clear results goes by a more common name in our society. It’s called ‘success’.
Success is when you and I can put a flag on top of the mountain we’ve just climbed. Success is all about getting the final tally. And everything we say and do in life must have purpose in getting us to this final destination called success. If it doesn’t, it’s unimportant. Trivial. Useless. And for those of us who wake up in the morning driven to find ‘success’ in this life, we’re unfortunately just like Thomas, looking for the fastest track to our final destination.
But the problem with this westernized approach to success, is that Jesus seems much more interested in the journey we are on than He is in measuring the success of our projects.
So when Thomas is asking a clarifying question about which road to take in order to get to his destination (i.e. success), Jesus pulls a fast one on him, hoping Tom will begin to loosen his firm grip on earthly projects and grab a hold of some Kingdom reality.
In the economy of the Kingdom of God, you see, Jesus of Nazareth is both the final destination (i.e. success) and the road to that final destination! In other words, Jesus is both the end result and He is the way, truth and life in finding that end result.
And just like Thomas, our westernized mindset simply cannot comprehend how a person can be a destination, much less be the road to that destination as well. That’s apparently why all the apostles struggled so with Jesus’ words here. In a world where the final destination of success is the only reason for existence, Jesus’ approach to life and ministry simply flies in the face of our human reason. In our generation, famed football coach Vince Lombardi portrayed it well, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”
And so it goes in church life today.
But that’s where Jesus steps in and says that Coach Lombardi (God rest his soul) and other modern leaders may be distorting the truth as defined by the Kingdom of God. Success, from a heavenly viewpoint, is found, not in a project, but in a person.
Jesus of Nazareth. The Way, the Truth, the Life.
Powerful stuff from this wayfaring carpenter from Nazareth.
Now, are we willing to drop our human agendas for fleshly success and simply get back on the Road again.
Excuse me, I hear the Road calling my name.
My prayer: Lord, forgive me when my demand for ‘success’ focuses me more on the project and my final destination than on the journey itself. Since You are both the Road and the Destination, help me to simply keep my eyes and ears on You. For Your name’s sake.
My questions to ponder: So, in what practical ways can I lay down my ideas and concepts of ‘success’ in life and ministry, which are primarily based on results and the accomplishment of pre-set goals? What might it look like in my life to focus more on the journey with Jesus while letting go of my fleshly fixation on the end result?
So what is God speaking to you today? Are you practicing the Kingdom presence of God?