Jack Graham - Way Maker
I know what new Christmas song is going to the top on my playlist this year and it's what Michael and the group just sang, His Name. And it was written by Michael Neale has written that and it is fantastic. And then, of course, appropriate "The Way Maker" which is the title of our series at Christmas this year. WAY MAKER. It was actually written in 2015 by a Nigerian singer/songwriter/worship leader by the name of Sinach and it flowed out of her own personal witness and testimony. "Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the darkness. That is who You are". And over the next several weeks we're going to be taking these, one by one, right out of the Scripture, because these words, names describing Jesus, Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the darkness, is illustrative of who Jesus is and why He came.
Now we know that names are very important. Most everybody loves the sound of their own name. That's a personal relation kind of statement. Dale Carnegie said it years ago. Everyone loves the sound of their own name. So if you can call a person by name, that's a good thing for building relationships. You don't call somebody what's-your-name. You want to know people's name. It's one good thing about church when we can build community and relationship. It ought to be a place where people know your name. Our small groups, our community groups, and all the rest, we work very hard to make sure that people are known and know that they are loved, not only by God, but by the church.
So it's very important that we know one another's names. Unless you're like a guy I heard about who hated his name. His name, his last name was Odd. Mr. Odd. And he hated it because people throughout his life said, "Your name is Odd. That's odd". Or things likes "Hey, you! You're really odd, aren't you"? And so through the years he had enough of that and when it came down near to the end of his life, he left in his will and testament that when he was to be buried, they were to leave the tombstone blank. And not even put that name, he didn't want people passing by his grave and looking at the tombstone and saying "That's Odd". And so they did exactly as he said. They buried him, put the tombstone up, nothing, it was blank. And so when people would come by, they would look at it because that was unusual. People would look at it and say, "That's odd".
So, names mean something, especially in the Bible. And the name of Jesus is a wonderful name. So we're taking one by one, actually two by two, the names of Jesus in Isaiah chapter 9. "His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God and the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace". The name of Jesus. There are many names describing Jesus in the Word of God, and every name of Jesus is a matchless name! Marvelous name! Remember the angel said of Him, naming Him to Joseph, "You shall call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sin". The very name Jesus means Savior. And yet, of all the names of the Lord Jesus, one of perhaps the most startling of all is the self-ascribed name given to us in John chapter 14, It is the most powerful name of Jesus.
And I might add, the most controversial name of Jesus. For Jesus said in verse 6, "I am the way, the truth, the life. And no one comes to the Father except through me". Now, it's the upper room. As Jesus is nearing the end of His earthly story. He is hours away from the cross and He's gathered that little band of believers, the disciples who became apostles. And in gathering them, He's teaching them, giving His last will and testament, if you will, according to John chapter 7:13 all the way through 17 is the upper room discourse. And here in the midst of it, John chapter 14, Jesus declares, "I am", which is the name of God Himself, the Great I Am. "I am the way, the truth and the life".
Jesus had lived 33 years approximately on the earth. He was born in Bethlehem and raised in obscurity in the Galilee, and burst on the scene around the age of 30, when He was baptized by John, affirmed by the Father and launched an earthen ministry of 3 years. Speaking words like people had never heard before, performing miracles, changing the world. In those brief 3 years from Bethlehem onward to the cross, He rocked the world! And the moment for which He had come, the arrival is about to end. And the arrival of Jesus which began in Bethlehem is coming to an end, I should say. And Jesus says to them in verse 1, let’s get the context, "Let not your heart be trouble; believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?'"
Jesus is now leaving. Not arriving, not coming but leaving. And the disciples are sad and bewildered and brokenhearted at this news. And the atmosphere in the upper room is physically dark, but emotional and spiritual it is darker. That night when Jesus gathered His disciples and spoke of His death and the things that were to come. He said, "I’m going, I’m leaving". Which was a far cry from that first night when Jesus was born and the angels danced on the stars and declared, "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and goodwill to all men". The men around the Lord's table that evening were, they loved Jesus. They'd given their lives and their livelihoods to follow the one who they believed was the Messiah. But now He's leaving, now He's going. And it seemed that their dreams and aspirations and ambitions concerning the Lord Himself and their own, that all hope was gone. Jesus is leaving.
So you may be wondering if this is all about the arrival of Jesus, Jesus coming into the world, Pastor, why are you talking about His leaving? If it's about the beginning of the story, this Christmas why are you taking us to the end of the story? The real meaning of Christmas and the real mission of Jesus is described here; who He is and why He came. I'll tell you why we're taking you here. These are dark and depressing days for so many people. The year of our Lord, the one who divided B.C. and A.D. in His coming, and in His going. I don't need to remind anyone about the pandemic. If I ultimately never hear the word pandemic again that would be a good day! The virus! And with this medical crisis, a mental health crisis, so much anxiety, so much despair, so much darkness. People are dying by degrees. Some are taking their lives. There is loneliness and the feeling of being separated and isolated.
I just read yesterday of a woman in Canada who’s so brokenhearted by another wave of lockdowns in her area, she said, "I would rather die". And asked to be euthanized. She just can’t take another lockdown. There’s been loses of life, and lockdown, loses of livelihood. And so many questions, aren’t they, yet to come? All the uncertainty. When will this end? And when it ends, will life ever be the same? People are giving up in sadness and emptiness and isolation. Silent Night speaks of the "hopes and fears of all the years". And of all the years, how many hopes and fears do we feel across the country and around the world. The hopes and fears of all the years are lost in thee tonight. So here we are, in the middle of this dark night and these long days, Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled". The word literally means distressed or disturbed. Don’t be distressed! Don’t be disturbed! Don’t be troubled! But keep believing in Me. Keep trusting in Me.
Now, no one can deny that Jesus is the most important figure in human history, the most impactful personality that ever walked upon the earth. It's been estimated that since the beginning of creation until now 30 billion people have lived and walked upon the earth. A few, a handful of the 30 billion have made a significant impact on the world or perhaps on their own nation or country. A few of them impacted history. But only one of the 30 billion people who have walked on this plant, only one has divided history and changed the world. Only one, Jesus, stands above all others. He has attracted more adoration than all others. One-third of the population of the planet on this day of the globe are followers, or claim to be followers professing faith in Jesus Christ.
H. G. Wells was a noted historian who listed the ten top most important figures in human history. At the top of the list according to this historian and many would agree, is Jesus Christ. But you know, when you think about it, Jesus cannot be compared to any other group of humans that have ever been on earth. He’s not Jesus Christ the greatest; He is Jesus the one and only! "There’s none named given among men save the name of Jesus by which we must be saved". No other name! And at the name of Jesus "every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God". So Jesus tells us who He is and why He came. He said, "I am the way" and the way brings you truth and the way brings you life. The way to God shows you what to believe and how to live your life. It's the way of salvation; it's the way to heaven; it's the way of Jesus. Jesus spoke of this Himself, two roads.
John chapter 7, "He said there is a road which is wide and most people are on it and it leads to destruction. But there is a narrow road and few are on it, but this road leads to eternal life". It is this road of redemption in Jesus Christ that leads to salvation. Deuteronomy 30:19 says, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live". That's what Jesus is doing in the upper room. He's showing us not only why He came, but He's pointing us to the cross and the salvation that He gives. Jeremiah 21, verse 8 says, "And to this people you shall say, ‘Thus saith the Lord, behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death.’" Jesus said, "I am the way of life; I am the truth".
He’s not pointing us to the way; He is the way. He’s not just speaking truth; He is the truth. He’s not just showing us how to live; He is the life. And He’s providing this pathway; this only way to salvation and forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus is not the best way to heaven; Jesus is not a way to heaven; Jesus is not an optional way to heaven; He’s the only way to heaven! And why Jesus came is the way of the cradle that leads to the cross. Mary's little Lamb was born to be the sacrificial Lamb, to die on the cross for our sin. And when you...
I can remember when we were building this magnificent building, these facilities, and we were at an architectural planning meeting and they were showing me the foyer of the church and the atrium and they said, you know there's going to be 66 window panes above the atrium. I said, "Wait a minute! Did you say 66"? They said, Yessir, 66. I said, "You know, there's 66 books in the Bible. And in all 66 books of the Bible there is Jesus. And throughout the pages of God's Word is this scarlet thread, this red road of redemption that runs from beginning to end. You see Jesus in every book of the Bible because it's His story from beginning to end. It's all about Him"! So when you stand in our atrium and you see those beautiful windows, now stained glass, you'll see a ribbon running throughout, and you'll see artistically designed portraits of Christ in every book of the Bible. It's magnificent! Because it's the truth.
And this is why Christ came, in order to leave, to prepare a place, the way for us. When you read your Bible beginning in Genesis when the ram was caught in the thicket, before that, when Adam and Eve slew an animal to cover their nakedness because of their shame and their sin. When you walk through with Moses and the burning bush and the great I AM, He is that I AM. Book by book, prophecy by prophecy, one by one, all 66 to the Revelation where it tells us that He is the Lamb who is worthy! It’s all about the pathway! It’s all about the way and Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. The way is the road home. Many have lost their way in life and are far from home and far from God.
Jesus told a beautiful story about this, a poignant story, Luke chapter 15. About a young man who left his father’s house and wasted all that he had been given in prodigal living, making terrible choices, and he ends up in a pig pen. He lost it all. He lost everything. He’s alone and he’s afraid. He’s been used and abused by Satan and sin. But then he came to himself, this truth that he believed. He came to himself and here’s what he said, he said, "There is servants back at my father’s house that are better off than me. They have more than enough and here I am, dying in this place"! And that’s when he said, "I will arise and go back home. I will go to my father". And he planned to go back as a servant, not as a son. And on the long journey home he finds his way on the pathway, the road home. He’s broken, he’s bent, he’s bankrupt, but he found his way home to the father’s house.
And there was life in the father’s house. The way home is through the Father's house. It's the way of truth, it's the way of life! And it's the way of love. Because at Christmas and all year through every year, regardless of the year, what kind of year it's been, we celebrate Christ! Because His love prepared the way, His love found the way! Without Him, there's no way! There's no way to be forgiven, there's no way to be changed, there's no way that a broken man can be put back together again. There's no way for an addicted person to be delivered. There's no way for any of us to achieve heaven! No way! Mary even said, "No way". When she was told she would bear the Christ into the world, she said, "How can this be? (No way!) I’ve never known a man". But God said, "Way! For with God all things are possible"!
And the Way Maker came! We were without hope and according to the book of Ephesians, chapter 2 we were empty and lonely and without hope and without God! But it says in Ephesians chapter 2:13 that: "We have been brought near by the blood of Christ"! We have been brought near! God came near so that we could be brought near. He came to earth to die on the cross so that we could go to heaven. To rise again so that we could have eternal life! God’s love found a way when there was no way! Jesus is the way! This is why we celebrate Christ in Christmas. We are people of the way. The earliest Christians were called people of the Way. We are the Jesus people; we are the Way Maker people. And our hearts are glowing and our spirits are soaring even in times like these, we are full of hope and we are full of faith, and we are full of joy and full of hope and goodwill, God's grace because the Way Maker has made a way for us.