Doing the Works of Jesus
by HW in HI
- based on John 14:1-14
Jesus calls out to his people. He called out 2,000 years ago, and he has not stopped.
At first, his only followers were Jews, and Jesus himself only seemed to seek after Jews.
It was well known that the Jews were a chosen people, and God has worked to be known by
them. I see Jesus ministry as sort of a circle. He started off with his close
friends the fishermen, the tax collector and so on. They were known as the twelve,
or the disciples, or the apostles. They were his first followers. Over time his circle
widened. He spoke to thousands of people. His longest recorded conversation was with a
Samaritan woman at the well. She became a follower, and so did her whole town. And
Samaritans were not Jews. They were the first gentile believers. And so the circle
widened. Following his resurrection Jesus gave the great commandment: Go and make
disciples of all nations. Which means everybody. Jesus came at first for the Jews,
but in the end he came for everybody.
This morning in churches throughout our country, Christians are congratulating
themselves for being followers of Jesus. In some churches there are altar calls, and
people are choosing Jesus. This is not a bad thing. But we have to stop and wonder if it
is Christian for us to draw a circle around ourselves and basically say, Weve
got God, and you dont. Were going to heaven, and you arent. It
doesnt sound much like Jesus, does it?
The Gospel for today is one of the most widely quoted, No one comes to the Father
except through me. Which sounds pretty good, if youre a Christian. This is why
some people get their babies baptized. They figure that the key is baptism, and one of the
biggest problems the church has is baptizing babies we never see again. Some people will
take it a step further and say that no one gets to heaven unless they believe exactly the
right things about Jesus, some people call this dogma.
Of course, it leaves some of us in a lurch. Some of us have loved ones who arent
Christians, or arent baptized. And some of us arent exactly sure which
denomination has the right theology. A friend of mine put it this way,
A man dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter greets him at the door, and to help him
get adjusted, takes him on a tour. After showing him the golden streets, angelic hosts,
and the tree of life, they come upon a closed off area. Singing and shouting can be heard
coming from inside. Whats this? asks the man. Shhh. Ill show
you, says Peter, but you have to keep quiet. Peter cracks the door and
the new arrival peeks inside. A small group of people are singing hymns and praising God
to their hearts content. Theyre having a wonderful time. Who are they?
asks the man. Those are the Hittites, says Peter. They think theyre
the only ones up here.
There is a tremendous human tendency to want to know God. This is a good and wonderful
thing, and it helps us improve our lives. It calls us into relationship with God, and
helps us change. But the problem is, we want to define God our way. We become so sure we
have the key, that we start pretending we are the gatekeepers, deciding who gets in and
who does not.
Lets take a minute to review some of the basic things we know about God:
God created the world. Somehow we blew it, and wound up with a world with a lot of
problems you can take the Adam and Eve story literally if you like, or see it as a
metaphor for something we dont quite understand. But somehow we blew it.
God worked through prophets for thousands of years, trying to get through to us. And in
some ways, he did. We understood the ten commandments and tried to live them. But we would
fail again and again.
Finally God joined us here on earth. Jesus came and taught us two main things: to love
God and to love our neighbor. He preached parables and healed people. And he did the
unthinkable: he allowed himself to be killed, somehow wiping out the power of our
sinfulness, and getting us right with God. This was a courageous act, and only a loving
God could have done it.
Does it follow then, that the same God who became human in the form of Jesus would say
to us: Oops, you dont quite get the incarnation youre out?
I dont think so. Or maybe Youre understanding of evil in the
world is incomplete youre out. Maybe You dont get
salvation history, so there is no saving for you. This just doesnt sound much
Now the tough question: what about people who cant quite wrap their minds around
God or cant quite make the leap of faith to see Jesus as God. Are they out? Jesus
said, blessed are the poor in spirit. If they are blessed, are they kicked out
of heaven? I doubt it. The whole sentence goes, Blessed are the poor in spirit, fir
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I am asking all these questions, even though I am not sure of the answers. I cant
conceive of a loving God kicking out our loved ones. I can understand a room in heaven for
people who think they are the only ones up there.
I do know that Jesus will change our lives, right here on earth. I do know that
following Jesus gives us a path that is better than anything else. I do believe that a
life filled with trying to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is a life well spent.
Jesus told Philip, Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. If it is too
much for us or for our loved ones to make the spiritual leap to Jesus, then he points us
to his works. Which is to say his healings and his signs. In the book of John there are xx
signs, beginning with the turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana, and ending
with the raising of Lazarus from the dead. If a person needs signs and wonders, they can
be found in the gospel of John.
But there is something more in todays gospel. Jesus said, Very truly, I
tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will
do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. This, I think, is
the essence of Christianity. Not that we are saved because of the things we do in the
world, but rather that we believe in Jesus, so we go ahead and do his work. Anyone can
argue about who gets into heaven and who does not. But not just anyone will go forth and
feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the prisoner and welcome the
I want to conclude today with one last question, Do we want to argue over who
gets in, or do we want to be believers who will do the works that Jesus has done?