6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:6–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
When one must pass through death from this life into yonder life. This demands more than good conduct and life, no matter how praiseworthy. For I and the works of all men are far too feeble to help me wipe out sin, reconcile God, conquer death, etc. Therefore I need a different foundation, one that is sure, or a firm and safe path and bridge on which to cross. And this is none other than this Jesus Christ, who must be the only Way on which we, as He says, enter into yonder life and come to the Father if we adhere to Him in steadfast faith. Therefore when the hour approaches that you must walk this way, you must brush thoughts of all other ways entirely from your mind and banish far from your eyes and heart all that people teach you about works and tell you about a good life and examples. Of course, as long as you sojourn here on earth, you must lead a fine, moral life, practice obedience, and perform works of love toward your neighbor. For these, too, are good and godly ways on which one must travel in this life with ever-increasing aptitude. But you must not make them the way that is to carry you from this life to the life beyond; that is, you must not take comfort from them or rely on them in the hour of death. For not one of these ways is Christ, who was crucified and died for you. Hence these ways, impotent as they are, dare not be accorded the honor to which Christ alone is entitled.
When the hour comes in which our deeds and works must cease, when our days are numbered and we can no longer tarry, here, when the question arises: “Now where will I find a secure bridge or path that will take me safely into yonder life?”—when that hour comes, I say, do not cast about for any way that bears the human label or the mark of our own good works or holy life. No, bury all this with an Our Father, and recite over it: “Forgive us our trespasses.” Hold solely to Him who says: “I am the Way.” Make sure that then these words are firmly imbedded in your consciousness, so deeply that you can feel Christ’s presence and He can say to you as He does to Thomas here: “Why are you seeking and looking for other ways? Look to Me, and reject all other thoughts regarding ways to heaven. You must expunge these completely from your heart and think of nothing but these words of Mine: ‘I am the Way.’
Behold, thus we must learn to regard and to know our Lord Christ: not as One who helps us only with His teaching and example, and has now departed from us like the other saints, but as the One who is and remains constantly at our side and within us, particularly in the hour when this life comes to an end, and who is so close that He alone is in our hearts. This happens when I believe staunchly in Him as the Savior who has passed through death unto the Father for me, in order to take me there too. Then I am on the right Way, the Way we must take and travel from this to the life beyond. This journey begins in Baptism. And as long as there is faith, man continues on this course until he completes it through death. For faith does not err and stray; but wherever the Christ is to whom it adheres, there it also must be and remain. And the stronger the faith is, the more surely this Way is traveled.
This is the true and certain doctrine; and an excellent, pleasing, and comforting doctrine it is. Furthermore, it is easy to comprehend; no one need go far afield for it, nor does it involve great effort and hard work. All that is necessary is to accept it in faith and to cling to it with all your heart. Yet it does cost toil and labor to preserve this doctrine. For the devil and all the world oppose it with all their might. They will not tolerate this proclamation, and they refuse to give ear to it; they condemn it as the worst kind of heresy. Thus our dear Lord Christ is always subjected to contradiction. He must hear others reprove Him for saying: “I am the Way and the Truth.” The devil assails this as error, lie, and deception. And because we state that one goes to heaven solely through faith in Christ, our adversaries cry out that we forbid the performance of good works. But we do not oppose good works at all; we urge and admonish people to walk decently on this earth, to show respect, obedience, and patience, and to minister to one another.
But when we reach the end of this way and must depart, then we must declare how that way is constructed on which we can really set our feet, and we must know where to step. By way of illustration, if I have traveled across country and now face a body of water which I must traverse, and I find no crossing, no bridge, or no ship, I must either drown or remain on this side and retrace my steps. Similarly, even though I led a good life here on earth and pursued a good course, still, when the hour is at hand for me to depart this life, I must have a different way and path on which to cross over. Now this is none other than the Christ who suffered and died for me that through Him I might attain eternal life.
Why, Christ, God’s Son, Himself teaches this!
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, p. 42). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.