5. Thomas said to Him: Lord, we do not know where You are going; how can we know the way?
6. Jesus said to him: I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.
The disciples had heard Christ say that He was going away to prepare dwellings for them. Not only this. They themselves also knew the way to the place where He would go and stay, and that they would follow Him there. He did not have to say much to them any more, and they were to be all the less anxious and fearful about the fact that it was necessary for Him to depart from them. Then St. Thomas begins to wonder. It seems strange to him that Jesus should say that they knew where He is going and also knew the way. He had never said anything to them about where He was going or about the way He would take when He left them. In a simple and carnal manner St. Thomas begins to think of the road one takes in a physical way from one town to another, of the road on which one walks. The disciples say: “We are ignorant of any way You may take or of any city gate by which You may intend to travel. How, then, can You expect us to know the way?” To these simple and carnal thoughts Christ replies: “When I say that you know the way, I mean that you know Him who is the Way, namely, Me; for you see and know that I am Christ, your Lord and Savior, and you are My disciples, who have heard My message for so long and have witnessed My miracles. Now since you know Me, you also know the Way and all you need to know.”
This is again something extraordinary; but it is the very theme which the evangelist St. John is wont to write about and emphasize, namely, that all our teaching and faith must revolve about Christ and be centered in this one Person. We must discard all other knowledge and wisdom and know absolutely no one else than “Christ crucified,” as St. Paul states, 1 Cor. 2:2. Thus he reproves his wiseacres and smart alecks who thought that they had to interpret this far more boldly than St. Paul does in his simple message about Christ. They considered themselves much smarter, more learned, and intelligent. “What shall I say?” says Paul. “I have been absent from you scarcely half a year; and you are already so learned that everybody else’s wisdom and shrewdness pales into insignificance beside yours, and I can be no more than a pupil among you. Yet I desire no more, nor do I want to boast of knowing anything but my Christ.”
Thus the devil always interferes when he enters heads that are somewhat intelligent and venture to dabble in Scripture to display their smartness. In their conceit they presume to comprehend it all with their mind, to be so profound that no one can fathom them, and to know everything better than they can be told. And yet they never learn that all depends on their knowing the Lord Christ aright.
Here and everywhere the evangelist John wants to warn all who would be Christians and would do what is right how to proceed in divine matters and to know what to seek and learn, namely, that in the eyes of God it is the highest wisdom and knowledge, above all knowledge and wisdom, even if this were angelic, to come to the right knowledge of Christ, to know what one has in Him and that one comes to God only through Him. This is the most important lesson to be learned from St. Thomas’ question and from the Lord’s reply.
But how profound and how difficult this doctrine and knowledge are also for the true pupils of Christ is demonstrated here by St. Thomas and, as we shall see a little later, by St. Philip, who represent all the rest. They blurt out their ignorance and betray that they still understand little or nothing of Christ’s words, though they have heard Him so long, and even now are listening to Him at table as He tells them of the Father’s house where He will go to prepare homes for them. They let Christ sit there behind the table and tell them all this for their comfort. Meanwhile their minds flit elsewhere. They devise a different way for themselves and fix a wide gulf between Christ and themselves. Therefore He sets them right. He does this, however, with fine, friendly words, as a kind Lord and Master who can well overlook and pardon the ignorance and weakness of His servants. His object is to tie and to bind them completely to Himself alone with their eyes, ears, and hearts, so that they will not see and think beyond Him. He says, as it were: “Thomas, where are your eyes and your thoughts? One must not speculate and flit about this way. Look here at Me. Surely you know Me. And if you know and see Me, then you also know and see the way, and you must not worry any longer. You must not stare at Me as a cow stares at a new door, or as the unbelieving Jews look at Me and see that I have eyes, a mouth, and a nose just as anyone of you has. You must wash your eyes, clean out your ears, and see, hear, think, and understand differently from the way one does with a carnal mind and understanding.”
For here there are two kinds of sight and of hearing. The one is performed with physical eyes and ears, entirely without the Spirit. This is the way all the Jews looked at Christ—only with their five senses. Thus they ascertained that He hailed from Nazareth and was Mary’s Son. I look at you this way and establish that you were born of a father and a mother, that you are a man or a woman, that you live and act so or so. This is a purely natural and physical sight. But Christ cannot be recognized in this way (nor, for that matter, can His Christians), even if we saw Him every hour before our eyes and heard Him. The second is a spiritual sight, which only Christians have and which takes place by means of faith in the heart. With this—if we are Christians—we must also view and recognize one another. For I do not recognize a Christian by his external appearance and mien, by how he acts and lives, but by the fact that he is baptized and has God’s Word. This makes him a child of God, a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and an heir of eternal life. I do not see this inscribed on his nose or his forehead, nor do I discern it with my physical eye. I see it with the spiritual vision of the heart.
In that manner you must also look at Christ if you want to recognize Him and know who He is, not as your eyes and senses prescribe, but as His Word shows and portrays Him—as born of the Virgin, as the One who died and rose again for you and now sits enthroned as Lord over all things. Then you see not only His form, as your physical eyes do, but also the power and the might of His death and His resurrection. Then you do not call Him a son of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth, as the Jews did, but our only Savior and Lord over all. This position He acquired solely through His ascent into yonder life by way of His suffering and death, by His resurrection and transfiguration. To Him, therefore, everything in heaven and on earth must be subject; and He rules with power in all those who believe in Him, and protects them against all their adversaries.
Behold, this is how Christ wants to be seen here, not with the eyes, which see that by a way unknown to them He departs physically from them on foot to another place—and they do not know where He is going or where He will stay—and thus leaves them behind bereft of the comfort of His presence. No, they must see that He goes away from them and leaves them spiritually—this He calls “going to the Father”—by means of His suffering and dying. But they must know that He does not remain in death but through this very death enters into His kingdom and reign. Furthermore, they must realize that through Him they come to the Father, who protects, saves, and helps them in every need.
Therefore Christ says: “He who sees how I go to the Father has seen that I suffer death in accord with My Father’s will and then live and reign forever. In this way I precede you and blaze the trail for you, that you may follow Me. This I do, and no one else; and I must do it, lest you never come. Knowing this, you are informed of My goal and of the way which I am to take and on which you must follow Me. You know that I Myself am the Way, and that you have every need fulfilled in Me. I die for you, reconcile the Father, wipe out sin, devour death, and draw all men to Me, so that in Me you have all things.”
This is a way of looking at Christ that is far different from the way all the world does and the disciples did up to this time. But now their eyes are made clear by faith; this is a new insight. If I see a king’s son in captivity in a strange land, clad as a poor man in a gray cloak21 or in the garb of a pilgrim, and know nothing else about him, I am guided by my eyes and regard him as no more than a beggar. But if I hear that he is a king’s son, then the gray coat, the staff, and all the other marks of a beggar vanish. I bend my knees before him and call him a gracious lord, although no golden crown or no majesty are visible to my eyes. Thus St. Thomas and the other Christians look with carnal sight at Christ seated behind the table. They do not yet see what kind of man He is. But later they get another view and see that He is the Way, that by His death He goes to the Father, and that through their faith in Him they, too, will be brought there.
Therefore Christ says: “You know where I am going, namely, to the Father; that is, I will enter eternal life and take over the government or dominion which is free from sin, death, poverty, unhappiness, and sorrow. This you are familiar with, since you know Me; you have often heard from Me why and for what purpose I came, and what I am to do. You also know the way or the road which leads to My goal, namely, the road of crucifixion and then of resurrection from death.” Hence, this knowledge consists, in brief, of nothing else than wholehearted faith in the Christ who died and rose for us and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. If I have this faith, and if this faith relies on Him beyond doubt, then I know both the way He has taken and the place where He has gone and resides. Then I see Him aright; then if He stood before me, I would look at Him even with my physical eyes as I could not before faith was there. And if I remain steadfast in this faith, I take the same way and road, through cross and suffering, and reach the same place to which He has gone.
Therefore we dare go no farther or fix our thoughts on anything but Christ, as though there were any other road or way we should or might travel, as the false saints and reason persistently seek to do. For example, those who are known as Carthusians build themselves a special bridge to heaven by vowing and observing poverty and obedience, by abstaining from meat, from wearing linen garments, from resting at one place longer than a night, ere.22 In this delusion they suppose that they are on the right road to heaven. But this is a bridge and a stairway made of spider web; the higher they ascend on it, the deeper and the more shamefully they fall into the abyss of hell. For this is not the way; it is sheer delusion, because there is no Christ there to be believed and acknowledged. A barefoot friar with his rope and his wooden shoes belongs in the same category. He fasts much, babbles and gabbles, observes his monastic rules, does not lie down without his cowl, lets the lice devour him, and imagines that he will go straight to heaven—and not he alone; but he presumes that by virtue of his good works and the merits of his order he can draw others up with him.23
But this is not traveling the way to heaven. No, it is hastening straight to hell in sheer blindness and in the devil’s deception. This is senseless. Build, make, and seek what you will—when the hour comes for you to leave this life and enter a different one, then you must either take this way alone or be eternally lost. For Christ says: “I am the Way by which one comes to the Father; there is no other way. I and no one else am the Truth and the Life.” You must take this road in order to hold to this Man and to persevere in this faith and confession. You must travel it in suffering and death, saying: “I know no other help or counsel, no salvation or comfort, no way or path, except Christ my Lord alone, who suffered, died, rose, and ascended to heaven for me. I will stay on this road all the way, even though nothing but devil, death, and hell were under and before me. For this is surely the right road and bridge; it is firmer and safer than any stone or iron structure. And heaven and earth would have to collapse before this road would ever deceive me or lead me astray.”
Therefore the real art consists in this: that we travel this road only and do not follow the deceiver and the spirit of lies, who tries constantly to lead us from this way onto his devious paths. He attempts to tear these thoughts of faith from our hearts and to remove this Christ from our sight as the only Way and Means, so that we no longer have. Christ in mind, especially in the hour when this is necessary. He conjures up other thoughts, such as St. Thomas also entertained, as though Christ were far removed from us, high up in heaven, and of no further use to us. Then he prompts us to seek other ways and paths, and we exclaim: “Oh, if only I had lived differently! If only I had done this or that! Oh, that God would reprieve me! Then I would become pious and lead an austere life!” When you say this, you have already missed the way of the Lord Christ most woefully and are completely on the wrong track and have strayed into devious paths that lead into the pit of hell. For you will never succeed in giving this text the lie: “I am the Way, and no one else.” No matter what all the Carthusians, monks, and saints contemplate and do, here you hear Christ Himself declare: “Why are you searching for other ways and paths? I have no other way to show you than Myself. If you know Me, you know the way; for I and the way are identical. If you miss Me, you will never find the way, even if you were to walk yourself to death in your search.”
Therefore learn to understand this beautiful saying of Christ “I am the Way.” Do not think of a way or road which one treads with one’s feet; but realize that this is a way walked and traversed with the faith of the heart, which holds solely to Christ the Lord. For there are various modes of walking and wandering on earth, just as there are different Ways and roads. In the first place, you may walk physically or naturally from place to place, as cows and horses also do. In fact, everything alive moves and bestirs itself to preserve its natural life and procure its nourishment. God’s Word and Scripture teaches nothing about this. Then there are other ways or courses that also pertain to this life, that is, to our civic life in this world, such as we lead before the world outwardly, a decent, virtuous, and moral course and conduct whereby we uphold temporal government, maintain peace, honor, and order, and promote the acquisition of goods and honor, etc. About this philosophers develop all sorts of good principles out of their reason, and rulers prescribe many kinds of laws and statutes. All these ways and means are confined to this temporal life and end with it.
But over and above these there is another mode of proceeding, and here Holy Writ and Christ are referring exclusively to it. This is the way that leads us from this life into yonder future life. Here one must have an entirely different way and road. Let us say that a person is lying on his deathbed and the soul is about to depart from the body; or let us suppose that sentence of death is to be executed on a person, and he is to be hanged, beheaded, burned, or drowned. Then, too, a road stretches out before him that he must walk. He cannot tarry here but must travel a way that he cannot see, on which his feet cannot tread, on which he cannot travel by wagon. Yet one commonly says: “He is departing; he is gone.” But this is not to be taken in a physical or literal sense; for sight and hearing avail not, all the senses are numbed, hands and feet are bound, and our works and power are ineffectual. There is no way or path here which we might call our own, or which we have invented or provided; for, as we have already said, all our reasoning ceases to function and neither knows nor understands how the transition from this life to that one takes place, much less how and by what means it is to be attained.
Therefore we dare not listen to the dictates of reason or of the law or the notions of man, nor dare we follow them as though they would guide us on the way. For even if man devotes much thought to this and tries to pursue all sorts of ways to heaven, this is all a vain and futile effort. As I have said, a Carthusian builds a road on which he wants to come to heaven, saying: “I will forsake the world, which is evil and impure. I will crawl into a corner, fast daily, abstain from meat, and torture my body. God will surely view such an austere spiritual life with favor and save me.” This is also making a way and walking on it spiritually; it is a way that a Carthusian does not tread with his feet but with his heart, which imagines that if he lives and conducts himself in this manner, he is on the right way to heaven. Another monk or priest, also aspiring to live spiritually, builds himself a different way and says: “If I read so many Masses; if I pray, clothe myself in wool, and go barefoot, I am on the right way. And as soon as I close my eyes, I shall go straight to heaven.”
All these are, and are called, ways of human design and judgment; they are founded on our own acts and deeds, which, after all, pertain to this life only. Therefore these are not ways to heaven; they are sheer error and deception if heaven is their objective. For what will or can my cowl, tonsure, barefoot friar’s rope, and the like aid my soul in the moment when I am to leap through death into yonder eternal life? These are all physical matters and works that even non-Christians can perform. Even if such people do their utmost in all sincerity, it is still utterly evil, utterly corrupted, because it is all done without faith in Christ—as though they could entirely dispense with Christ, as though Christ were lying when He declares that He is the Way and the Truth!
Behold, all the world trudges along in its blindness, and despite all its contrivances and endeavors this way remains undiscovered; for everyone paves his own way and constructs his own particular bridge to heaven. The very fact that people seek such a variety of ways, devising one after the other, is ample evidence that they are ignorant of the right way. And after they have tried everything, they can never feel assured that they have found the right way. The more they exert themselves and the more frantically they seek ways, the more they remain in doubt, saying: “Who knows whether this is pleasing to God, or whether I have done enough?” They never arrive at the point of perfect confidence in their way.
If we want to feel assured of reaching heaven, we must have a sure way and road to travel; for there can be no more than one right way and road. And such a way is indicated only in God’s Word. Christ the Lord Himself is the only Way and the right Road on which our heart can and must rely and depend. Therefore Christ concludes: “He who would be safe and not meet eternal loss and ruin, let him give ear to Me alone; and let Me impress these words deeply: ‘I am the Way.’ Let him turn a deaf ear to all other ways and paths that claim to lead to yonder life; for all others are surely wrong ways and detours; they lead through thickets and underbrush, yes, over stumps and stones, bruising the feet, mangling the nose and the mouth, breaking the legs, and finally also the neck.” The devil misleads people physically with will-o’-the-wisps.24 They imagine that they are traveling on a highway or a road; but actually they fall into the water and drown, or they enter a wild forest from which they cannot find their way out. Similarly, but far more disastrously, he seduces and bewitches them spiritually with his will-o’-the-wisps as he puts delusive thoughts and ideas into their minds and suggests that if they do this or that, like thus or so, they are on the right road and will go straight to heaven. In reality, however, this way leads them straight to hell.
This is the inevitable outcome wherever Christ is not heard. He alone can and must show us the right way to heaven and lead us on it; for He is the only One who knows the way, and He Himself has preceded us on this way. He came from heaven for the express purpose of showing us the way and of taking us to heaven through Himself. Thus He declares in John 3:13: “No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven.” Experience, too, should teach us this. For no one has ever come down from heaven or ascended into heaven by means of his own works and life. Only one who himself experienced this is able to inform us how and by what means we may go to heaven. Hence no one can boast of knowing the way, much less that his works and deeds are the way on which we may ascend into heaven. Christ is the only One who descended and then ascended again. And this He did to lead us up with Him.
Yet the world is so blind and stupid that it always seeks and explores other ways. It is gullible and willing to follow where anyone directs and leads it. It will try, and rely on, any method or any work suggested to it. But one thing it cannot do, namely, remain on this one safe way with firm and steadfast faith. And though it hears and is told that Christ is the Way, it adulterates this message and seeks bypaths and other ways. It does not let Him have the exclusive honor; but it usurps part of this for itself, as though it could contribute something and find the way to heaven by itself.
Therefore, even though we adduce these and similar verses, and persuade people to concede that these statements are true, Mr. Smart Aleck25 comes along; indeed, the devil himself meddles in with his clever reasoning. His purpose is to keep them on the wrong road and to invalidate these beautiful sayings. He suggests this interpretation: Christ taught and commanded us well how to live and conduct ourselves; He gave us good examples to follow. If we observe and do this, we find the way that leads to heaven. Thus Christ is transformed into nothing but a Moses, who confines himself to our works and conduct, thereby directing our attention to ourselves. This is missing the right knowledge completely; this is shamefully obscuring, yes, perverting this salutary verse. For good precepts and examples are surely not the way, the truth, and the life that lead to the Father. The disciples were already well acquainted with these. The entire nation had learned them from Moses and others. About these the disciples had no right to inquire or complain—as they do here—as though they did not know the way. Then Christ would help them no more than Moses or John the Baptist or any other saint. Then the comfort and the joy derived from Him would cease, because He is ascending into heaven and leaving them behind alone. Then His whole suffering, His death, and His resurrection would be lost and useless for us; and the words “crucified, suffered and died for us” would be meaningless. Then why would He direct them to Himself alone, away from their anxiety about coming to the Father, following Christ, and wanting to know the way? For even before this they had known Christ as their Master and their Teacher.
Therefore beware of such misleading, shameful, and deceptive prattle, which represents Christ solely as a Teacher of works, as though He had taught and showed us nothing but proper conduct and behavior. In that capacity He could not be called the Way; then He would be no more than a cross or a votive picture on the wayside. This indeed directs the wayfarer correctly, but it itself does not bear him along. Even if Christ does teach and show us abundantly how to live and follow Him, as He lived and walked, this would still be far from our actually doing it. His example is truly precious, but it is far too sublime for us to follow. Furthermore, I have said that all our works and deeds pertain to this life. But the walking and the way of which our text speaks no longer relate to this life. This is a walk and a leap by which one must enter and cross over into the life beyond. It is very much like coming to a shore where road and blazed trail terminate, and where I see only water before me and could not cross or dare venture upon it without a firm and solid path or a bridge, or a guide to lead me. With an impassable way before me and without any assistance it would avail me nothing to know the direction. If I am to cross, I must have something on which to walk safely, in the assurance that it will bear me.
The same thing applies 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.’ See to it that you tread on Me, that is, cling to Me with strong faith and with all confidence of the heart. I will be the Bridge to carry you across. In one moment you will come out of death and the fear of hell into yonder life. For it is I who paved the way and the course. I walked and traversed it Myself, so that I might take you and all My followers across. All that is necessary is that you unhesitatingly set your foot on Me, wager boldly on Me, go cheerfully and happily, and die in My name.”
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. For this walking is nothing but a constant growth in faith and in an ever-stronger assurance of eternal life in Christ. If I persist in this faith and death attacks me and throws me down, if it chokes me in my prime26 or takes me by sword or fire and takes away all my five senses, then the journey is over, and I am already at my destination as I leap into yonder life.
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! And He who is the Truth Himself deserves to be believed. If the world, at the prompting of the devil, does not believe this and even regards this doctrine as a lie and as heresy, we must suffer this and see ourselves reviled and persecuted on this account. But when their last hour approaches, when death stares them in the face, and when they must leap from this life into the next, then they will discover what help they can get from their own ways. And as they suffer, they will have to confess that they have done violence to the truth. In brief, the alternative is: Either take this way, or be eternally engulfed by the abyss of hell.
Behold, this is the meaning of Christ and of these words. Christ wants to divert us from all vagrant, roundabout, and fluttering notions, and to draw us to Himself alone, to accustom us to walk this Way, so that we may be found on it when all other ways end. He wants to prepare and equip His disciples and all Christians to be ready at all times for the journey into yonder life. He says, as it were: “After My departure your life will be quite different. Death will confront you daily; hourly you will have to expect to be tortured, killed, and chased out of the world. You, too, will have to walk this way out of life, as I am about to do. Therefore take heed, first of all, that you know where to place your foot and where to find the way that can bear you up. That is, cling closely to Me.” Otherwise you will fidget and quail like those who know nothing of Him and are wont to quote:
I live. How long, I do not know; Must die, but know not when I’ll go; Pass on, but know not where ‘twill be. My cheerfulness surprises me.27
These words are appropriate for those who disdain this doctrine and this way and vainly search for other ways as long as they live. For such is necessarily the disposition of the human heart without Christ. It constantly flounders about and dangles in such eternal doubt, terror, and despondency at the thought of death that it does not know where to turn. It would love to escape from death and hell; yet it does not know how, as these people themselves confess in this rhyme.
But a Christian, who is familiar with the way and has already begun to walk it, must reverse these words and joyfully declare: “May God protect me from dying and departing this life in ignorance of my destination! For I am baptized in Christ, and I believe that He is my Savior and the Way on which I am to come to heaven. Hence, though I do not know the duration of my sojourn here or how soon I will divest myself of this bag of worms, I do know that I will live with Him eternally. Even though this mortal body closes its eyes and all its senses, and though it does not know what will become of it—this is immaterial. It should not know or perceive this, but permit itself to be carried to the cemetery, to be interred in the ground and reduced to dust until God raises it up again. And yet, God be praised, as a Christian I do know where I will go and abide; for I was assured of this in Baptism, in absolution, and likewise in the Sacrament.”
Therefore a Christian must cheerfully revise the above rhyme and say:
I live. How long ‘twill be, I know; I die; know how and when I’ll go (namely, every day and hour before the world); Pass on, and know, praise God, where to. Why should I now be grieving so?28
A Christian is to be sure of his destiny. And since he has Christ, he has everything and would have the right to jump for joy at all times. But all this is according to the spirit and faith in Christ, the Way on which he has begun to travel. For this is still covered and concealed to the flesh and the physical senses. As has already been said,29 nothing is more incomprehensible to man’s reason and senses than that this should be a way; for they see and feel nothing tangible to hold to but must wager without understanding it or reasoning it out, as if they were going into a great wilderness or a vast ocean, where they find no prop and support in themselves. This requires faith, which lays hold of the Word, can cling to it, and departs boldly trusting in this Man, though the old Adam is shipwrecked in the process. This, then, is the passage in which Christ calls Himself the only Way on which we, following Him, come to the Father. He wants our heart and our reliance to rest completely on Him when we are to depart this life; and He promises to transport us across safely and take us to the Father, if we but cling firmly to Him. And now He continues:
Luther, M. (1999, c1961). Vol. 24: Luther's works, vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (24:31). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.