Have you ever been the first one to blaze a trail through freshly fallen snow? The pristine, unblemished look of that mounded whiteness just beckons us to cut a path through it, fall down into it, and mound it up into a creation of magical delight. The first set of footprints leaves only small impressions where your foot came to rest with each step, doesn't it? The more the same steps are followed - either by your own movement or that of others - the more a "path" begins to be worn. The original footprints are still there, but they are underneath all the others which have passed over the same spot. In time, we come to call this a path - the route which has become the place of movement and passage. I want us to begin to think of what Christ did on our behalf as he took the first steps into an eternity of grace on our behalf. Eternity's "grace" path began with one set of footprints, and down through the ages, by others following in those footprints, eternity's "grace" pathway has been followed over and over again.
I am the path, the truth, and the energy of life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, you know the Father. Rest assured now; you know Him and have seen Him. (John 14:6-7 VOICE)
Lots of us choose to follow no other set of footprints, no matter how well the path has been marked out through the ages, wanting instead to blaze a trail all of our own. The excitement of being the first to go where others have not is something which just excites us and energizes us in ways which are kind of hard for us to understand. It is this tendency to want to do things our way - being the one who leads the path of our own destiny - which will end in us missing out on the pathway of grace. It could not be clearer - Jesus is the path - he is the one who walked that "grace" path - establishing not only the pathway we are to follow, but the means by which we can actually take those steps. All other paths we could travel in our own deliberate "trail-blazing" activities in life are simply not going to take us to the same destination. There is but one pathway to the destination of an eternity of grace.
Probably the most telling part of this passage is to understand the meaning of "path". A pathway is actually a very narrow walkway. It isn't blazed with a bulldozer, but with one set of footprints. It is kind of like when that snow is first marked with the set of footprints another may follow in, then another, and another, until finally it becomes that narrow path which makes its way to a destination point. In the case of eternity, Christ's footprints lead right into the throne room of God himself. Jesus said there are three things we need to recognize about this path:
1) There is but one path. He is that path. No other means exists to ensure eternity is lived out in grace. Grace is not available by any set of works, litany of prayers, or determined existence of "saintly" pursuits. We might try to make a path of our own making, but in time, it isn't going to lead to the same destination as that which Christ has prepared for each of us. On the day Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, he also told them the path he was blazing was to his Father's home - a place he was going to in order to prepare for their arrival. The first person to go to a destination is the one who does the work of laying out the means by which someone will arrive at the destination. All others who follow the trail will arrive where the trail leads. This is important for us to understand - there is but one trail which leads to an eternity of grace and that is the path created by Christ alone.
2) Those who travel this path don't live by speculation, or guess about which turn to take - for the path is one which is true and the markers along the path are all found in the truth of his words. Truth keeps us from having to speculate about how to live, or which way to follow when decisions present themselves. Truth establishes evidence of the right path and then marks out the path with clarity and with determined progress toward the destination. I have taken many a trail through national forests and have been delighted to see each and every one of those small markers which tell me I am on the right path to the destination I seek at the end of that trail. If I just ventured into the unknown of the forests without the evidence of those markers to guide me along the way, my travels could be very tumultuous, could they not? Christ is the truth - he marks the trail with clarity and light.
3) The path isn't followed in our own strength, but by the energy of life which emanates from Christ himself. Too many times we think this pathway of grace is something we walk in our own strength, but the purpose of walking in the footprints of another is quite different than blazing our own trail. When we walk "inside" the footprints of someone who has gone through the snow drifts ahead of us, do we exert the same amount of energy as when we carefully follow the footprints of another who has gone before? No, because stepping into the footprint of another doesn't require us to push away the things which act as resistance in our lives - the resistance has been "navigated" for us. We burn out when it is always us trying to blaze the trail, my friends.
We can be the ones to blaze the trail to somewhere in our lives, but trust me on this, that path will not be the one to an eternity of grace. Grace has but one path, narrow, but already navigated. We simply place one foot in front of the other, stepping INTO what Christ has already done on our behalf, then walk on into the place prepared for each of us in the very presence of the eternal God himself. One path - one truth - one energizing force. The way could not be clearer. Just sayin!