John 14 (AMP): 5Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way? 6Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me.
Ahh, John 14:6. One of the most controversial, ire-inspiring passages of the entire Bible. How dare Jesus make such an “exclusive” statement. Surely Jesus can’t be the ONLY way to God! How egotistical can the guy be?
Well . . .
Not very if you truly take a look at it. First of all, I don’t believe it is an exclusive statement.
“Well sure,” you’ll answer, “It isn’t, to those who already believe in Him.”
Really? At the time He said it, nobody believed in Him. Not as the Messiah. Not even His disciples, even to the end; most of whom either didn’t fully understand, or were looking for something completely different (a warrior/ruler to lead them in victory over their Roman oppressors).
But, let’s not take my word for it, let’s look at the context: It’s the time of the Passover festival and Jesus has called together his disciples for what will become his final meal with them. He gathers them together, dons a servants towel and washes their feet (even Judas). Afterwards, he tells them that he will be leaving them soon and gives them “A new command . . . Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Still, they completely skip over that part and key in on the whole “leaving” thing.
Peter asks, “Why can’t I follow you?” (See, they really don’t get it, not yet anyway.)
Even Thomas pipes in with, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?” To which, of course, Jesus answers them, “I am the way . . .”
I see it, not as a statement of exclusivity, but more as a genuine heart-wrenching plea, more as a; “Don’t you know me by now, guys? Haven’t we been together for three years? You’ve heard me teach, you’ve seen the miracles . . . and still you don’t see?”
In fact, as the disciples continue to question him, he goes on to say as much:
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. (John 14:9-11 NIV)
But beyond context, let’s look at the definition:
1. manner, mode, or fashion: a new way of looking at a matter.
2. characteristic or habitual manner.
3. a method, plan, or means for attaining a goal.
4. a respect or particular.
5. a direction or vicinity.
What if Jesus had said, “I am the manner, the characteristic, the method . . . ”
Well . . . He did!
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you . . . Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:14-17/23b-27 NIV)
In essence he is saying, if you believe in me and truly know me, you will go on to do even greater things than me. And in fact, they did! They went on to change the face and future of religion!
This is no small feat, and no small point. Jesus and his disciples changed the entire landscape of what religion looks like, how it is practiced and put into action, and to this day, I don’t think a lot of people realize that; even within Christianity itself.
Every religion, up to this point of history (including Judaism), had salvation–the next step, Nirvana, the “Great Beyond”–reachable only by what you did: in other words, the works [rituals, practices, sacrifices] you performed; sometimes in a specific order, on a specific day, with specific people, etc.
Jesus is the Messiah of a faith in which you do ONE thing; ONE THING:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
BELIEVE. That’s it.
BELIEVE that what Christ did on the cross was the final, all encompassing, all covering sacrificial ritual. BELIEVE that He rose from the grave three days later; burying our sins [yours and mine] and conquering even death for our salvation.
Well . . . no. Actually, now comes the hard part.
“I KNEW IT!” you say.
Yup, now you have to LIVE like you mean it.
37Then the just and upright will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? 38And when did we see You a stranger and welcomed and entertained You, or naked and clothed You? 39And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit You? 40And the King will reply to them, Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me. (Matthew 25:37-40 AMP)
15If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, 16And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?
17So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead). 18But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith. (James 2:15-18 AMP)
We do the work because of our faith, not instead of . . .
“Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words”
BELIEVE in Him who set you free, then go out and do something that means it.
That’s faith. THAT is the way, the truth and the life.
For more on the uniqueness of Christianity, read Richard Alvey’s excellent post in iLifeJourney, “How do you view Jesus?”