“I am the way, truth and life”

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Jesus himself is the way to God

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

After two grueling weeks in Nigeria, I was hoping for some sleep … even at 35,000 feet.  My seat assignment placed me next to a perky 20-something who, almost immediately, asked:  “So what have you been doing in Nigeria?” Attempting to abbreviate the conversation, I said:  “I’ve been preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in several churches throughout the country.” She responded, “Really? I’m a Christian. I love Jesus and the Bible.” As our conversation proceeded, she added: “Of course, I love Buddha and Krishna too, and I’ve also been exploring Islam. But, of course, they’re all saying the same thing, aren’t they? Still, I self-identify as a Christian.”

My mind instinctively ran to John 14—the scene in the Upper Room where Jesus’ disciples are reeling in bewilderment. Why? Jesus has announced his imminent departure and that the disciples cannot accompany him to where he alone must go. To allay their confusion, Jesus provides a word of assurance: He will prepare a place for them in his “Father’s house.” 

Thomas retorts: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus’ classic answer is rightly understood only when appreciated as the direct response to the inquiry regarding the way to the Father’s house: “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  While these three—way, truth, life—are coordinate terms, the primary emphasis is on the first as the leading theme while the other two serve a supportive role. Jesus himself is the way to God, precisely because he is the truth of God (John 1:14) and the life of God (John 1:4). It is an implicit claim of exclusivity, reinforced explicitly in his stunning follow-up: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” The point is unmistakable: Jesus’ self-identification excludes every other claimant as an alternative way to God.

These were the thoughts that shaped my comments to this young woman. Thankfully, our conversation remained cordial, despite a few awkward moments. An hour later our meals were served and, after finishing, she turned her head toward the window and closed her eyes. I needed to remind myself: “Awkwardness notwithstanding, I dare never become more politically correct than Jesus. The parameters of my inclusivity are determined by him.”

Eventually, I nodded off to sleep, but as I did, I prayed that the Spirit of God would awaken this woman to the saving exclusivity of Jesus as expressed in John 14:6—the clarity of which has been amplified most poignantly, perhaps, in the meditation of Thomas à Kempis: “Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living. I am the way which thou must follow; the truth which thou must believe; the life for which thou must hope. I am the inviolable way; the infallible truth, the never-ending life.”

Art Azurdia is the senior minister of word and worship at Trinity Church in Portland, Ore.

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This article is part of the CL Archives. Articles published between August 2017 and July 2008 were posted on a previous website and are archived here for your convenience. We have also posted occasional articles published prior to 2008 as part of the archive. To report a problem with the archived article, please contact the CL editor at editor@usmb.org.

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