“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” – John 14:6
There are some human emotions which are easily and universally experienced. One of these is fear. There are things in our lives that can be a little bit scary. Children are often more open and honest about this than adults. Children may remember their first day of kindergarten or their first sleepover. Maybe the prospect of leaving for university or getting married is fearful. Fear is a reality because there is something unknown in life. One of the greatest occasions for fear in life is when we need to prepare for the death of a loved one.
How will you cope without your spouse, parent, or child? How will you make ends meet, how will this change your social life, your church life, and who will fill the void of a lifelong companion? Now that you are thinking through these questions, you are likely in a similar but far more comfortable mindset as the disciples as we see them in this passage. Jesus is about to reveal his identity and the future, and he does so to the comfort of those he loves. May this continue to be a comfort to the church today as well. Our theme is the Great I Am comforts the church because of who he is as he prepares to depart.
In our text we have the sixth I Am statement of Christ. As we have seen in all of the earlier I Am statements, the context is king. Whether it is in the case of a statement corresponding to a miracle, as when Jesus raised Lazarus after saying that he is the resurrection and the life, or any of the others, we must remember what is taking place. We also must remember that when Jesus says ego eimi (“I Am”) he is making a claim to divinity. That very claim will end up costing him his life, but it is also the truthfulness of that claim that will award us our glorious salvation.
With that said, what is the context? The context begins in John 13:1, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” Christ was preparing to go the cross, so what we have now at the end of his life are the upper room discourses. Jesus was going to show the disciples what it was to love, and so he washed the disciples’ feet. He gave them an example of selfless service which should exemplify the Christian life. Next Jesus predicted his betrayal. The disciples were quite concerned, for in John 13:21, Jesus told the disciples that one of them will betray him. Then, in John 13:33, Jesus told the disciples that he was going to leave to a place where they cannot come. Peter asked Jesus where he is going. His response would have been perplexing to the disciples . . . he is going to a place they cannot follow him to now, but they will follow him later. Then Jesus told Peter that he will deny Jesus three times. That is a fast way to say that the disciples would have been extremely troubled.
This is why the ever-loving and understanding Savior says what he does in John 14:1–3: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” His father’s house has plenty of room. It isn’t a one- or two-room Palestinian home; it is a great
hotel with room for every visitor to come and stay and commune with God. Jesus told them they know the way. Thomas, likely speaking for the group, said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
As the disciples wondered about the way, Jesus said, “I am the way.” Note that Jesus did not say, “I will show you the way.” He did not say, “Let me explain to you the way.” Rather, he said, “I am the way.” It is true that Jesus teaches the way (Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21), guides us in the way (Luke 1:79), and has dedicated for us a new and living way (Heb. 10:20), but all this is possible because he himself is the way. Here we see something of a glimpse of the connection between the human and the divine. God in his attributes does not merely do things, like love, He is things. God is love. Jesus is the way.
We should understand that statement to mean primarily two things. First, Jesus is the way from God to man, and second, he is the way from man to God. God, in his providence, so loved the world that he sent the Son to take upon himself human flesh. In one sense blessings come from the Father, through the Son, to us. He is a mediator both ways, from God to man and man to God (Matt. 11:27–28). We can emphasize the fact that Jesus is both prophet and priest. He speaks on behalf of the Father and on behalf of us. It is this second way that is emphasized in our text. Jesus is the way from man to God.
The emphasis in our text is on the fact that Christ himself is the exclusive way: I am the way, emphasis on the “I.” Salvation will hinge upon him, be exclusively offered through him. Jesus is the way. To illustrate, how do children learn in school? Do they learn primarily by pictures, maps, white boards, and so on? No, they learn by way of a teacher. A teacher uses those tools, but ultimately, it is the teacher who teaches. So, Christ is the access we have to the Father. But, we might ask, “Why do we need to know the way to the Father?” The reason why is because sin has blocked our way. Sin has estranged us from God. If you want to gain fellowship, acceptance, and love from God the Father, you must seek this through God the Son. William Hendriksen says, “Hence, it is not strange that apart from living fellowship with the person, Jesus Christ, who exists in indissoluble union with the Father, there is no salvation for us” (cf. Rom. 5:1–2).
There isn’t another way. If you don’t want to spend eternity in the anguish of hell, there is only one escape. The way is a gracious way; it is free but necessary. Imagine being in a burning house. You are in a room with only one window, and there is no exiting where the door is because that is the direction of the fire. All you have to do is to exit through the window. Yet, so many people seek another way out. They might try to find something to break down the wall, or crash through the drywall, or maybe they will give up and sit down, stay low, and hope someone comes to rescue them. All the while, the window is the only way out. The firefighter at the window says, “Come, follow me.” How often does the person in the room respond, “No, I don’t like that window,” or, “No, I’m gonna wait it out, maybe the fire will go out,” or, “No, the fire is only in my imagination.” All of those excuses are utter foolishness, and yet how many do we know who are still in the room either seeking another way out (a false religion maybe) or care about getting out of the burning building?
Thomas says to Jesus in John 14:5, “We don’t know where you are going, and we don’t know the way.” The sinner yells, “I don’t know the way out of this house.” The Savior says, “I am the way out; come to me.” The sinner cries out, “But how can I trust you?” Jesus responds, “I am the truth.”
When Jesus says he is the truth, we must remember a few of the same things we saw with Jesus’ statement that he is the way. He is the truth personified. He doesn’t just speak truth, know truth, or show truth. He is truth. This is in contrast to the lie.
The primary reference to what Jesus is referring to as the truth is that Jesus is the true revealer of God. John 14:7a says, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” Jesus is the dependable source of the revelation of God’s salvation. He is the true Redeemer who proclaims himself.
Jesus, in contrast to all of the false religions and teachers in the world, exalts himself as the truth and the way to life. Every prophet points to God, and just about every religious leader in history explains the way to happiness or life or the afterlife or whatever they are after. Jesus points to himself. He authenticates himself. He has done so through miracle after miracle, infallible teaching after infallible teaching . . . the disciples have seen this. How can they trust him? Because he is the truth. We look to the truth, and the truth will make us free (John 8:32). The lie likes darkness and shadows. The truth lives in the light. Jesus, the light of the world, is also the truth.
Nevertheless, Jesus as the truth, as the true God-Man, still must be trusted. To go back to the earlier illustration. How foolish would it be to be in the burning room, to have a firefighter at the window ready to help, and to have no other way out, and then to say, “How do I know you are really a firefighter?” He might say, “Look at my uniform. I am dressed like a firefighter.” She might say, “How do I know you won’t drop me if I climb out of the window?” Or, “How do I know this is really a matter of life or death?” If the goal is safety, if the goal is life, if the goal spiritually speaking is to live in eternity with God, Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the truth.
There is nothing that can be alleged against him. For three years the Pharisees and Jewish leaders followed Jesus and listened to Jesus to try to get him to slip up and lie or sin . . . but he didn’t. They ended up paying false witnesses to make up a story so that Jesus could be convicted of being exactly who he said he was. Throughout the centuries, the enemies of God have sought to level attacks against Christ or the infallible Holy Scriptures. But all of that is vain. Before God, every mouth is stopped.
Jesus just predicted his betrayal by Judas. After that he predicted the denial by Peter, and in contrast he said, “I am the truth.” Jesus comforted the disciples with these words. Some of them weren’t getting it. Jesus had been teaching them the way, and now it is as if he said, “In light of the weakness of your faith, let me remind you that you can trust me. I am the I Am.”
The third I Am statement of Jesus is that he is the life. All three of these concepts are active; they are dynamic. Notice the movement taking place. The way brings to God, the truth makes me free, and the life produces fellowship.
The way to God through Jesus Christ alone is the way of fellowship in the covenant with God. The opposite of life is death. Jesus is the life, because he gives life, just as he did to Lazarus. He is life, and he furnishes us with fellowship with God, which in essence is the only life. Without fellowship with God, one lives in death. To look at John 11:26 from the side of death is hopeless. Unbelievers, though they may live, yet are dead. There is no true life present in their hearts. Through sin comes death, but through life comes life, for Jesus himself is the life.
The way that these three things relate together, the way the truth and the life, has been debated, but we can conclude that the one that is first is the main teaching. Jesus is speaking to the disciples about the way to go where he is going. The earlier Christians were called the Way or the followers of the Way. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
There is another way, but it is not the way of truth and life but of lies and death. The reason why is because it looks so nice. The way of the Savior is not an easy way. It is a way of saying no to sin, of having to break with disobedience; it is a way of self-denial and following another. It is a way that might cost you a promotion, some superficial friends, some respect at the local bar. It might lead to ridicule from unbelieving family members or co-workers, but it is the way of truth, and it leads to life.
The other way is a way where you will be surrounded by friends, but few are trustworthy. It is a way of ease and pleasure, it is a way of living for the weekend, it is a way of doing what feels good at the moment. It is a way where we can be the boss; no one needs to tell us what to do. It is a way of our own making, a way of relative truth, what is right for you might not be right for someone else. It might be a way of blazing your own path. But, if you are not following the Way, Jesus Christ, that path doesn’t end well. Not only after we die but also in this life.
Hear with the ears of faith, a heart of trust, the only true Savior who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And when you hear that Savior, and trust that Savior, then walk with that Savior. Pray to the Father through that Savior, tell your unbelieving friend about that Savior, and do not leave the path of that Savior.
Jesus told the disciples and us that he is leaving to go and prepare a place for us and that he will come back take us with him so that we may be where he is. Faith in that one who is the way, the truth, and the life is the unbreakable reservation for eternity in the Father’s house. What a God we serve that would provide such a glorious Savior.
Rev. Steve Swets is the pastor of Rehoboth United Reformed Church in Hamilton, ON.