We are continuing to explore Jesus’ claims about himself through his “I Am” statements. We have talked about Jesus’ statements, “I am the good shepherd, I am the true vine, I am the bread of life, and I am the gate.” Today, we are talking about one of the most powerful “I am,” statements in the Bible, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to Father except through me.” This statement, “I am the way,” is powerful for the believer in Jesus because it frees the believer from wondering, “Do I have the right answer for my life and my eternity?” The statement, “I am the way,” is powerful for those who do not believe in Jesus because it suggests that other religious or non-religious practices are without merit. The statement, “I am the way,” is powerful because it removes the idea that God is impressed by our own goodness as a means of earning God’s grace.
The statement, “I am the way,” is the single greatest statement of direction for our life. There is story of the late Billy Graham that is often told. He had arrived in a small town for one of his famous crusades. He came out of his hotel with a letter he wanted to mail. A young boy was walking past, so Billy Graham asked the boy for directions to the post office. After getting the directions, Graham asked the young boy if he was coming to the crusade meeting that night to hear him speak about how to get to heaven. The young boy thought for a moment and then said, “No.” Billy Graham asked him why he did not want to come. The boy said, “You don’t know the way to the post office, how would you know the way to heaven.” We may be directionally challenged in life and have become overly reliant of Global Positioning Systems to get us to the nearest post office, but the way to heaven requires no technology. It only requires Christ. Before the first disciples of Jesus attracted the title “Christian” (Acts 11:26), they were frequently known as those who belonged to the “Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4). This is an appropriate term, not only because they belonged to one who called himself the “way” (John 14:6), but also because he called them to a distinctive way of life as his followers. Let’s explore Jesus’ words as he says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Let’s turn to the Gospel of John, Chapter 14. The scene behind this passage was somber. Jesus and his disciples had celebrated the Passover meal. Then Jesus said one disciple would betray him. Immediately, Judas departed the scene. Then Jesus said Peter would soon deny knowing Jesus and the other disciples will desert him. Things are happening quickly with Jesus and his inner circle of followers and none of it sounded very good. In many ways, it sounded like circumstances were spinning out of control. The disciples must have thought, “How in the world could things be going so badly so quickly? How can it be that they would fail the person they called Master, Lord, Messiah, Son of Man, and Son of the Living God? God help us!” The words Jesus then gave his disciples at that moment served to comfort them and are often cited to believers in times of greatest distress.
Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” The disciples were anxious and shaken by Jesus’ prediction of betrayal, denial, and desertion. There was a sense of impending doom. Each of them probably had shortness of breath, chest pains, rapid or fluttering heart rates. They felt nauseous. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” meaning do not let your emotions override your understanding. Jesus words were intended for the disciples to control their bodies, to control their thoughts, and to confront their fears. This was necessary so that the disciples could hear again the truth: “You believe in God, believe also in me.” Despite the betrayal, denial, and desertion the fundamental truth of the eternal relationships was unchanged. God was unmoved by the chaos of the circumstances. He was still God, still present, and still in charge. No matter what was going on God would remain true. Hearing Jesus’ words, “You believe in God,” and remembering, Jesus then affirmed to the disciples that he is unmoved by the betrayal, denials, and desertions. For Jesus said, “believe also in me.”
Jesus was about to undergo a most grueling and gruesome physical, emotional, and spiritual trial through his arrest, beatings, torture, and death. And yet, his concern remained for the wellbeing of his disciples. His love was over flowing for them. Jesus did so because of his great confidence in God and his intimate relationship with God. We can claim these same words for ourselves in our own trials whether of our own making or by circumstances of others or illness, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me [Jesus].”
Jesus then spoke about what was to happen to him and how Jesus’ journey would be of benefit to the disciples. Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 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. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” Having helped the disciples to calm their bodies, control their thoughts, and confront their fears Jesus refocused the disciples view from the disturbing scenes that would unfold on earth to the pageantry that those actions would unleash in heaven. Jesus would undergo an ordeal and trial of the most severe kind. What man meant for evil against Jesus, God meant for good to bring life to many people (Ex. 50:20). Jesus trial and death would open his Father’s home for those who would follow Jesus. And more than that, Jesus promised that his separation would be momentary and that he would return to bring his disciples to his Father’s home. God would not forsake Jesus and Jesus would not forsake his disciples. This was Jesus’ promise then and it remains in place today for us.
As the disciples took in Jesus words, one of them, Thomas, wanted more from Jesus. Thomas wanted more specifics as to exactly where Jesus was going so that he and the others could go to that same destination and be with Jesus. 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Thomas is often labeled as a “doubter,” but this may be an undeserved title. When Jesus wanted to return to Judea to be with his friend Lazarus, the disciples said, “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11:8) Then, Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Thomas was not willing to shrink from the journey to Judea and it appears that Thomas wanted to follow Jesus wherever it would seem Jesus was now going. Thomas’ question then, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” shows courage and determination, not doubt.
In reply to Thomas’ simple question to clarify the location of Jesus’ destination, to know the way to follow him, Jesus made a powerful statement of faith, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus words fell upon Thomas’ ears, “I am the way…to the Father.” When those words are absorbed, life becomes clear, “Live your life by following Jesus and destination of your life’s journey is God himself.” How simple.
If you struggle with that thought, think about Jesus statement as a simple mathematics problem. When we know that 4+4=8, then we know as well that any other answer to the question, “What is 4+4?” is necessarily wrong. If someone says, “4+4=7” we are confident that we have been given the wrong answer. In mathematics, 4+4=8, is a simple right answer; meaning there is no more than one right answer. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” he was giving his disciples a simple right answer. So Jesus’ statement brings much comfort to the believer because we know then that any and all other answers explaining the mystery of God and the pathway of life to heaven are wrong.
This explains why the followers of Jesus were called the people of the Way. Jesus’ disciples greatest desire was to live a life of the Way. What did that mean to them and what does that mean to us today? If I say, “Yes Lord, I want to follow You, be saved, and be ushered in the presence of God.” What is the Way of Jesus?
The way of Jesus involves discipleship. If we want to know the Way, then we must spent time learning the way. The way of Jesus is spelled out for us as a fulfillment of the Old Testament and revealed through the New Testament. The Bible is our source for understanding Jesus. I have three recollections of the Bible as a young child. In the first, I recall we had a Bible in our house, but we did not read it because it was the Bible. The book somehow seemed sacred and therefore should not be opened. This is childish thinking. In the second, I recall when my eldest sister was a teenager, she and her friends were doing a Bible study at our kitchen table. I asked my mother if that was something they were allowed to do; to read the Bible and talk about it. I was assured it would be alright. My thoughts were changing. In the third recollection, I charged out a book from our public elementary school library. It was an oversized Bible with the full text and illustrations. I put that Bible on a television table, so I did not have to hold this heavy book while I started reading it. I remember my father wondered aloud if I would become a priest. The point is, we must be willing to overcome whatever obstacles exist in our life, real or imagined, and read God’s self-revealing word. This is fundamental to the way of Jesus which involves discipleship.
The way of Jesus involves a lifestyle. Jesus loved God and his neighbors. This love is not something he just thought about in his head, it is not something he felt in his heart warming his body, Jesus expressed love for God by his actions. I read the other day, “Behavior never lies.” Jesus did as God asked him to do even when it was difficult. He showed love in his behavior. Jesus loved others providing healing and relief. He had compassion toward others. He went the extra mile for others. He encouraged others, particularly those who were on the fringe of society. We must live the lifestyle of Jesus. We cannot walk the way of Jesus in our heads alone. It requires us to show our love of God by gathering every Sunday to worship him. We show our love by praying at every meal and as we get our hands dirty compassionately serving others, or as we stand in the place of those who have needs. Behavior is necessary to live the lifestyle of Jesus.
The way of Jesus involves loving our enemies. Jesus set the example when from the cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ response was not to return hatred for hatred but to absorb the wrongdoing and return it with forgiveness and love. Jesus saw the redemptive power in interrupting the vicious cycle of trading insult for insult and hurt for hurt by absorbing the wrong and responding to it with the willingness to forgive. The way of Jesus involves forgiveness.
The way of Jesus involves peace. Jesus was not a passive person although he was non-violent. Jesus instructed his followers to turn the other cheek and seek to recover fellowship with those who separated themselves from them. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., described it this way, “The nonviolent resister (the person of peace) is passive physically but strongly active spiritually; it is nonaggressive physically but dynamically aggressive spiritually.” The way of Jesus is spiritually dynamic always seeking to persuade his enemies that he is mistaken and that fellowship, life, and love are possible. The way of Jesus involves loving seeking and maintaining peace.
The way of Jesus involves prayer. The way of Jesus is humble, self-giving, self-sacrificing, and loving. It is giving and generous without regard to strict rules of equal exchange. But it is also a way that depends entirely on prayer. It is a way that depends upon God for guidance, direction, strength, wisdom, wit, patience, self-control, attitude, and encouragement. The way of Jesus cannot be lived apart from him and his holy spirit. The power to absorb the abuse of others and return forgiveness is impossible without God. The way of Jesus involves prayer.
Jesus said, “You know the way.” “I am the way and the truth and the life.” ““Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” Together we are called to be people of the way with discipleship in Jesus, a lifestyle (a behavior) of Jesus, a love for our enemies, a desire for peace, and heart for prayer. No one comes to God except through the way of Jesus.
This week, let’s take an inventory of our progress on the way. Where we are engaged in the way be encouraged. Where we are short, let us change. We are the people of the way; so let’s live like it. Amen and Amen.