John 14:3-7, 9 [NIV] “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.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” … 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me [. . .] Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
The Way, the Truth, or the Life?
I have heard the verse “I am the way and the truth and the life…” many times in my life, and I often feel the context and application is lost. Usually, it shows up in some discussion on the nature of truth. “Jesus is ‘The Truth'” the retort usually says. This is correct, but this is not what this passage is about.
Early followers of Jesus were called the followers of “The Way.” This is apparent as early as the Acts of the Apostles. In John’s gospel above, we see why. Disciples are, by definition, followers, and disciples of Jesus are followers of The Way Himself.
The grammatical structure of this series “the way the truth and the life” is sometimes called “adjectival.” In other words, Jesus is primarily stating that he is “The Way,” then He goes on to describe what sort of “way” He is. He is the way that is true and alive! In other words, His path is the one based in truth that leads to true and everlasting life.
See the context: He is telling the disciples of their eventual reunion (and the implication is certainly marital) in His Father’s house. However, most brides know where their future father-in-law lives. In this case, the disciples haven’t the first clue. Jesus comforts them, “Don’t worry! I will show you the way there, and it is the way of truth that I have already been laying out.”
Later in the same conversation, Jesus says:
John 14:16-18 [NIV] “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. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
He is leaving, coming back, and showing the way, but that’s not all. He’s giving us the guide to walk with us along the way. The (Holy) Spirit, who comes from this same truth, guides along the way to the Father’s house.
What does this Way look like?
The answer is the clear theme of Paul’s letters, but it is oddly easy to miss. The answer to this question is the main difference between Old Testament and New Testament–what moves us from one covenant to the next. It is Spirit versus Flesh, Grace versus Law, Holy of Holies versus outer courts kind of stuff.
The old covenant was driven by Law. Do this, don’t do that, and you will be blessed. Break these laws and you will be cut off. What is the new covenant? We are told what it will be during the old covenant.
Jeremiah 31:33 [NIV] ” ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ “
Paul reminds us (in Romans 2) that this opens up the covenant to Gentiles who have this law written on their hearts rather than on pages.
The old covenant was a set of rules designed to keep us in line. The new covenant is emphatically not a new set of rules. It is Spirit, Life, and Truth.
You ask for a rule; you are given the Holy Spirit. You ask for guidance, you are given conscience. You ask for a babysitter, and you are given a Father!
This is all over the place in the New Testament, but one of my favorite places to watch this happen is in Galatians 5. How can you tell you are living by the Spirit? There will be fruit:
vv. 22-23 [NIV] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control…”
How do you know you are living by flesh, violating the Law because you are acting under your own authority? There will be fruit:
vv. 13, 19-21 [NIV] 13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. … 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
What does your life look like? Are you on The Way? You can’t get there by yourself, because Jesus himself is the way, and it is by Jesus that we are given the Spirit to guide us in The Way.
2 Corinthians 5:17 [NIV] “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
How do you know that your actions are right?
Galatians 5:14 [NIV] “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “
When’s the wedding?
So, Jesus is The Way, and we must have Him to be on the right “Way.” This is why moral principles themselves do not save and that no amount of self-imposed righteousness can get us to the Father’s house.
Think of it this way, there are plenty of well behaved people in the world that I did not chose to marry. The one that I brought into my home is the one who wanted me, who would love me, and whom I could love for eternity. She is the one I have a covenant with, and it is not based on her good behavior, though there are some general expectations. She is mine because she will have me and I will have her.
You are Christ’s because He will have you and you will have Him. He is to be in your heart as you are to be in His. He has met the requirements of the law and it is now our job to trust him. To say, “nothing more, nothing less,” sounds off here, because trusting him is not a mere mental assent. It involves everything we have. My love for my wife is not an occasional thing, it must be all-defining. It must be moreso for our Saviour.
He is the Way to Life, after all!