“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ “ (John 14:6)
Anyone who makes of this a clarion-call to the exclusive rights of Christianity among competing claims hasn’t read the chapter from which it is taken. And if you make of it a high platform from which to sneer down at other religions then all you’ve done is to make Christianity into a religion itself.
And thus, by doing so, you have debased the very thing you wished to honour.
For Jesus had no interest in creating another religion. His aims were much bigger than that. He was not talking about religion at all, but about life, death and God.
And the Way in life, through death and to God.
In John 14:1–6, Jesus informs His disciples that He must go away and prepare a place for them through His death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus assures His men that they know where He is going. But Thomas objects, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
And so Jesus answers, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
According to the vagaries of the Semitic languages, this piling up of nouns was not to make three different points, but rather to make one point and use subsequent nouns adjectivally. Thus, the point Jesus was making was: “I am the true, living way.”
Jesus is not only saying He’s the way to heaven, He’s also saying He’s the only way, that you can’t get there any other way, because they all fall short. You can’t get there by being good. You can’t get there by being religious. You can’t get there by being sincere. You can’t get there by birthright, ceremony or knowledge or pedigree. There’s no other way than through Him. In John 14:6, Jesus doesn’t merely point the way, He is the Way. Jesus does not just teach us truth, He is the Truth. He does not represent one avenue to life, He is the Life. This is an exclusive claim that cannot be compromised. He is the true, living way.
In a word, the human quest for God ends in Jesus Christ.
Do other New Testament writers back this statement in the Gospel of J0hn? In Acts 4:12, Peter, the one who denied Jesus just a short while before, tells the Jewish leaders: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Peter uses phraseology like “no one” and “no other name.” Clearly, Peter believes that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.
In 1 Tim 2:5–6, Paul wrote, “For there is one God, and one mediator [i.e., bridge] also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom [i.e., the exchange price] for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” Paul claimed that the only way humanity can have a relationship with God is through Jesus.
Finally, in Matt 7:13–14, Jesus declared, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Before it became known as Christianity, we who follow Jesus were known as “Followers of the Way,” (Acts 9:2; 11:26). It’s a profound designation, possibly based on the very text under discussion, and carries two opposite perspectives creating one mighty truth.
The first perspective is “journey.” If the word”Way” conveys anything, it conveys the idea of journeying, travelling, or pilgrimage. It picks up the image of the two weary travellers on the Emmaus road (Luke 24) who simply don’t understand all the ins and outs of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, until an unknown traveller joins them… What a picture of the confusion of life!
The second perspective suggested by the word “Way” is “destination.” For Jesus declared Himself to be the way, the true, living way. Therefore, wherever Jesus is, is an arrival point. He is the “name… given” (Acts 4:12); He is the “mediator” (1 Tim 2:5-6); He is the “narrow way” (Matt 7:13-14). And in John 17:3, the writer expresses this truth in the present tense: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
And both of these perspectives have to be held together. The first saves us from arrogance and the second from doubt. The first reminds us that whilst it is not true that “all roads lead to God,” it is certainly true that God travels all roads. For He is Emmanuel, God with us. And we journey with Him.
The second perspective grants us that assurance of being in God’s presence.“The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16). But it is not the perspective of journey, but of destination.
If we are where God is, then we have arrived. We are home.