The Way, the Truth, and the Life

After Jesus explained the dwelling places that He is going to prepare for His followers and the promise to come again and receive us to Himself, He continued,

“And you know the way where I am going.”  Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how do we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (Jn 14:4-6).

John 14:6 is one of the most succinct descriptions of who Jesus is in the entire gospels.  There is so much depth in each of these descriptions that Jesus applies to Himself; “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Thomas is thinking of a route or path when He asked Jesus about “the way” that Jesus is going.  Jesus clarifies that He is the way, He is the path.  He is not a destination on the way.  He Himself is the way.

Of course, we understand this “Jesus is the way” much better than the disciples ever could have at this point because we are looking back on the cross.  We are looking back on exactly what Jesus meant by Him being the way.  His death, burial, and resurrection are the way to eternal life.  He is the way to the Father.  Jesus is the way to a right relationship with God.  Jesus is the way to heaven.  Jesus is the way to dwelling forever with the Father and the Son.

Jesus is also the truth.  Jesus made clear throughout His earthly teaching that some things are true and others are false.  Jesus’ words were always true.  Jesus’ message was always true.  In fact, Jesus was so much the epitome of truth that He could simply be called The Truth.

Jesus, in His own words, is the truth.  There is no falsehood in Him.  We can trust what Jesus says to be true.  So when Jesus speaks of Himself as the Way, the way to eternal life, I know He is telling us the truth.

And finally, Jesus is the life.  This is such a prolific message throughout the gospel of John.  Jesus came to bring us life.  Abundant life in the here and now (Jn 10:10), resurrection life (Jn 11:25) in the here and hereafter, and eternal life in His presence (Jn 6:40, 14:3).  Jesus’ ministry was consumed by bringing what Peter called “words of eternal life” to situations and places and people who were “dead”.  Life in place of death is a gift that Jesus brought to His time on the earth and continues to give to people all over the world.  Jesus is life.  Jesus is The Life.

The Way, The Truth, The Life; an all-encompassing description of Jesus.  God, the Son, come to earth to show us the way, the truth, and the life.

In the Presence of the Son

“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself: that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn 14:1-3).

In the gospel of John, Jesus consistently stressed the one requirement to obtain eternal life; believe in Jesus.  In fact, I have been so struck by this singular focus of Jesus’ message that I wrote a short book about it, Is Jesus the Only Way?.

What is new in this passage is the “where” of eternal life.  The disciples had become convinced that Jesus had the words of eternal life.  When many would-be followers withdrew from Jesus in John chapter 6, He asked His disciples, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”  Simon Peter answered for the twelve, “Lord, to whom would we go?  You have words of eternal life” (Jn 6:66-68).

But now, in these final hours, they learn the “where”.  Eternal life will eventually be lived in heaven, in the presence of Jesus in the place He has prepared just for us.  There is a lot we do not know about heaven.  But this one certainty we do know; that we will dwell in the presence of Jesus Christ; “That where I am, there you will be also.”  This is a promise that is ironclad.

And this promise is to all who believe (vs 1).  If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you can be sure that in God’s house there are many dwelling places.  Jesus is preparing one of these places for you.  Jesus will come again to receive you to Himself.  And you will forever be with the Lord.  It is a beautiful promise, here revealed clearly to the disciples for the first time, about the “where” of eternal life.

When we lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, we had many opportunities to visit with our Latter Day Saint neighbors.  One of the topics that would come up was the Mormon belief in three heavens; one heaven for bad people, one heaven for good people (like Rhonda and I, non-Mormon Christians), and a third heaven for Mormons in good standing.

Without trying to be sarcastic or flippant, I would take our conversation to John 14 and show our friends, “It doesn’t matter if there is one heaven or five heavens or a hundred heavens, I will be – based on this promise and my faith in Jesus – in the heaven where God and Jesus dwell.”  The promise is sure.  There is no ambiguity.  We will live forever in the presence of Jesus.

Jesus is calling.  Heaven is waiting.  Believe in Jesus and you will live forever with Him.

A New Commandment

“Little children, a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).

On the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus delivered a last message to His disciples that is saturated with meaning, direction, and hope.  It is recorded for us in the gospel of John, chapters 13 through 17.  Jesus starts the conversation with “a new commandment” to love one another.  What makes this kind of love such a “new” commandment?

Previously in the gospels, Jesus had emphasized the two-part love of the greatest commandment; love God and love your neighbor.  And to explain who is our “neighbor”, Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan.  So to summarize, we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and love the neighbor/stranger that God brings into our lives.

But here in John 13, we have a third group of people to love.  In this preview of His coming church, the body of Christ on earth, we are called to love each other in a deep and special way.  The church, and the “one anothers” that we are to practice in the church, led by “love one another”, are a whole new ballgame.  “Love one another” is a brand new command, because it applies to a brand new entity; the church that is yet to come.

Jesus is giving us a preview of life in the Father’s love by appealing to us to love our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.  Three times in just these two verses, Jesus says, “Love one another.”

What this love looks like in practice is further explained by the apostles in their New Testament letters.  In them, we learn how to serve one another in love, encourage our weaker brother, preserve the unity of the body, and a hundred other ways to show love in the body of Christ.

Loving one another also demonstrates to the world our allegiance to Christ.  “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).  Love is the mark of a follower of Jesus.  We can wear a cross around our neck, we can get a scripture tattoo, we can belong to a certain church denomination; but the true mark of a believer – a mark that Jesus gives the world the right to judge our allegiance by –  is the mark of love.

“Love one another” is not only a new commandment for Jesus’ disciples.  It is the over-arching attitude that energizes all of our relationships in the body of Christ.  Let us truly love one another.

“What Do You Want Me to Do for You?”

In the book of Mark, Jesus posed a question to a blind man that I believe has great implication for us.

“As Jesus was going out from Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.  And when he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’  And many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he began crying out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’  So they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage, arise!  He is calling for you.’  Casting aside his cloak, he jumped up, and came to Jesus.  And answering him, Jesus said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?‘ ” (Mk 10:46-51).

As you and I commune, connect, abide, dwell with God through our prayers and the practice of our faith, Jesus is asking us the same question, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  Do you have an answer?

I have answered that question a hundred times.  “Yes, Jesus, please have mercy on me!  Yes, Jesus, would you do this specific thing for me?”  This is not too brash of a request or response to our Lord.  We learned from the story of the widow and the unrighteous judge that our prayers honor God.  They don’t annoy, pester at, or bother God.

And this story of Bartimaeus shows us that we can be as specific as God leads us to be in our requests.  We can be specific and be bold.  Ephesians 3:12 says, “We have a boldness and confident access to God through faith in Christ.”  And from the book of Hebrews, “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy” (Heb 4:16).  “Therefore, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19).  Our confidence, our boldness, to approach the throne of God is because of our faith in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

Why can we be so bold?  Because we have a good Father.  We have a near Father.  We have a present Father.  God is not a distant father, standing back with arms folded, begrudging our requests.  No, God is a generous Father with arms outstretched welcoming us onto the lap of Abba Father; where we “let our requests be made known” (Phil 4:6).

Bartimaeus had a specific answer to Jesus’ question as we continue the story.  “Jesus said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’  And the blind man said to Him, ‘Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!’  And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’  Immediately he received his sight and began following Jesus on the road” (Mk 10:51-52).

Jesus answered the blind man’s specific request.  He received his sight!  But Jesus’ final response also emphasizes the importance of faith.  Jesus said to Bartimaeus, “Your faith has made you well.”  Clearly Jesus is doing the healing.  But our faith opens the door.  When Jesus walks through the door, He will decide the answer that is best for us in this moment.  Our faith is our trust in who Jesus is and in His ability to deliver us.

Jesus is asking us, you and I, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And our response is to reply and to believe, by faith, that He will hear us and answer our requests.

The Shield of Faith

The apostle Paul writes, “Take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph 6:16).  Our second weapon to counter the evil schemes of Satan is faith.

You recall last time that Jesus hinted at this when He told the father of the demon-possessed son, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23).  Jesus expanded on this idea in Matthew’s telling of the same story in Matthew 17:14-20.  Here, after Jesus commands the demon to leave and the child is cured, we see the same question from the disciples as in Mark 9.

“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’  And Jesus said to them, ‘Because your faith was too small.  For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it shall move.  And nothing shall be impossible to you’ ” (Mt 17:19-20).

Jesus’ words, “Your faith is too small” have haunted me … oh, haunted may not be the best word if it carries negative connotations.  I am using haunted in the most positive way possible.  Let’s just say this phrase has become my constant companion.  At nearly every crossroad, every challenge ahead, every request for prayer, I ask myself, “Is my faith too small?”

Of course, that leads to a follow-up question about what large faith looks like, “If my faith were larger, would the outcome be different?”  A difficult question for another time.  (Well, there actually was another time since I previously wrote about this very thing in these two posts:  Can Faith Change the Outcome? and Can Faith Control the Outcome?)  But for now, let’s return to what clearly lies within our control; the measure of our faith.

Our role is not to predict or control outcomes.  Our role is to practice faith on the largest level possible.  But this increasing faith that we desire to experience is a process.  We can say with the pleading father, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24).  “I have faith, but Jesus give me greater faith.  Jesus, show me what large faith looks like.  Jesus, help my unbelief.”

When we encounter the attacks of Satan, even as they appear to be in overdrive in these days, we have a counterattack strategy.  We don’t get angry.  We don’t blame others.  We don’t lose hope.  We don’t abandon our commitments.  But we do fight back; wielding our powerful weapons given to us by God Himself; the weapons of prayer and faith.