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In John 14:6 Jesus responds to a series of questions from his disciples about where he was going when he left them. He had told them he was going to prepare a place for them and that they already knew the way to the place that he was going (John 14:3-4). Thomas disputes this statement by Christ, and says “how can we know the way?” Jesus responds by saying in verse 6, “I am the way the truth and the life: No one comes to the Father except through me.” A careful study of these three words reveals a testable claim to the validity of the Christian system, a test that the original disciples could apply, and we can too.
The Greek word used here is hodos referring to a road or a journey. We are all on a journey we call life. The question is: What do we use to make our journey pleasant, positive, and full of meaning? Jeremiah 10:23 makes the declaration, “It is not for them to direct their steps.” In my college training to be a public school teacher, I was required to take numerous courses that, I was told, would enable me to lead students to productive, satisfying, useful lives. In those classes, I had professors who urged me to accept situation ethics, existentialism, biological determinism, and a host of other proposals made by men of great intellect and education. In most of those classes full of future teachers and philosophy majors, huge arguments broke out. At the same time, there were people offering advice based on their theology or philosophy. The “Moonies” were on campus, and we heard about Jim Jones and David Koresh and Charles Manson. Proverbs 16:25-30 describes the situation: “There is a way that appears be right, but in the end it leads to death.” The Proverbs writer goes on to describe how humans will mislead us.
When Jesus tells us he is the Way, he is giving a method of living that makes logical sense and has proven to work whenever people follow it — which is not often. An elder in the church who was trying to get me out of atheism asked me to read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Then he said to write down what kind of world it would be if everyone living on the planet followed what Jesus taught. I objected to the history of Catholicism and Mormonism and Protestant denominations because they have promoted destructive things. He pointed out to me that those actions were in contradiction to the things Jesus taught — not in obedience to them. Someone asked Carl Sandburg, the great poet, what he thought about Christianity. His response was, “I don't know, I've never seen it tried.” Even with our limited human intellect, we can see that what Jesus taught works, and when it is not followed the result is always disastrous.
The Greek word that is translated “truth” in this passage is aletheia meaning “facts to live by.” David said in Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your [truth]; … .” What do you use to determine what is true and what is not true? Our society is full of claimed factual statements, most of which are false. Nearly everything our young people are told about sex today is a lie. Trial marriages do not work. Sex outside of marriage is not good and it negatively affects sexual pleasure after marriage. We have been lied to so much that most of us ignore claims in advertising. Our politicians accept lying as a method of political manipulation. Romans 1:25 tells us that our society “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator … .” That is obvious to even a casual observer. Jeremiah 9:2-6 describes the situation we find ourselves in today: “… they are all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people. ‘They make ready their tongues like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,’ declares the LORD. Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer.”
In John 8:32 Jesus tells us: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” In 1 John 5:6-7 (KJV) we read, “it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” The history of politicians, the history of military leaders, the history of business leaders, and the history of religious leaders all are packed with lies, deceptions, and tricks. The history of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and of God the Father is a history of fulfilling promises, offering solutions to every problem we face in life, and finding ways to restore what was lost or broken. Jesus tells us we can trust him. Many people through their relationship with Christ have overcome incredible difficulties because Jesus did what he said he would do.
We need to realize that it is only God's word that can be trusted 100% in everything it calls us to do. When we compare the results of following the teachings of Jesus with the results of following every other religious figure, politician, ruler, educator, or business leader, we see strong evidence that the Bible is not from humans but from God. It is true that we can misunderstand a teaching, but study and scholarship are essential to knowing the Truth.
The third evidence Jesus gives and claims it to be the way to the Father is taken from the Greek word zoe translated “life.” The word psuche also can be translated “life” but actually refers to breath. Zoe means “motion or activity” and has to do with how we live, how we deal with the challenges of life, and how we apply the moral guidelines Jesus has given us. Jesus taught his disciples, including us, how to deal with family, sex, illness, depression, loneliness, politics, and death. Christ referred to those who knew what to do and did not do it as goats — lost people (see Matthew 25:31-46). When you look at the qualifications of an elder described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 what do you see? Look at the list: blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, able and willing to teach, not given to drugs, not ever violent, not greedy, not obsessed with money, not a covenant breaker, patient, managing his own house well, having a good report from outsiders. What are these? They are living skills that come from understanding the teachings of Jesus Christ and applying them. Even a rank atheist would be willing to admit that he would desire people who affect his life to have these characteristics.
When the church began, as described in Acts 2:46-47, what were the properties of those who had become Christians? They “ate together with glad and sincere hearts, … enjoying the favor of all the people.” As we read on, we find that their application of the zoe gave them the strength to share their belongings with those in need. Many people use their religion for financial gain, to gain power, or to subdue others. The classic example of that is Simon in Acts 8:9-24. He wanted spiritual power to promote his finances and social standing. That attitude is still around today, but it is not seen in mature followers of Jesus.
A classic positive example of John 8:32 where we are told that the Truth would make us free is the story of the man of Gadarenes (Gerasenes) recorded in Luke 8:29 and Mark 5 (Clayton paraphrase). “He was bound with chains and in fetters, but he broke the bands and was driven into the woods. Night and day he was in the mountains and in the tombs crying and cutting himself with stones.” Jesus healed the man with a transference to the swine, and the people of the area found him “sitting clothed and in his right mind.” We do not know the story of what led the man to his condition, but what we do know is that Jesus encouraged him to tell his story, and “when he departed he began to publish in the Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him.” He had his life back through the power of Jesus.
In today's world, we do not see the same methodology as Christ used, but we do see lives transformed and people being given the capacity to have their lives renewed. The word “gospel” comes from the Greek which means “good news.” Good news about what? Good news that there is something you CAN trust. Good news that there is Truth you CAN understand and believe in. Good News that you CAN have a life full of things that will not fail you and will not involve scams, lies, or distortions. You will see good things happening in your life. When you begin to realize the peace that Jesus promises and the security that peace brings, your faith will be strengthened and grow. We know Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, not just because he said so, but because we see it at work in our lives.
© Konstanttin. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
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© Chepko Danil Vitalevich. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© Chepko Danil Vitalevich. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com.