Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, [and] the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
The “I am” saying of Jesus in today’s lesson certainly ranks among the most well-known statements of our Lord. It appears in what has been called Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse.” Jesus delivered it on the eve of his arrest, torture and crucifixion. After telling them of his imminent departure, he adds, “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (John 14:4). Thomas perplexed responds, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:6). Jesus’ response was singular and pointed regarding the way after which Thomas inquired. Bullinger acknowledges it as a hendiatris in which three things are said and one thing is meant.
The Greek texts add an “and’ between “way” and “truth.” We should understand the statement to mean: “I am the way, yes——the true and living way; for no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Of course Jesus is the truth (Matthew 22:16) and the life (John 11:25), but the context clearly shows that the subject of Thomas’ question is “the way.” The other two nouns, “the truth” and “the life,” are used to define the nature and character of the way about which Thomas inquired.
”Truth” and “life” are central to the message of the gospel of John. “Truth” is used in John 25 times and only 7 times in the other gospels. Jesus is the source and teacher of truth (Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14; John 1:14,17), and that truth sets people free (John 8:32-38). “Life,” zoē, is used 38 times in John and only 17 times in the three other gospels. This life that Jesus gives is what sustains us (John 6:27).
This “I am” statement is very similar to Jesus’ claim to be the Door of the Sheep in John 10:7-9. There is only one God, and He has only one kingdom with only one entrance—Jesus Christ. Jesus used the definite article to distinguish Himself as “the way.” Although there are other ways (like the way of Balaam [II Peter 2:15] and the way of Cain [Jude 11], Jesus is the only true and living way.
A “way” is a path or route, and the disciples had expressed their confusion about where he was going and how they could follow. He clearly declared that there was no other way to the Father (vs 6) and his Father’s house (vss 2-3). Peter reiterated this same truth years later to the rulers in Jerusalem, saying about Jesus, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The exclusive nature of the only path to salvation is expressed in the words “I am the way.”
Jesus was clear: there is only one way, and he is it. This belief is not popular in our culture; it is not politically correct. Tolerance is the rule of the day, and diversity mandated, expected and allowed. Now, God does allow us to do anything we like. However, man’s efforts always fall short. That’s why God made a way that bypasses our work and accepts the reconciliatory and substitutional work of Jesus on our behalf. God is reaching out to us in Jesus Christ. We know that Scripture says that God’s gift of salvation through Jesus was GOD-given (John 3:16), GOD-empowered (John 1:12), and GOD-originated (II Timothy 1:9).
God supplied the sacrifice that He Himself demanded by sending His only Son to die for us. Christianity affirms this fact then, that our salvation is a result not of what we do, but of our faith in what Christ has done for us. When Jesus said, “It is finished” love’s redeeming work was DONE! It is important to note that Jesus said “it is finished,” not “I am finished.” Yes our redemption was finished, but he was not. He is still the true and living way, and he was just getting started.
As the true and living way, he is the only way to God (Matthew 7:14; John 10:1,7,9; 14:6). Through him God has made a way to escape (I Corinthians 10:13). Jesus has provided the way into the holiest (Hebrews 9:8-15; 10:19) and the new and living way (Hebrews 10:20). His teaching distinguishes the way of truth (II Peter 2:2), the right way (II Peter 2:15) and the way of righteousness (II Peter 2:21; I Corinthians 1:30).
By Wayne Clapp