In the mid 15thcentury Thomas a Kempis wrote the following words, “Follow thou me. I am the way and the truth and the life. Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living. I am the way thou must follow; the truth thou must believe; the life for which thou must hope. I am the inviolable way; the infallible truth, and the never-ending life. I am the straightest way; the sovereign truth; life true, life blessed, life uncreated.”
These words, which have reverberated throughout time since first written echo the exclusivity Jesus spoke of concerning Himself in John 14:6. An exclusivity so significant and so central to the teaching of Christ, to deny it is to deny Him.When something this exclusive blows through our modern sensitivities it can feel to many like a hurricane. I’m sure you’ve heard objections to this from many. ‘I thought God was love. Why then would He only provide one way of salvation? If God is really like this, whatever God is, He isn’t loving.’ Or ‘Why is Jesus so narrow minded to think He is the only way people come to God? It seems awfully arrogant to me.’ True, our age does boast of being a tolerant one, but in the claims of Christ the world seems to see what they think is the epitome of intolerance, so naturally they become quite intolerant of Him.We would do well to remember as we begin a passage like this one today that the question shouldn’t be ‘Why did God only provide one way to be saved?’ but, ‘Why did God provide a way at all?’ This latter question is better because it takes into account who this God is, who we are, and all that we’ve done against Him.
All of this and more is before us this morning as we continue on in John 14:4-6 this morning. There will first be a question posed, then an answer provided.
A Question Posed (v4-5)
After telling His troubled disciples in v1-3 that He is going away to a place they cannot follow, to a place He’ll prepare for them, and to a place He’ll return from to take them to Himself Jesus continues on in v4 telling them, “And you know the way to where I am going.” This additional comment reveals the central theme of v4-6; it’s all about the way. Jesus is leaving and they’re concerned about not knowing the way to where He’s going. The gist of Jesus comment in v4 is that they ought to know the way. If they follow Him and His teaching they will go where He is going one day in the future. But the manner in which He states v4 begs for more explanation.Perhaps that’s why Jesus phrased it the way He did, to pull a question out of them, which would then lead to further explanation. Thankfully Thomas picks up on this and poses the question in v5 which does indeed prepare the way for the fantastic answer in v6. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Thomas, as loyal as he was, is largely only present in the gospel accounts during the occasions when he doesn’t know something or doesn’t believe something. We have seen him already make a bold but hasty declaration in chapter 11 about his eagerness to die with Jesus. We will see him at the end of John doubting the resurrection in chapter 20. And here, in v5 he asks Jesus almost exactly the same question Peter had asked before in 13:36 but in a different way. The question concerns where Jesus is going. He heard Jesus explain about the rooms in His Father’s house but it’s still not clear to him. If anything, for Thomas and the rest of the disciples, Jesus words in v4 make the whole thing more difficult to understand. So Thomas asks and honestly reveals much about what he doesn’t quite get. Thomas truly does intend to follow Jesus on this road but needs directions if he is to follow Him well. We therefore shouldn’t see Thomas’ question as a denial of Christ’s earlier teaching, no. We should see his question as a true believer struggling to understand the words of the Savior.
In this we’re brought back to an important truth. Even for Christians, in much of life we’ll find what God is doing and perhaps what God is saying to us in His Word hard to understand. Even Christian, the great champion of virtue and central character in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, needed the aid and encouragement of his loyal friend Faithful to endure to the end. So when these moments of trial or fog come to us, and they will, we must remember that even though we don’t know why things play out the way they do we know the God who does. This God is sovereign over all things, He’s good, and He delights to be approached in prayer through Christ anytime we so desire. Thomas asks Jesus because He doesn’t understand. Follow Thomas’ lead in such asking.
We’ve seen the question posed, now see…
An Answer Provided (v6)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
v6 contains much glory for us to behold. I’d like to spend the remainder of our time together this morning pointing out six of the glories contained here. Taken individually these six items stand out as precious and priceless gems in their own right. But taken together these six items form a tapestry revealing the glory of Jesus Christ that will increase our adoration of Him, our gratitude to Him, and move us to praise Him.
First, v6 is one of the well known I AM statements of Jesus.
As Jesus begins describing Himself in v6 He uses the divine name ‘Yahweh’ in Hebrew, ‘ego eimi’ in Greek, coming through to the English as ‘I AM.’ We’ve seen Jesus do this before and we’ll see Him continue to do so in John’s gospel and each time He does this Jesus means to teach His hearer’s, past and present, that He is none other than God the Creator, God the Covenant Maker, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush on Mt. Sinai. In Jesus Christ, the God who doesn’t give His glory to another, has made Himself known. In other words, this first item in v6 presents us with the reality that all six of these realities in v6 aren’t realities you ought to merely find interesting. No, when God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush he removed his shoes because he was standing on holy ground! When Jesus revealed Himself to those on the road to Emmaus their hearts burned within them! May such holy reverence and fear and delight and splendor be response as we hear the Lord Jesus unfold His own nature to us.
Second, v6 has a specific order to it.
The order of ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ is not by accident. It reveals the priority of these three things. Taking the context of v1-5 into account shows us there is a clear emphasis on ‘the way.’ Jesus was leaving, Jesus knew the way to where He was going, and Thomas made it clear in v5 that the disciples were troubled because they didn’t know the way. Jesus responds to this with, “I AM the way…” R.C. Sproul believes there is so much emphasis on ‘the way’ that we should read the verse like this “I am the way becauseI am the truth and the life.”D.A. Carson agrees and says it could even be translated as, “I AM the way of truth and life” or “I AM the only true and living way.”The way is the primary theme, truth and life play a supporting role. But what a supporting role they play! Because Jesus is the very truth of God and because Jesus is the very life of God that confirms that He is the very way to God! Thus, we begin in faith by coming to His way, we press on in faith by continuing in His truth, and ultimately, in the end, we’ll find His life.There’s also a Trinitarian flavor to this as well. The Father planned the way, the Son revealed the truth, and the Spirit raises us to new life. So upon embracing these three realities every believer enters into the life of our Triune God.
Broadly speaking it is glorious to see these things but we can see more. Specifically, though the priority of the way does seem to be the meaning in view here we should also be aware that there is enough wonder to feast on in each of these realities alone: Jesus is the way of reconciliation, Jesus is the truth of revelation, and Jesus is the life of regeneration.Let’s look at them now.
Third, the way of reconciliation.
A way, simply put, is a path – a route – a trail we must follow in order to arrive at a certain destination from a previous location. Man’s way to God was once open. It was unhindered and enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the garden within Eden. But when our first parents fell from that original state they were first created in God blocked the way with the cherubim and a flaming sword.
Fast forward to the first tabernacle and Solomon’s temple. Within both of them there was one central place, the inner sanctum, the most holy place where the ark of God resided. This place was separated from the rest of the temple by a veil that had images of cherubim on it…signifying that as the cherubim once barred the way into the garden within Eden so too they now barred the way into the holy place within the temple. One could only enter if they followed all the cleansing rituals to make themselves ceremonially or ritually pure and once inside they would make specific offerings in behalf of the people to make them clean and pure. But even though God allowed some to enter this most holy place it was a frightful thing to do, for God is a consuming fire and sin cannot be in His presence.
Fast forward to the gospels. The reverence required to enter into the temple’s most holy place is seen not only in the life of Jesus as He lived His life in perfect holy obedience but it’s also seen in that He is Himself the very temple of God who has tabernacled among us. And as the Son of God went to the cross and expired what happened to the veil blocking the way into the most holy place within the temple of that day? It tore from top to bottom, indicating that God had removed the barrier to Himself He had set in place long ago in Eden.
The way the was originally shut after Adam’s disobedience, God opened after the obedience of the greater and last Adam Jesus Christ. Jesus, therefore, isn’t a way to God among many good options. No, He is the way to God and any who place their faith in Him enter His narrow way.
Fourth, the truth of revelation.
This also takes us back to Adam and Eve. It was God’s revelation of Himself in the command to eat of any tree except one in the garden that was challenged by the serpent. “Did God really say?” were the first words the first man and woman heard about God from someone other than God, and they believed the lie. Ever since humanity has followed suit. In the fall we became darkened in our understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in us, due to the hardness of our hearts (Eph. 4:18). But God, in grace kept revealing Himself to His people and entered into covenants with them. Every step along the way in His revelation of Himself to them, He revealed that one day One would come who would bring all that God has revealed of Himself into perfect clarity. This One would be the Prophet of prophets, the Priest of priests, and the King of kings. He would be God Himself and once He came there would never again be a need to have any further revelation from God to man. Why? Because in Jesus Christ God has given us so much that all of heaven could give us no more.Jesus is the truth, the full revelation of the Father.
But Jesus is the truth in another way too. He is also the truth because He is the source of all truth, and because of this everything He speaks is the standard of all truth. In a world of millions of false claims to truth see in Jesus One who actually can make a truth claim and have it be objectively true for all people, in all places, in all times. His truth isn’t a truth that just works for Him, no. His truth is the one absolute truth that mankind must reckon with. Three quick implications. First, everything that goes against, opposes, or contradicts what Jesus says is false and should not be given room within your soul. Second, we must commit ourselves to be students of Jesus, of His Word, where we find His ways. All heaven and earth will one day pass away, but His Word remains forever. Of all the things you know in this life, there should be nothing you know more deeply than the Bible.I fear that in the end of all things, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like will make it crystal clear that a deep devotion to studying Scripture was not from a lack of time.Third, be warned here. The Devil knows the truth, better than any of us, but doesn’t see glory or beauty in it. What a shame that so many similarly spend their lives building up a vast amount of such hollow knowledge. We must know the same truth, but we must see the beauty of Christ in it in order for us to have a saving knowledge of Christ. So in your study, do not be content to rake leaves only, you must dig for gems. They’re present and they’re precious. When you see them, you see the glory and beauty of Christ, and you’re changed forever.
Fifth, the life of resurrection and regeneration.
Once again, come back to the garden. The result of our fall was death. Immortal man became mortal man in the fall. We were made to live with God forever and now death is our cruel and bitter enemy. Spiritually man is now dead and physically man now dies. Throughout Genesis the age man is allowed to live slowly decreases from around 900 to 120 years old. And by the time we get to the Psalms we find Psalm 90 say man’s life is by reason of strength is only 70-80 years. Death laughs over sinful man…until Jesus. In John 1 we read, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:4-5) In John 3 we read that man can be born again (3:1-8). In John 11 we read that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and that if anyone believes in Him, though He die, shall live (11:25)! Paul will explain it like this in 1 Corinthians 15, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:55-57).
So, we fell in Adam into death. But by faith we are resurrected and made alive in true Adam Jesus Christ. Why would we then look for life anywhere else?! May you look and never stop looking to Jesus for life!
Sixth, the exclusivity of Christ.
In case we haven’t picked up on it by now Jesus adds, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” There is no other way, no other truth, no other life. Acts 4:12, “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” 1 Cor. 3:11, “…no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid…Jesus Christ.” 1 Tim. 2:5, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” All of these verses are echoes of John 14:6.
Jesus answered Thomas’ question, not with detailed directions to a specific destination but with teaching about Himself. Jesus said “I AM the way” though he’d soon be hung on a cross. Jesus said “I AM the truth” though He’d soon allow the lies and deceit of man to crush Him. Jesus said “I AM the life” though He’d soon be placed in a tomb.Thomas, the rest of the disciples, and you and I do not need to make our own way, we do not need to find our own truth, we do not need to chase after the life the world promises. All we have is Christ and in Christ we have all we need.
Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ(Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1955) 56.1.
R.C. Sproul, John – Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Orlando, Florida: Reformation Trust, 2009) page 263.
Richard D. Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2014) page 203.
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971) page 640.
Sproul, page 264.
D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans / Leicester, England: Apollos) page 491.
John Calvin, The Gospels – Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids, Michigan: AP&A, 1971) page 835.
These are the three points present in Phillips, page 204-211. I edited the third, adding resurrection.
The Gift of Gifts, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers(Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Banner of Truth, 1975) page 16.
Phillips, page 209.
My version of a well known John Piper quote, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from a lack of time.”
Morris, page 641.