The Way, The Truth, The Life — What Does That Mean?
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:5-6
Thousands of years ago, when Moses encountered God in the burning bush in Exodus 3, God commissioned him to lead the Hebrews out of their captivity in Egypt. Moses didn’t think the people would believe God had given him that authority, so he asked God by what name he should be called. That way the Israelites would know that Moses was God’s messenger. God told Moses to use the phrase “I Am” as his name.
“Moses answered, ‘I will tell the people of Israel that the God their ancestors worshiped has sent me to them. But what should I say, if they ask me your name?’
God said to Moses: ‘I am the eternal God. So, tell them that the LORD, whose name is ‘I Am,’ has sent you. This is my name forever, and it is the name that people must use from now on.’” –Exodus 3:13-14
As a result, the Jewish people were very familiar with that name of God’s in Jesus’s time.
Jesus often used the phrase as a kind of code word to claim his deity, while keeping it hidden at the same time. The book of John contains several of Jesus’s “I am” teachings:
“I am the bread of life”
“I am the true vine.”
“I am the good Shepherd.”
“I am the light of the world.”
“I am the door.”
“I am the resurrection and the life.”
Jesus’s audiences understood the “I am” statements he used were attributes of God that Jesus was ascribing to himself. If he was not God, this would be blasphemy.
With the Jewish leaders looking for opportunity and excuse to arrest him, Jesus did not want to reveal his claim until he was ready. Claiming to be God would be blasphemy to the Jews, and treason to the Romans. Execution would be the likely penalty for either. So, Jesus’s claims to deity were indirect at this point.
Those listening to Jesus understood the point he was making by using the phrase, “I am.”
When Jesus said in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I am,” his audience knew exactly what he was saying and wanted to stone him for blasphemy. He was claiming to be God.
As Jesus’s three-year ministry was coming to a close in John 14, he prepared his disciples for his coming crucifixion and death. He had just explained to them what heaven was like and that he was going to leave. Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, asked the question that no doubt most had on their minds: “We don’t know where you are going and how can we know the way.”
Jesus’s answer is emphatic and exclusive: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'” –John 14:6.
He does not merely show the way; he is the way. Jesus is not just one of many ways. He is the only Way.
The religions of the world present alternative ways to their deity or deities. Most religions say there is “a” way to God. The post-modern view of the world essentially says, “Whatever you believe is right for you…”
“No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Christianity is unique, in that Jesus says he is the way — not a way — to God. Without him it is impossible to reconcile with God.
In the same way, Jesus boldly asserts his exclusivity by claiming to be the truth:
He is the truth. He is not just one who teaches the truth; he is the truth. He is the embodiment of truth. Those who have Christ have the truth. It is not found anywhere else.
And ultimately, Jesus is “the life” — eternal life. He is the source of life, both spiritual and eternal. Those who receive him have eternal life because he is the Life.
Eternal life is only possible through Jesus. Apart from him is eternal death.
In case His disciples missed the point that he is God, Jesus continues in the next verse:
John 14:7 “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
In these two verses, Jesus clearly claims to be God and the only way to reconcile oneself to God.
James M. Boice:
“Do you think it was easy for the Lord Jesus Christ to stand with his disciples on the verge of his crucifixion and say, ‘I am the way’? He knew what it meant to be the way. It meant that he had to go to the cross; he had to die; he had to suffer; he had to have the Father turn his back on him while he was made sin for us; he had to have the wrath of God poured out upon him. That is what it meant when the Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the way…no one comes to the Father except through me.’ Yet he said it.”