Bible Study Commentary on Jesus the Great I AM
I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life - Essential truth for the last days
By I Gordon
We have before us today the next 'I AM' statement of Jesus and it is a doozy. Quite possibly, after John 3:16, it is the most well know and most quoted statement Jesus ever made. What do you think it is? It has been called 'the Mother of all politically incorrect statements' and as such is one that could potentially send many university students scurrying for their safe spaces right across America. It is this:
John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
I'm not sure if you have thought about it very much but in this current age, this is seen as an outrageous and largely unacceptable statement to many... so narrow minded... yet a claim that no one can or should ignore. But where and when did Jesus make this statement? And why did He make it? And why is it important in our day? As I studied this statement I looked at the surrounding context (as you should!) and that's what we will do today. We'll find that Jesus said some wonderful things that brought great comfort and challenge to His disciples alive then, throughout the church age, and those alive at His return. And as I watch the events of this world unfold today like the Bible said they would, I place our generation into that last category of those that will be alive when Jesus returns. I approached this passage, and this great 'I AM' statement with that thought in mind. What do we need to hear from this entire passage while we live in difficult times? So I called this message 'I am the Way, the truth and the Life - Essential truth for the last days'. We'll start with a general look at this I AM statement. We'll then look at it's context and see why Jesus said what He did and what this outrageous statement means for us today.
The times they are a change-in.
John 14:4-6 "And you know the way where I am going." (5) Thomas *said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" (6) Jesus *said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Like I said at the start, this is one of Jesus' most quoted statements. It is one that any true Christian proclaims and holds to... you would hope. It is a very narrow statement. To the genuine seeker this statement is a challenge. It draws a line in the sand as to who Jesus claimed to be and how salvation is obtained. Jesus didn't say 'I think I know of a way to get to Heaven' but 'I am THE way'. He didn't say 'well there are many religious leaders and many truths. Find one that suits you'. He said He Himself was the truth. He didn't say 'just try to be a decent person and it should be ok in the end.' No. He said 'no one comes to the Father but through Me'. Not through Buddha, not Muhammad, not some guru, not even through following God's moral law given through Moses. "No one comes to the Father except through Me.'
But what would the average un-churched man or woman make of such a statement today? We live in a country, and a Western civilization, that was founded upon Biblical truth and morality. Sadly, that today is being jettisoned.1 People, in general are not taught and do not believe in absolute truth anymore. I'm not saying anything new by pointing out that political correctness and tolerance are in and with it comes this great push to not offend anyone by believing in something that excludes others. Of course if you stray from this, this 'tolerate' society will show you just how tolerant they really are. To the P.C inclusivist all religions and truth are equally valid just as long as it means something to the individual. They frown on free-speech if it could possibly offend someone else and in case you haven't noticed, people are quickly and oh-so easily offended today. To them this statement of Jesus (and many others in the Bible for that matter) would cause outrage. If Jesus was on earth today and said these type of statements they would hate Him as much today as the religious leaders did back then.
The Western world has lived with religious freedom for sometime but, to quote Bob Dylan, "the times they are a-change'in". That's why it is good to see the entire context of this verse because it brings great comfort for those that are starting to feel less and less at home in this world.
Context... a little background
So let's have a look at the context of Jesus' statement that He is the way, the truth and the life. Where and when did He say it? Why did He say it? And in doing so we may see why it is relevant for our day. John chapters 13-17 form what is called 'the upper room discourse'. It was all spoken on the night before the Passover when Jesus would be crucified. Let's pick up the story in chapter 13:
John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
John 13:31-38 When he (Judas) was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. (32) If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. (33) My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. (34) A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (35) By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (36) Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later." (37) Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." (38) Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
So as Jesus and His disciples shared the last supper together the Lord begins to share important things He wants them to remember. Not least of which was the fact that the time of His departure was at hand. What? He's going? Where? The disciples didn't understand this. Things seemed to be going so well. It had only been three days since they came into Jerusalem, with Jesus riding on the donkey, fulfilling the great prophecy of Zech 9:9. The crowds had gathered pouring out praise and worship to Jesus their King! They were all longing and crying out for the long awaited Kingdom of David to be restored unto Israel. It was all coming together and going so well... But as they ate this last meal Jesus starts talking about the fact that He is leaving them. He has to go away. And what's more, where He is going they cannot follow Him... well, somewhat cryptically, not yet anyway. What's more, like an Agatha Christie novel, one of them seated right there at the table is going to betray Jesus. It is all very puzzling for the disciples. Where is He going and why now when things look so positive? As is normally the case, the unspoken leader Peter pipes up and says that he is willing to follow Jesus anywhere, even unto death! To which Jesus replies you will actually disown me three times. I wouldn't be surprised if right about now there was one of those awkward... silent... pause type moments! If the discourse had finished right now it would be a little grim and uncertain. You can imagine the trouble and concern brewing in the hearts of the disciples. Sometimes we read the chapter and because someone has put a chapter break in, this is where we stop. But this is definitely NOT where we should stop for look at the wonderful words that follow this...
Essential truth No 1: Do not let your hearts be troubled
John 14:1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
Jesus didn't stop with correcting Peter and telling the disciples that He was leaving. He went into what we have in John 14 - Do not let your hearts be troubled... Words incredibly relevant for our age. As I studied the next 6 verses I put them into "essential truth for the last days" categories and this is essential truth no 1. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Now that can be easier said than done. There is no doubt that we live in troubled times. Things seem to be breaking down on many levels. Paul wrote 'realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.' Jesus said that men's hearts will fail them as they face what is coming upon the earth in the last days. The full impact of this is still to come but even today there is tremendous pressure upon people and families in this age and the results can be devastating. The change that is happening is staggering. Technological changes, as one example, bring great potential but also great trouble. I was reading an article the other day2 just talking about changes in warfare throughout the centuries.
It said that the great warfare advancement in the 14th century was the longbow. When I was about 7 or 8 I wanted to be Robin Hood and made my own bows from the bamboo next to the local kindergarten. So, as someone very very very experienced in this area, there's no doubt that the longbow is impressive. In the 15th century came gunpowder. The 16th century was architectural fortifications, 17th and 18th centuries—naval warfare introduced. By the 20th century things started to ramp up. We had world wars (introducing aircraft carriers, submarine warfare, something called nuclear weapons... and late 20th century brought missile defense systems). We are only just into the 21st century and we are talking cyber warfare, space warfare, nano warfare, robotic armies, electromagnetic pulse weapons, genetic manipulation, artificial intelligence, unmanned systems. It is simply getting crazy. As Albert Einstein allegedly said 'I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.' 3
Now just in case your hearts are now feeling troubled, (and I'm achieving the opposite of what i should be!) I should quickly remind you of the essential truth number 1 for these last days...
It is easy to let it be troubled. Simply focus too much on the problems of this world or on your own problems and that will do it. Your emotions respond to what you are dwelling on whether it be right or wrong. But Jesus emphasizes two things in this passage as the cure to trouble: Faith and hope. Firstly he said 'trust Me'. That is, believe that He has things in hand both on an individual and world-wide level. Secondly He gives hope.
Essential truth No 2: Have hope in the heavenly home/p>
John 14:2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
Earlier on in this last week before Jesus was crucified He had sat on the Mount of Olives and answered the disciples questions about the end of the age (Mathew 24, 25). He spoke of wars and rumors of wars, false Christ's and deception, difficulties in Israel, the sign of His return and the gathering all the nations together for judgment. But on this night, the night before His death, He gave His disciples a different hope - a new hope not discussed before. He said would go and prepare a heavenly home for them and then personally come again to receive His followers to Himself so that where He is (Heaven) they may be also.
As approach these last days hope (a confident assurance) in the heavenly home becomes essential truth number 2. What is your desire to be with Him like? I was listening to a recent J D Farag message earlier this week and he began his message by saying something that spoke to me - He said 'I want to share with you something that the Lord has been pressing upon my heart of late. The Lord has been speaking to me about how we, as believers in and followers of, Jesus Christ, have over-stayed our welcome in this world. Truly it seems that the world today is growing more and more hostile towards Christians and towards Christianity.' - That struck home with me. We have over-stayed our welcome.4 In my part of the world we have just had a month long media storm (and it is still going) over a comment by Israel Folau, an Australian Rugby Union star. Responding to a question on social media Folau, a Christian, said that homosexuals would go to hell if they do not repent. Some rugby players came out saying that it disgusts them to be playing against someone with such thoughts. An article in Australia said that he should be let go and not play for Australia again. I followed the saga quite closely online to see the reaction of the world. The world in general, stirred up by the prince of this world, doesn't like what we have to say. And what's more, believers in return sense that you know what, we don't like this world either. This is not our home. Do you have that sense? CS Lewis 'If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.' So essential truth no 2 is hope in the heavenly home. Do you have that? Am I talking to the converted here or are you still being weaned off this world?
Our text says that where we are going is specifically prepared for the believer. Every cell in your body (if we still have cells in the new body!) will be jumping for joy in the wonderful realization that this is the place you were created for. A new home specifically designed and prepared by the King of kings for those that are new creations in Christ Jesus!
Essential truth No 3: Hope in Jesus' soon return to remove His bride
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Essential truth no 3 is related to no 2. Not only is Jesus going to prepare a place for believers, but He gave this wonderful promise that He Himself, personally would come again to take them to be where He is! 'I will come back and take you to be with me' - This is the promise of Jesus' return at the rapture. It is a promise that you can take to the bank. Despite all the many past and continual failures from misguided and overly excited date setters, it will happen and be right on time! This statement of Jesus probably rang a few bells with the disciples for the background and imagery is the Jewish wedding model where the groom would go and build a home for his bride and only when the Father of the groom was happy that all things were ready, would the groom then come to meet his bride and take her to this new home to begin their life together.
So someday soon believers will have THE most wonderful escort who will take us to this heavenly home. The Apostle Paul gives further detail on this
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (18) Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Notice Paul says 'the Lord Himself' will come. Jesus is not in Heaven saying 'Alright Gabriel, the time is right. Go get my bride.' No. It's the fulfillment of the promise Jesus gave his disciples the night before the cross that He would come. To illustrate this, when I went to the US for the first time about a year and a half ago my friend warned me about getting a cheap hotel around the particular airport I was flying into. He had been put up in one close to this same airport after his flight was cancelled and it was dodgy! He said there were police sirens going off all night, he had drug dealers right outside the hotel and even had a prostitute knock on his door. "Um... nobody home!" So I booked into an equally cheap airbnb place. I was told they would pick me up from the airport and gave me instructions for where to go when I arrived. That sounded good. "Down the long corridor, take the 3rd door on the left, go right down to the end and take the exit on the right. Then wait for the black Toyota that will pick you up." Right... got it. So I followed all that and waited outside... many cars came... and went... but alas not for me. I had lots of thoughts circling... "Did I go out the right door? I wouldn't put it past me to possibly get the directions wrong! Is the person reliable that is coming? Maybe the whole thing's dodgy like my friend's experience? Did I go out the right door? What shall I do now?" The good news is that eventually he did come. He had been delayed but I didn't mind. I was very very pleased to see this mystery escort to take me to my home for one night. For many, Jesus' return seems delayed. BUT OUR DIVINE ESCORT WILL COME and unlike my escort He is still on time! He is the most reliable guide there has ever been and His promises are good. And not only that but there is nothing remotely dodgy about this new dwelling place you are going. No drug dealers there preying on the vulnerable. No prostitutes preying on the lonely. Nothing to fear. There will be no police car sirens going off because there will be no police cars... because there will be no police... because there will be no crime... because their will be no more sin. . Not even a single internal thought of sin. Free at last. Are you ready? Be ready! You want to be found watchful and ready.
Essential truth No 4: Don't compromise or neglect the message of salvation
John 14:4-6 You know the way to the place where I am going." (5) Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (6) Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Thomas, as he said, didn't have a clue where Jesus was going. Was it across the Jordan? Up north to Tyre and Sidon? He just didn't know but his honesty in stating as much and asking the question lead to this great statement of Jesus..5 Essential truth no 4 then is this message that we cannot compromise and need to share - 'I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me'. It is our job to point people to Him. No one else. Not religion.6 As mentioned earlier, some don't like it for it is a very narrow dogmatic statement. But it is one that people desperately need to hear. And would you want it any other way if you were in need? If you were lost in a new city desperately trying to get somewhere and you asked someone for direction, would you want to hear 'well, it doesn't really matter which way you take just as long as you are happy with the way you are going!' Um no! You want to hear definite directions "you need to go here and then here - it's the only way". If you were dying from a disease would you want a doctor to say 'well, look, I'll just leave it with you... I have cabinets full of pills and medicine. Take whatever you like.' No! You want him to say 'this is serious but there is a cure. You need to take this and do not delay.' There is nothing wrong with a narrow definite message. If you are flying in a plane do you want the pilot to be narrow or broad minded? Or said another way, do you want him to land on the runway or the highway? Landing gear up or down? Wheels closest to the sky or the ground? His instructions for where, when and how to land are very narrow and specific and that's kind of how we like it thank you very much! Our lives can be on the line! Jesus and the Bible are, on purpose, dogmatic and narrow on the topic of salvation for it is the most important of all topics. Quite literally salvation is at stake. And it is a message people need to hear. John, in his later letter would write:
"This is the record, that God has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life, and he who does not have the Son does not have life," (1 John 5:11)
You would like to think this is all Christianity 101 for Church members but we live in an age that even these simple Biblical statements are denied or disbelieved. But it is essential truth no 4 - a message entrusted to the church to give to the world and one we cannot compromise or neglect.
Essential truth No 5: The life we cannot live without
The last essential truth in this statement I wanted to emphasise is the need, as a Christian, to be experiencing His life. We will focus on this aspect more next time when we talk about abiding in the Vine. But as we come to the end of this message just note there are three different descriptions given here of who Jesus is. He is 1) the Way 2) the Truth 3) the Life. There are plenty of Christians who don't get much further in their walk that knowing the first - that Jesus is the Way to Heaven. Now that is where everyone has to start for if you don't know that Jesus is the way to heaven then you haven't actually begun. But what then? Is that it? Then there is Jesus as the Truth. He is the truth about man for He was the perfect man. He is also the truth about God for in everything that He said and did He expressed the truth and character of God 100%. Many in this age ask the same question that Pontius Pilot asked: "What is truth?" Jesus is the truth. It is the person of Christ who shines the light by which all other truth can be seen. Finally there is the Life. This is what is desperately needed in the Christian church today... Jesus living in and through us. 'I have come that they may have life' He said. And He is the life. This is not trying to imitate Him. It is not trying to be Him. It is actually derived from Him being the source of the life which we need. As mentioned, that is what we'll talk about next time for it is contained in the next I AM - I am the Vine.
Jesus, at this last supper with His disciples knew that the news of His departure would greatly trouble His disciples so He gave them tremendous grounds for hope and courage. This directly applies in the difficult age in which we live.
Speaking of Lot living down in Sodom and Gomorrah, Peter wrote (and this is from the amplified Bible)
2 Peter 2:7-8 (AMP) And He (God) rescued righteous Lot, greatly worn out and distressed by the wanton ways of the ungodly and lawless...
Lot was worn out. All the wickedness that was going on around him tired him out! It easy to get like that. But we have tremendous hope and want to finish our race well. Which we can do as we focus on the right things! Jesus gave essential truth that we should hold onto in these last days:
1. Don't let your heart be troubled but trust in Him! (vs 1)
2. Take hope in what is prepared for you - your heavenly home (vs 2)
3. Take hope in Jesus' soon return for His bride (vs 3)
4. Don't compromise on the message of salvation but freely share it (vs 6)
5. Live your life with a reliance on His life. (vs 6)
As you probably know, in many parts of the world, even increasingly in the Western world that was founded on Christian principles, a statement such as John 14:6 is now considered hate speech. It is offensive and people are getting prosecuted. Last year (2017) two street preachers were arrested in the UK were found guilty of hate speech. Their crime? They said that Jesus was the only way. In the trial the crown prosecutor Ian Jackson said that “To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.” To this crown prosecutor it simply 'cannot be a truth' that Jesus is the only way to God. The court must have agreed with him for the two preachers were found guilty. Probably because of this and other cases like it one Lord Pearson stood up in the UK's house of Lords in late 2017 and asked the government: "Will they confirm unequivocally that a Christian who says that Jesus is the only son of the one true God cannot be arrested for hate crime or any other offence, however much it may offend a Muslim or anyone of any other religion?" The government refused to answer. As it stands, the current definition of a “hate crime” in the UK relies a lot on whether the victim "feels" offended.
Cyber warfare among nations is especially massive. But even on an individual level people aren't safe. Thieves no longer have to come into a country or a business to steal anymore. They can do it while sitting comfortably in their recliner chair on the other side of the world. To give a quick example, one of our clients where I work had a ransomware attach the other day. What's a ransomware attack you ask? Well you know what a ransom is. In the good old days baddies would abduct a child of a wealthy person and demand a large ransom to release them. "We've got your firstborn... drop off 1 million in unmarked bills in a brown paper bag' - that kind of thing. Well, that's what it's like in the movies anyway! Today they aren't after your first born so much... more your data. A couple of weeks back one of our clients walked into his business in the morning to find his files on their server had been encrypted, held for ransom, and there was a message left to say they had to pay $3000 in the crypto-currency bitcoin to get his data back. In the end he had to pay it as he didn't have a recent backup and stood to lose all his company's financial data. After paying the money the attacker unlocked the files and even told the owner how he got in and where his network vulnerabilities were. I have to say it... Is this not the nicest most helpful extortionist ever?! This 21st century has some of the most caring and thoughtful thieves! But whatever sector of society we look at things are changing so fast. The pressure is on. ↩
If the world is starting to see Christians as 'party-poopers' who have over-stayed their welcome, all I can say is that the feeling is mutual. This party has gone pretty strange over the last 10-15 years especially and we aren't enjoying it anymore. We want to go home... believe me. But we do need to wait for our escort who will take us home. Until then, sorry, we'll be hanging around, pointing out some things, while always inviting you to leave with us for a far better one. ↩
Side note but ALWAYS ask God questions. Some of the greatest revelation in the Bible came from people asking Jesus questions. Thomas here could have bit his lip. He could have thought 'we'll obviously everyone knows where Jesus is going and I'm the only one who doesn't so I'll just nod knowingly and not come across like a fool!' He could have but thankfully he didn't. We call him 'doubting Thomas' but 'honest Thomas' is better. Ask questions of God. You may be surprised with the answer! ↩
The "church" as a whole is slipping away from this message. I read one recent survey of those that called themselves 'evangelical Christians' in the US and only 1/3 believed that Jesus was the only way to God. Now what was it that the Bible says about 'if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound...' Well the 'church' sure is blowing some dud notes these days. ↩