The way, the truth and the life

by Richard on April 30, 2012

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, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This is the verse that drives so much Christian evangelism. “No one comes to the Father except through me” says Jesus and the proper response is to make sure that as many as possible know about him. It is a simple and unequivocable truth - they need to know about Jesus, and we tell ‘em. Is that what it means? I’m not so sure. The context of the verse is that Jesus is speaking to his disciples as they gather in that upper room for their “Last Supper”. The dsciples are frightened and bewildered. They’ve heard Jesus talk about their betrayal and desertion of him. Worse still, they know he faces death. Jesus addresses their doubt and fear with words of comfort, faith and hope. John, writing his gospel for a beleagured Christian church recalls these words of Jesus because they speak directly to the situation his community faces. They too are uncertain about the future and are in need of the same strength and comfort as those first disciples. In short, the intention of Jesus, and of John in his record, is essentially pastoral - assuring the faithful of their place in God’s house. Jesus says that he is the way, the truth and the life. Not religious opinion about him, not statements of faith about him - he, himself, is the way. What is that way?”You want to know the way?” says Jesus. A farmer sows his seed and casts it everywhere, on good soil and on bad. A father has two sons, one a dutiful, hard-worker - the other a waster. The father loves them both. A shepherd leaves the 99 sheep in the fold to go and serch for the one sheep that is lost - and he does not give up until the lost sheep is restored. A landowner hires men throughout the day - and pays them all according to need rather than by the measure of their service. That, says Jesus, is the way. How reluctant we are to accept the way that Jesus shows us, the way of uncompromising compassion and extravagant generosity - the way of welcome and inclusion.

Lord, show us the way.

Reblogged from almost exactly 10 years ago.

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Kim 04.30.12 at 6:35 pm

Absolutely. The relationship between Christianity and other faiths is not the issue here; a fortiori this text cannot be deployed as a manifesto for Christian imperialism and triumphalism. Nor does Jesus actually say anything about conscious this-life belief in him (as “personal Lord and Saviour”) being a soteriological requirement. Rather his saying about being the exclusive way to the Father is set in a trinitarian context — and a cruciform one at that: it’s the eve of Good Friday — the hodos (way) of Jesus is always via crucis. God is not God apart from the Son and the Son’s death. That is the eschatological end of the matter.

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