What Does ‘The Way, the Truth, and the Life’ Mean?
Most of us are familiar with the Bible verse where Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 That is a broad statement – what does it mean? Does the order in which he shares these three elements matter? I propose that it does.
It makes sense that Jesus would want us to know him as the way before he invites us to know him as the truth. As a relational God, it makes sense that he would reveal truth in the context of relationship. This is how Jesus revealed himself to his disciples.
All my life I’ve heard people interpret the entirety of John 14:6 in terms of salvation. And yes, we all want to be saved – we want eternal life. In John 10:9 he says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” Jesus is a gate through which we enter heaven. But in saying “I am the way,” Jesus is inviting us to experience him as more than just an entry point. He’s inviting us into an ongoing relationship that changes and deepens over time.
The movie The Way is about the 500 mile Camino hike. You start in St. John Pied-de-Port, the gateway city. St. Jean is both a part of the way and it is known as a gate to the way. Could we see Jesus in a similar multifaceted dimension? When we begin a relationship with him, we see him as a gate. But as we walk with him over time and the relationship deepens, we see him as the way. 1 John 2:6 says that disciples should “should walk just as He walked.” We get to know him along the way.
As we walk with Jesus the way, we inevitably learn more about his kingdom – along the way, he reveals truth to us. The initial human drama in Genesis is over the issue of truth. The snake asks Eve, “Did God really say, ‘don’t eat the apple?'” By questioning truth and then denying it, he introduces pain. And ever since then, there has been a fight for the truth. It has been central to the story we live.
In John 8:32 Jesus says, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
In America, we have become confused about truth. A close friend called me yesterday to tell me her husband said he’s going to divorce her. And I can’t help wondering, is this family tragedy happening because of how her husband is choosing lies over truth?
Our enemy asks us, “Did God really say______?” And we shrug our shoulders. But if we love freedom, we will love the truth. Jesus is not only the way, he also wants to use truth to set us free.
Jesus lists the promise of life third. And while it’s true that he came to bring us eternal life, it’s also true that he wants to give us a full life here on earth. In John 10:10 he says, “I came that they might have abundant life.”
Jesus’ disciples experienced him first as the way, then as the truth, and the life in the same sequence that he lists them in this verse. First he called them out on a journey with him. Then as they journeyed, he taught them the truth. And after he had been resurrected and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to experience the abundant life he promised.
Mix up the order of these three elements and you develop disciples who may be confused. Give them faith without a journey along a way and they may become legalists focused on right and wrong. Or start with an emphasis on abundant life without helping them journey into and through pain, and you may fail to develop character in your disciples.
How about you and me?
Sure, you’ve memorized John 14:6, but have you experienced Jesus as the way? Have you walked away from all the things that have trapped you in anxiety and a lack of purpose? Have you journeyed with him?
And if you’ve journeyed with him for a while, have you experienced the freedom that he brings when you embrace him as the truth? It is the truth that sets us free from earthly concerns and other distractions.
Finally, are you experiencing the abundant life he wants to give you? If I could give you a gift, it would be to experience this full life he promises for just one day to see if you didn’t want more. The joy and the peace on offer is incredible when you experience it. And it’s available to you today as you commit to journey with him.
The beauty of knowing Jesus as the way the truth and the life is that He walks with us in every season. He doesn’t take us out of this world until it’s our time. While we are here He is there in the valleys, the mountaintops, the wilderness, the desert, and every terrain of life both spiritually, physically, and psychologically. I’m so thankful for our ever-present God in times of trouble ~ times of joy & everything in between. 🙏
Yes he does, Sandy. I have seen him walk through valleys with you. Thanks for your example of faithfulness.
This is spot on and profound, Seth. T.S. Elliot penned in “Choruses From The Rock”, “Where is the life we have lost in living?” l am grateful for your friendship and thankful for its durability. We’re told “life is like the steam off the cooking pot” but there’s mystery and more in the telltale wisps. Love you.
Thanks for that quote, Butch. Let’s go for the gusto with the time we have left!