John 14:6: The Way, The Truth, and The Life

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6

This is one of the most famous verses in Scripture, and people have relied on it for different reasons throughout history. Without diminishing other valid understandings of the passage, I want to draw attention to an important understanding that sometimes gets forgotten (not least by me).

First, a little background. In the book of John, Jesus is notorious for giving amazing spiritual insight out of frustration with the person he’s talking to. Thomas is trying to figure out how to literally walk to where God is, and Jesus changes the use of the word to explain that believing in Jesus and walking with Jesus (spiritually) gets you to the Father.

The Truth
A lot of people use this verse to point to Jesus as the absolute truth. This is the Christocentric (Christ at the center) view of our faith that believes that wherever there’s confusion or disagreement with the rest of Scripture, let Jesus clear that up.
We like Jesus as truth. It helps us to understand the world. We may not like his ideas (forgiving enemies and such), but we can mentally assent that his ideas are the best.

The Life
Typically, when people refer to Jesus as the life from this verse, they mean that he offers eternal life after death. This is the great hope beyond suffering and loss that Jesus offers to the world. It could also point to the idea of “abundant life” that Jesus offers—a life in the present without guilt, shame, or purposelessness. Either way, it’s pretty exciting.

The Way
Now we come to the reason I’m writing this (and John Mark Comer brought this to my attention in a recent podcast). Typically, when someone refers to Jesus as the way, they mean the way to heaven after you die. This is understandable given that Jesus is talking about the final kingdom to Thomas and saying that he’s leaving to prepare a place there.
But there’s more nuance here than that. I believe that Jesus is using a play on words to talk about what the disciples should do now. In fact, even eternal life starts now by knowing God (see John 17:3).

Therefore, when Jesus says he is the way, he means that he is the example for how we should live our lives—in love, forgiveness, sacrifice, purity, etc. In fact, the word “way” probably refers to halakhah, which is a rabbinic word for teaching laws—literally, “the way of walking.”

Therefore, when we speak of Jesus as the way, we should speak of him as the ultimate example for how we should live our lives. This is by far the hardest part of Christian discipleship.

We look to Jesus for hope for eternity and truth through the confusion, but once we find it, we commit to living the life he lived. This is the way.
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