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I AM, Part 6
The Way, The Truth, and The Life
Bruce A. Hess
If you would, please take out the word of God and turn in it to the gospel of John, and chapter number 14.
A few years ago, Janet and I had traveled to Branson, Missouri. When we initially drove from Norman to Branson, we were on main highways all the way to Branson. When it got time for us to head back home I was thinking to myself: ‘Rather than thinking about this turn or that turn and this highway and that highway, I think I am just going to turn on the GPS and follow it.’
When we came to the first turn out of where we were staying, it seemed that the GPS was directing me in the opposite direction from which we had come before. But I thought, ‘it’s a GPS, I’m going to follow it.’ Well, pretty soon we found ourselves in the remote Missouri countryside. We were on dirt and gravel roads. They were roads that were twisting and turning around; there were no businesses to be found anywhere; no neighborhoods to be found anywhere. In fact, all that we could see besides farmland was an occasional, remote farmhouse far off of the road. I’m thinking to myself, ‘How am I going to get back on the main highway?’
Now, let me ask you the question, what do you think would give me the most confidence to find the way? For example, I might have decided, Hey, I’m going to just continue to follow the GPS. Well, I’ve already learned from times before that the GPS can be unreliable; it has taken us way off course occasionally and maybe once or twice led us to a dead end. I don’t want to do that.
Another thing I might choose to do would be to go up to one of those remote farmhouses, drive up there, and then speak to the farmer that is there and say, ‘Could you give me directions?’ If I were to ask that, he might say something to me like this, ‘Well, what you need to do is you need to go to the end of the fence line and then you need to turn north. In a quarter of a mile, you need to turn left by the old barn and then head to the west. Then when you come to the pond, I want you to pass that, go to the old schoolhouse and then go north around the curve. There is going to be a long horse pasture, you need to keep on going until you come to the old windmill and then you turn to the right.’ He could have said something like that to me, but that wouldn’t be the best way for me to have confidence to get back on the main highway because that is too many directions for me.
The way that it would have given me the most confidence, if I had done this, drive up to the farmhouse and ask the farmer, ‘How do I get back on the main highway?’ And he says to me, ‘I’ll personally show you the way. I’m going to get in my pickup. I will show you the way. You follow me.’ That would have gotten me there for sure.
Well, that third alternative is what really Jesus does in John 14:6. He says, ‘I am here to personally show you the way.’ It is almost as if He is saying, ‘You want to know how to establish a relationship with the Heavenly Father? Do you want to know how to be granted forgiveness of sins? Do you want to know how to be endowed with eternal life, rather than eternal punishment? Do you want to know how to be assured of a future in heaven?’ So, He says in chapter 14, verse 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
From the beginning of time, it has always been God’s aim to be known. But there are a lot of ways that He chooses not to pursue when it comes to letting Himself be known. For example, God does not choose to build some sort of extreme sized celestial billboard with multiple lights and changing pictures. He doesn’t do that. He wants to be known, but He doesn’t do that.
He does not choose to have extensive late-night info-mercials [a television program that promotes a certain product in a supposedly objective way] that are on over and over telling about who He is. God’s aim was to be known, but His choice for having that happen was His son, Jesus Christ, coming to the planet.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it or not, but during Jesus’ time on the earth, there were a number of times when people said, ‘Who is this?’ For example, in the gospel of Mark, and chapter 4, Jesus stills the storm on the Sea of Galilee and his followers say, “Who is this, that the waves and the wind obey Him?”
In the gospel of Luke, in the seventh chapter, Jesus grants forgiveness to a prostitute, a lady who had crashed the dinner party where He was. He granted her forgiveness and the guests say, “Who is this, that forgives sins?”
Part of the answer to that question, Who is this?, is a series of I AM statements that Jesus makes and we’ve been looking at them. He said, ‘If you want to know who this is:
I AM the bread of life
I AM the light of the world
I AM the good shepherd
I AM the resurrection and the life
As we saw last time, I AM the door of the sheep
Today we come to the most controversial I AM statement that Jesus makes. We are going to see it in chapter 14. I want to read the first six verses and invite you to follow along as I am reading. Jesus says, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do 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.”
So, we want to unpack this I AM statement of Jesus’. The plan we are going to have for today is to really do three things. I want to begin by sharing some brief context to what He says in chapter 14. Secondly, I want to take some time to look at some current cultural insight, so as we are looking at this statement of Jesus’ we have a sense of the cultural background of what is going on around us. And, then the third thing we want to do is, look at the startling claims of Jesus in this passage of the word of God.
Let’s begin by just setting some brief context, alright? In the gospel of John, in chapters 13-17, we have what has been designated as the Upper Room Discourse. Why is it called the Upper Room Discourse? Because Jesus was giving a discourse to the disciples…in an upper room. Thus, you have the name. In essence it was a farewell address to the disciples before the imminent events would begin of His arrest and crucifixion. As He is sharing this with the disciples, they find themselves in a state of trepidation and fear.
Look at the first part of verse 1 of chapter 14, “Do not let your heart be troubled.”
Look at the end of verse 27 in the same chapter, “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Why would they be troubled? Why would they be fearful? Well, they had just heard in the previous chapter Jesus say, for example in chapter 13, verse 36, ‘I am leaving and you will not be following me immediately.’
We learn from chapter 13, verse 21, that He said to them, ‘There is a traitor in our midst.’
And, they had learned in the very last verse of chapter 13 that Peter, their vocal and emotional leader, was going to deny that he even knew Jesus, three times. So, there was some deep concern on the part of the disciples.
Look at chapter 14, verse 2, He says, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am, there you may be also.”
Heaven, we learn here, underscored, is a real place. Heaven is not some make believe fantasy. If you look at verse 2 and you look at verse 3, when it talks about, “I am going prepare a place for you,” that word, in the original language, is the word, “topos,” (t-o-p-o-s). We get the word, ‘topography’ from it. Topography is the study of places. Heaven is a real place. In fact, Jesus came from there, He said that Himself. In John, chapter 3, verse 13, He said that He descended to earth from heaven. It is a real place. And in John 6:38, He expands on this a little bit, He says, “I have come down (where?) from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
All of that is just some brief context that we have to give us a sense of what He is going to now share in these next few verses. What I want you to do now–I know it’s a little dreary and some of you may be a little groggy in this kind of weather—but what I want you to do is I want you to put on your thinking caps, alright? Will you do that for me? Let’s put on our thinking caps, because we want to talk about some current cultural insight.
This becomes very important because there is a backdrop in our culture that relates to what Jesus is going to say in this I AM statement. Whether we are older or whether we are young, it is important that we understand the culture in which we live.
So, I want to look at three common religious perspectives today. Here is the first one: it is called universalism. Here is what universalism says: it doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, everybody is going to get to heaven sooner or later. I mean, there is a ‘heavenly loophole’ and everyone is going to make it. No pressure. Now, what we are going to look at this morning and what Jesus says: it undermines universalism, but it still exists in our day.
There is a second thing, a second common religious perspective I want to look at and that is pluralism. This is a more prominent perspective than the first. You may say, ‘What is pluralism…I don’t understand that word?’ Well, in English, look at those first six letters of the word, and the first six letters are what? Plural. There you have the clue. Pluralism says that there are multiple religious paths and they all lead to the same place and they all lead to the same God.
Pluralism basically promotes the idea that there is no one religious system that is exclusively right. So, you have Buddhism, you have Hinduism, you have Islam, you have Scientology, you have Christianity; and pluralism says they all lead to the same God—maybe different names—but they all lead to the same God.
Pluralism says it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere about your belief. If it works for you and it makes you happy, great! But, pluralism, at its core, has a logical flaw and a logical inconsistency to it. You see, when you look at these various religious systems out there; each system claims to have the proper beliefs and at times these religious systems contradict one another. They all could be wrong, but they can’t all be right. By the way, you would learn that principle in Introductory Logic Class.
I want you to keep those thinking caps on because I want to expand on pluralism for just a moment, okay? I want to talk about two corollaries that exist with pluralism. Now why am I going through all of this? Because this is the world in which we live and we need to be aware of the culture.
The first corollary to pluralism is this: embracing relative truth. Relative truth says, you’ve got your truth, I’ve got my truth. Relativism says that truth is determined by the individual. It is determined, I determine what is right for me, you determine what is right for you. Relativism says there is no absolute truth, there is no truth that is true for all people, in all places, at all times. No absolute truth. But, that statement, in itself, is an absolute statement.
You know what is interesting about absolutes? We live in a world of absolutes. They are everywhere. Here is an absolute truth for you: without oxygen, you die. Same thing happens to me. That is an absolute truth.
If you choose to step off a twenty-story building without a parachute, gravity will lead you to your death. That is an absolute truth.
6×6=36. I still remember my multiplication tables. It is not a matter of opinion whether 6×6=36, it is true of all people, in all places, at all times. See, here is the idea of relative truth: relative truth says that the individual is the one who determines what truth is.
Can you imagine if we applied that standard, whatever is right to you, to our everyday life? What if you went to the pharmacist for a prescription and you said, ‘Hey, whatever is right to you, just give me that. It doesn’t matter, you determine how much of a dose I need. Just whatever you think.’
Or, what if we went to the IRS and we said, ‘Hey, you know, there’s no absolute rigid rules, whatever you think you want to charge me in taxes, just go ahead, it’s alright, I mean, you determine the truth, whatever you want to do.’
How about if you went to your paymaster at work and said, ‘Alright, I worked 30 hours, 40 hours, 50 hours…whatever you think is right, just pay me that.’ We’d all go, No, no, no, no, no. I mean, there are absolutes all around us.
In pluralism, one of the corollaries of it is embracing relative truth. But there is a second corollary to pluralism and that is, exalting tolerance. It is interesting, that word, “tolerance.” One of the things when you are talking about tolerance is: we must clarify what we are talking about when we talk about tolerance. I mean, tolerance is a very commendable thing if by it we mean being patient and kindhearted toward other people even if they have a different view. In that case, tolerance is very commendable.
But tolerance can also be hazardous if by tolerance we mean: I am only going to tolerate you if you agree with me. It is hazardous if someone says, ‘Hey, I am going to label you a bigot. I am going to attack you because you don’t agree with me.’ It becomes hazardous if basically we would say, ‘Hey, you can only adhere to pluralism, you can only adhere to relativism; and if you don’t, you are totally out of line.’
There is a fatal flaw to universalism and pluralism. Let me share with you what it is. Universalism and pluralism elevates our thoughts, our beliefs, and our preferences to sovereign status. What Jesus says, we are going to look at that in a moment, undermines universalism and also pluralism.
Now, I said we were going to look at three common religious perspectives in the culture today and you say, ‘What’s the third one, Bruce?’ The third one is called exclusivism. What exclusivism says is that there is absolute truth, there is truth for all people, in all places, at all times. This is truth that is God-given. God is sovereign in determining truth is what exclusivism says. In fact, God is truth. There is only one way, there is only one truth, and Jesus says, “I am the truth.” You know, there is room for only one on heaven’s throne, and it is not me and it’s not you, right? The Bible teaches exclusivism.
I say all that because, again, this stuff is going on all around us in the culture and sometimes we don’t realize fully what is happening around us. With that as a backdrop we can understand some people’s reaction to this I AM statement of Jesus’.
So, we’ve looked at some brief context, we’ve looked at some current cultural insight. Now, we want to look at the startling claims of Jesus. This is fascinating to me.
Verse 6, He says, “Ego Eimi,” again, that claim of being deity, “I am the way.” Earlier Thomas said to Him, ‘We don’t know the way.’ And, Jesus, basically replies, ‘Yes, you do.’ “I am the way.” The way where? ‘I am the way to your eternal home.’
You noticed that Jesus doesn’t say: ‘I am one of many ways.’ He doesn’t say, ‘You know, guys, there are a lot of viable choices out there. When I go away for a little while, why don’t you go check them all out?’ He doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say, ‘You know, the path that you choose, whatever it may be, is really not important.’ He says, ‘I am the way to your eternal home.’
By the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but, the hope of an eternal home has great value. I just want to share two of them with you. The hope of an eternal home is, first, a catalyzing motivation. It is a catalyzing motivation in regard to the life choices that we make. I can tell you, in my own life, the hope of an eternal home has motivated me when it came to certain choices. I wouldn’t be here without the hope of an eternal home. I wouldn’t be standing before you on this particular Sunday, with a Bible open, trying to explain what it says, if it wasn’t for the hope of an eternal home. I would be off doing other fun stuff, if it wasn’t for the hope of an eternal home. It is a catalyzing motivation for our life choices.
For example, look at Hebrews, chapter 11, verses 8-10. There it says, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place,” not knowing where he was going. “By faith he lived as an alien.” That’s not a good lifestyle, “In a foreign land, dwelling in tents,” not beautiful homes, “With Isaac and Jacob.” Why did he do that? “For he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” He said, ‘It is a catalyzing motivation for me to make life choices that line up with God’s will .
Later on, just a couple of verses down, speaking of others who it says, died without receiving the promises, but welcomed them from a distance. It says they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland, for He has prepared a heavenly city for them.
The hope of an eternal home is a catalyzing motivation regarding the life choices that we choose to make. How are you going to spend your life, how are you going to spend your money, how are you going to spend your time? The hope of an eternal home, get this, is also an energizing encouragement when life gets tough. When you have to face pain, the hope of an eternal home is an energizing encouragement.
I can remember being in pain for quite a while. I know some of you have experienced being in pain for weeks. Some of you have experienced being in pain for months. Some of you have experienced being in pain for years and some of you have experienced pain for decades. But, the hope of an eternal home is an energizing encouragement when life gets tough, when there is pain, when there is difficulty, and as Mark prayed about in our prayer time, when there is the prospect of death, either your own or of someone you love. The hope of an eternal home is an energizing encouragement.
I am not as young as I used to be. Some of you are nodding, yes. I saw some of those pictures at the 50th anniversary and you can see that I’ve changed a little bit over the years. I’ve been here 39 years. I am getting older and when you get older, you know, it has an effect. You lose some of your energy, you lose some of your ability to remember things. You don’t have the same ability to do the things you did when you were younger.
I have this little sign on my credenza in my office. I want you to see what it says. It says this, ‘Aging is one of the ways God keeps us focused homeward.’ Because, it is easy, as you begin to age, some of you are a little bit older, you understand, you want to whine. Whine, whine, whine. I can remember some people who are really master whiners about aging. But there is another way to look at it. It becomes one of the ways that God keeps us focused homeward and our eternal home.
Jesus said, “I am the way.” Secondly, He says, “I am, (Ego Eimi) the truth.” I don’t know if you knew it or not but the gospel of John, of the four gospels, is the gospel of truth. I counted it up and when you take all four gospels together, the word, “truth” occurs thirty-two times. Twenty-eight of those times are in the gospel of John. And twenty-two of those times are the word “truth” being used by Jesus.
He is first described in John 1:14 as being full of truth.
In John 8, verse 32, Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
In John 8, verse 40, He said, “I have told you the truth.”
In verse 45 of the same chapter, “I speak the truth.”
In John 16:7, “I tell you the truth.”
Verse 17 of chapter 17, “God’s word is truth.”
In chapter 18, verse 37, “I testify to the truth.”
And, here in verse 6 of chapter 14, He says, “I am the truth.”
Men and women, truth is ultimately not a principle, it is not a concept, it is a person. A person.
The third thing that Jesus says, “Ego Eimi, I am the life.” You might look at 1 John, chapter 5, verses 11 and 12, where John, who hung out with Jesus, writes, “The testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” What life is he talking about? Just physical life? No. This life that he is talking about is the life—listen—of the living God inside of us. We are going to look at that more next time when Jesus says, “I am the true vine.”
“I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.” Then, Jesus ends with this startling exclusivistic statement that He makes, “No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” Stop right there; freeze frame. Those whose hold to universalism, those who hold to pluralism, those who hold to relativism: tense up, they recoil at such a statement. They might say, ‘If it just would read, I am a way, I am a truth, I am a life, you can come to the Father through Me, but there are also other ways that you can get there, they would all applaud. Isn’t Jesus a wonderful guy? But that is not what Jesus says.
I don’t know if you are fully aware of it or not, but our culture has long ago relegated exclusivism to a back room like a grumpy old uncle at Christmas dinner. When we hold to exclusivism, others have this tendency for them to want to relegate us to some back room somewhere.
Now I go through all of this, you think, ‘Bruce why are you going through this?’ I want us all to be alert. I want us all to be aware; this is the cultural atmosphere in which we live. When Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father, except through Me,” they object. That is too brazen; my goodness, isn’t that arrogant? But it is only so if it’s not true. If it is true there is nothing arrogant or brazen about it.
This idea of the exclusiveness of things is hinted at in the Old Testament. You remember the Tabernacle in the Old Testament? You notice there is one entrance to the Tabernacle. Then, you have the Temple with the Holy of Holies and there is one entrance into the Holy of Holies.
In Acts, chapter 4, verse 12, Peter writes this, he says, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name (speaking of Jesus) under heaven, given to men by which we must be saved.” Why does he say that? I mean, there are so many religious figures and religious spiritual authorities that existed in their day, all the centuries since, and even in our day. Why would he say that?
Well, Paul tells us in 1 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 5 and 6, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Why does he say that…one mediator? He answers the question in the rest of the verse: “Who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” You see, it is only Jesus who drank the cup of God’s wrath against sin. It is only Jesus who paid for the sins of the whole world. Not Buddha, not Mohammed, not Confucius.
The evidence backs up Jesus’ claims. You have the Old Testament prophecies that were given centuries and centuries before He ever came to this planet. Someone has calculated there is a one in one-hundred-million-billion—that is a big number, seventeen zeroes—one in one hundred-million-billion chance that Jesus would fulfill eight of them and He fulfilled hundreds of them. You look at His miracles that He performed, including raising people from the dead who were already stinking. You look at His own resurrection, more than five hundred witnesses to it. The evidence backs up His claims.
I want to just summarize. We’ve been covering a lot of information. I’m going to pull it together and just summarize what we’ve been looking at this morning. The Bible’s verdict is clear: we are spiritually lost and Jesus is the way to the Father’s house. We are spiritually blind and Jesus is the truth. We are spiritually dead, as it says in Ephesians 2:1, and Jesus is the life. Salvation is not found by turning to religion but turning from religion to Christ. Salvation is not based on what we do for God, but what God and the person of Christ has done for us.
Let me say that again. We are spiritually lost; Jesus is the way to the Father’s house. We are spiritually blind; Jesus is the truth. We are spiritually dead; Jesus is the life. Salvation is not turning to religion, but turning from religion to Christ. It is not based on what we do for God, but what God and the person of Christ has done for us.
You just take a deep breath and you go, Wow! Wow! We’ve got to get this message out to people. In the Old Testament Psalms, there is a word called ‘Selah,’ (S-e-l-a-h) and many people believe it is put in there as they were singing these songs as a pause, to pause and let some of the truth of the song sink in. It’s a lot to ponder what we’ve covered. I’ve had to do it pretty quickly, but I think that is what we need to do, just take a little breath and go, Wow!
I want to close with the words of Melvin Graham. You know Melvin Graham, right? You know good old Melvin! Melvin Graham? No, you don’t. Billy Graham’s younger brother. This is what he said, I love this:
“I’m just a nobody, telling everybody, that there is somebody that can save anybody”
That is what I’m saying today. I’m just a nobody, telling everybody, that there is a somebody, that can save anybody, and His name is Jesus—who is the way, and the truth, and the life; and no one comes to the Father except through Him.
Let’s pray together. Father, this is great truth. We need to be reminded of this. The people that we live with, work with, go to school with, need to hear these truths. We know that there is salvation in no one else. There is only one mediator between God and man; and that is the person of Christ, because He is the one who drank the cup of wrath that God has against sin. For any who have never embraced Jesus as the rescuer that He is, we pray that they would do so. He is calling them and our prayer is that they would respond in faith and truth. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
I am the way, the truth, and the life
1. Have you ever experienced a GPS misleading you? Expand.
2. Give a short summary of each of these three common religious perspectives
3. What do you think has fueled the recent rise in our culture of pluralistic thought?
In what arenas of your life does pluralism most commonly surface?
4. Tolerance is fast becoming a widely accepted cultural value. In a practical way, what does tolerance mean to most people today?
5. When was the last time you talked to someone who believed there is more than one way to heaven? How did your conversation go? How could you have responded even more effectively?
6. What key Scripture passages might you point to that underscore that Jesus is the only way of salvation?
7. Why is it important to have crystal clear clarity that the only true path of salvation is Jesus Christ alone?
8. Marvin Graham said, “I’m just a nobody, telling everybody, that there is a somebody that can save anybody.” Pray that God would open a door for you to speak to someone else about Jesus this week.