This post by christinecoltman was originally published at GRACE PLACE
John 14: 1-14: I am the way, the truth and the life
As I was reading and preparing this talk, I was reminded of Eddie’s saying that, whenever we attempt to teach or preach we should simply ‘give God the microphone.’ In other words, don’t try to say what isn’t in the text; let God’s words speak for themselves.
Our purpose in all of these studies is to get to know Jesus better, to see Him for who He is, and to understand Him better.
Our theme this evening is that ‘Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.’ A natural 3 point sermon!
Read the passage.
What is the context of our passage?
Jesus knows that He doesn’t have long left with His disciples, so He spends this precious time teaching them, encouraging them and preparing them for what is to come in the future.
We’re in the last few hours of Jesus’ earthly life. He’s having a final meal with his closest friends, although they didn’t know it was the final meal, which explains some of their behaviour in the upper room – arguing between themselves about who is the greatest, which we read of in Luke 22.
From the disciples’ point of view, the events of the last few days have been mind-blowing:
– Jesus coming into Jerusalem and being received like a pop star (John 12: 12-13).
– God the Father speaking from heaven in an audible voice that everyone heard (John 12: 28-29).
– And Jesus has been saying some very worrying things about dying.
And here they all are now, in an upstairs dining room that some random man who they’d bumped into in the city had already got ready for them, and the weirdness continues:
– Jesus, their rabbi and leader, has just done the job of the lowest servant and actually washed their feet.
– He’s also said that one of them will betray Him, and Judas has mysteriously disappeared.
– Jesus has again been talking about death – His broken body and His blood being poured out.
– And now Peter, one of his most loyal friends, has been told that he’s going to deny that very night he ever knew Jesus!
What on earth could Jesus be planning to say next; was He going to single another one of them out for some awful revelation?
The disciples are confused, worried and afraid.
Afraid because Jesus is a wanted man. More than once the leaders and the people have tried to kill Him. Which meant that they were targets too.
Let’s start at verse 1 and see what Jesus said:
V1. Do not let your hearts be troubled.
David Pawson, in a sermon on this passage, says that John 14 deals with one of the most common diseases known to man – heart trouble. How quickly the heart reflects the state of the mind and the state of the soul. It’s often caused by dread of the future, an uncertainty and fear of not knowing what is going to happen next. The disciples were afraid, they didn’t know what was going to happen.
The cure for this trouble is given in one word – believe. Verse 1 continues: “You believe in God, believe also in Me.”
Belief, faith, trust is the answer to this kind of heart trouble. Pawson says, worry and trust are incompatible – if you worry you cannot trust, if you trust you cannot worry.
But believe in what? Not just belief in God, many people believe in a god of some kind, even the Living God, but they still suffer this heart trouble. Belief in Jesus is what is needed. Trust Him, accept His word as true. He doesn’t tell us something if it isn’t true, He doesn’t leave us with false hopes, He doesn’t deceive us. Put your trust in someone who always told the truth.
Notice in these first 14 verses some key words: ‘Father’ and ‘I’ or ‘me’.
Whenever Jesus talks about his Father, He mentions Himself too. These words are linked together.
Look at these verses to see where they occur:
1: “You believe in God; believe also in Me.”
6: “No-one comes to the Father except through Me.”
7: “If you really know Me, you will know my Father as well”
10: “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.”
10: “It is the Father, living in Me.”
11: “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.”
12: “I am going to the Father.”
13: “I will do whatever you ask…so that the Father may be glorified.”
Jesus and His Father are so closely linked, they can’t be separated.
Jesus is saying ‘Trust us’. Trust Me, just as you trust God.
Here is Jesus, who was going to die within 24 hours, who also had a troubled heart, comforting his troubled disciples.
Verse 3: I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come back to get you.
Jesus isn’t the kind of person to say a thing if He didn’t mean it. Do we know Jesus well enough to know that for ourselves?
In verse 6 we have this wonderful statement from Jesus, our focus for this evening: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
We know that the words ‘I am’ is the name of God – in Hebrew Yahweh. So this sentence is saying “God the way, God the truth, God the life.”
In your study buddy questions you looked briefly at Thomas and his journey of faith. Look at verse 5: Thomas was concerned with the where, the place called heaven. He was also concerned with the path, how to get there. Essentially he says to Jesus, “Where are you going and how do we get there?”
Thomas basically says ‘Lord, I don’t know how to get to heaven’, but Jesus said ‘Yes, you do. I am the way.’
Jesus is the way – the way to where?
Taking these verses at face value, hopefully it’s easy to understand what Jesus means when He talks about Himself being the way.
In verses 2-3 Jesus has been talking about heaven – His Father’s house. He was about to go there, and He said that He will come back for us. We know the way to that place: Jesus is the way to that place.
The Greek word used in verse 6 for ‘way’ is the common word for road or street. Jesus is saying, I am the road, the route, the path you must take to get to heaven. I am the space between where you are and God. Follow me and you will get to heaven.
The Jews were very familiar with this idea of the way in which you must walk to follow God. In Deut. 5: 32-33 God said to Moses, “Be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you.”
Isaiah 30: 21: “Your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’
But Jesus is not merely a roadmap to heaven, by which if we follow it closely we will arrive at our destination. Jesus is not merely our example of a good life to lead. If we gave someone the Bible and told them to obey its commands and they will go to heaven, we haven’t been entirely honest with them, because something more is needed.
In places the way is hard; there is pain and suffering along this way. There is sadness, rejection, discrimination, mocking, and maybe imprisonment along this way. When the road gets hard we will give up, if we are simply trying to follow the map. Perhaps you’ve been out walking in the mountains of Wales or Scotland, following your map. The day has started well, the walking is easy and the weather fine. But then the mist has come down, it’s started raining and the path is increasingly steep and dangerous. You just want to give up, go home and get warm. Your walk in the mountains is not worth the effort.
Likewise, on our Christian journey, if our hearts are not fully committed, when the road gets hard we will give up and turn around. Head knowledge of the way isn’t enough. What is needed is faith, trust in Jesus, a heart changed by Him and rooted deeply in Him.
We don’t look to Jesus as merely our map and signpost to heaven, but as our Saviour. He is the bridge between mankind and God, the only bridge.
This wouldn’t be a proper talk from me unless there was some grammar point to be made. So I want you to notice the word ‘the’ in our ‘I am’ saying this evening – which in grammar we call the definite article. The original Greek used this definite article.
Jesus didn’t say ‘I am a way, a life, a truth’ – using the indefinite article. He said, the way, the truth, the life.
Acts 4: 12 says, “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Jesus is the way, the only way. No other way has been discovered in the last 2,000 years of receiving forgiveness of sins and a guarantee of heaven. Mankind may have developed, progressed and evolved almost in all kinds of ways, but the way to God hasn’t evolved, it hasn’t changed, it’s the same as it ever was.
“No-one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Without coming to Jesus there is no way of truly knowing God, of approaching Him, of being accepted by Him, or of spending eternity with Him. No way without Jesus.
God is most holy, in Him there is no darkness at all, no shadow, not even a hint of anything less than complete holiness and perfection. The only way in which sinners like you and me can come to Him and be reconciled to Him is through Jesus, by repenting of our sin and believing that Jesus died for us, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).
In a very short while Jesus would be in the garden of Gethsemane, praying these words, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
Jesus was asking if there was another way. But the answer to the question was no, there was no other way.
1. Do you remember the first time you realised that Jesus was the only way to God? Tell your group about it.
2. How would you answer someone who asserted that all roads lead to God, that all religions have equal value?
In preparing this message I was in danger of going down all kinds of rabbit holes in looking at truth and how it is defined these days.
The concept of truth has for thousands of years got people in all kinds of knots. Even Pontius Pilate, when he was questioning Jesus, asked somewhat sarcastically, “What is truth?”
These days, in our post-modern society, some people say that there is no such thing as absolute truth, but that truth is relative to a person’s point of view or situation. French author Gustave Flaubert said, “There is no truth, there is only perception.”
You’ve probably heard the phrase “my truth” or “your truth”. It seems to be a buzz word in the celebrity world.
Here are a couple of quotes:
“Face your fears; live your passions, be dedicated to your truth.” Billie Jean King
“What I know for sure is that you feel real joy in direct proportion to how connected you are to living your truth.” Oprah Winfrey
The danger with this is that it promotes the idea of there being no actual truth, that truth is relative, something personal and subjective, that truth is just my own perception of what is real and right, which might be different to yours.
We see this so much in society today, particularly with regard to ideas and opinions around gender, when a man can say he identifies as a woman, therefore he is a woman, and woe betide you if you dare to disagree.
We are beginning to reap what we sow. I read two reports this week. One in sport, where a transgender ‘woman’ competed against women in a swimming competition and came first, and there has, rightly, been a huge outcry and backlash against it.
Secondly, and more seriously, transgender ‘women’ offenders sent to female prisons where they have raped women inmates.
If you pursue this line of thinking about relative truth, the logical outcome is that there is no right or wrong, only what feels right or wrong at the time. And the result of this is chaos. If it feels right to me to keep on driving rather than wait at a red traffic light, the consequences could be disastrous. If society wants to live its truth, then we have no right to be shocked when people are murdered, children abused, property
stolen, invasions unchallenged, criminals not held accountable. There can be no crime, no police force, no justice system. Mankind can live as it chooses with no requirement for accountability to anyone for its actions.
Is this the kind of world you want to live in? Lord God, rescue us!
But relative truth extends into religion as well. People who don’t believe in absolute truth embrace the idea that all religions are equal and all roads lead to God. But that’s illogical. If your religion isn’t absolutely true, then it’s false and your faith is in vain.
Thank goodness there is such a thing as absolute truth.
Absolute truth is something that is true at all times and in all places. It is something that is true no matter what the circumstances. It is a fact that cannot be changed. To give you a simple example: there are no round squares: this is a fact that cannot be changed.
Human beings have been created with a conscience, that thing inside us that tells us when something is right or wrong, that innate understanding that there is something wrong with evil, pain, and injustice and something right with compassion, love and generosity.
We’ve also been created with a desire for purpose and meaning in life. That’s why we look for it in our relationships, employment, education, and we know what it feels like to be dissatisfied and frustrated when we don’t find it.
Where do these feelings come from? They come from God – these things are evidence of the Creator’s mark upon us. We’ve been designed like this, with a capacity to understand and know right from wrong, purpose from futility, the truth from a lie. The very first people who lived on earth demonstrated this when they hid from God after they’d disobeyed His only command to them – they knew.
Jesus said, “I am the truth.”
There are many people in our lives who could say, “I’ve taught you the truth.” Our parents taught us not to lie, or cheat or steal but they were imperfect teachers who couldn’t live up to their own teaching. Only one person in the whole of history can do that. Only one person can say, “I am the truth.”
Jesus embodies everything that is right, true, genuine, faithful, honest, sincere, just.
God is holy and that means it is impossible for Him to lie. When He speaks, he cannot and does not lie. He never distorts or misrepresents what He says or does. He never deceives. Lying in any shape or form is against His nature.
Therefore, all God’s words are true:
The writer of Psalm 33, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, affirms for us that, “The word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all he does.”
Dr John Gill was a theologian who pastored New Park Street Chapel in south London for 51 years. This church later moved into bigger premises and was renamed The Metropolitan Tabernacle and you may have heard of its most famous minister – CH Spurgeon.
John Gill, in his commentary on John 14: 6 says, “Jesus is the sum and substance of all the truths of the Gospel; they are all full of Him and centre in Him and he is the truth of all the types and shadows, promises and prophecies of the Old Testament; they have all their accomplishment in him.”
The words ‘types’ and ‘shadows’ are theological words which simply mean a kind of illustration or sign of something that is to come later. It’s as if God is so excited by what He has planned that He drops us a hint about it! A type could be a person or thing, or an event.
Let me give you an example: in Numbers 21 we read of the people of Israel being bitten by snakes as a punishment for their unbelief. God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent on a pole that the people who were bitten could look up at and live. Jesus refers to this incident in John 3: 14 when He says, “just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” So the bronze serpent is a type of Christ, pointing to Jesus.
1. We praise God for all the people who have spoken truth into our lives. How much more important it is to listen to Jesus who is the source and foundation of truth. In what ways can you listen to Him and live in His truth?
2. Think about the following types and shadows found in the Old Testament – how do they point to Jesus?
The Passover lamb (Exodus 12: 21-23)
The manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness (see John 6: 30-33).
Jonah (see Matthew 12: 38-41)
Can you think of any other types and shadows?
Jesus is the Life
In this final section I want to concentrate on the last phrase in this ‘I am’ saying.
Life is one of the main focuses of John’s gospel, using this term twice as many times as any other NT book.
Let’s look at a few of those occurrences and build up a picture of what Jesus means when He says that He is the life. Turn with me to John 1: 3-4.
“Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life and that life was the light of men.”
Compare with Col. 1: 15: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth….all things were created by Him and for Him.”
It took me years to realise that Jesus was right there at creation. In the Genesis account we read of God and the Spirit of God. Because Jesus isn’t specifically named in that account, the penny didn’t drop for me for a long time!
But these verses in John and Colossians tell us that Jesus was right there at the beginning of all life, and not as a passive observer. He was fully involved in creation, because John tells us that without Him nothing could have been made. God gave the word and the world came into existence.
John 1: 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
Later in that chapter we read that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word is another name for Jesus – He was with God in the beginning and was God.
Jesus can claim to be the life because He was the agent of all creation, through Him all things were created.
But when Jesus said, “I am the life”, He surely meant more than just physical life. Listen to these verses:
John 3: 36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.”
John 5: 25: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
John 10: 28: “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.”
Life is more than about our physical bodies and the natural world in which we live. We are more than flesh and bones, we are spirit and soul too.
But the tragedy for every human being is that we are all born dead – spiritually dead because of sin. And our sin means that we are separated from God forever. Nothing we can do by ourselves will ever make our spirits alive, we are in a hopeless situation from birth.
But praise God that through Jesus we can be made spiritually alive.
Let me read John 5: 25 again: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
Jesus is referring to the spiritually dead. In our state of spiritual death we are unable to understand the things of God – our minds are dead to spiritual things – but through the work of the Spirit, we begin to hear the voice of God and understand what Jesus did on the cross for us. God enables us to believe it, and when we believe and put our faith in Jesus, we live! Our spirits are made alive!
Eph 2: 4-5 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Jesus is the life – the agent of physical life, the giver of eternal life. But we can go on. Jesus is the source of abundant life!
I talked earlier about our Christian journey sometimes being marked with pain, disappointment and suffering. While that can be true, it isn’t the whole story. The life He wants for us is not a “get-through-it-and-just-survive” quality of life. His desire is for us to experience abundant life. Our Christian journey can be, and should be, marked with joy and blessing too!
In John 10:10 Jesus says that He has come so that we may have life, and have it to the full.
What does that look like, life to the full?
Take 5 minutes in your group to discuss what you think this looks like.
Life to the full – for me, it means that as Christians our lives now have meaning, purpose and joy.
God lavishes His love on us.
He blesses us with every spiritual blessing.
He keeps all His promises to us.
He does immeasurably more for us than we can ask or imagine!
But before we start to have visions of wonderful homes, fancy cars, expensive holidays and a bulging bank account, we should pause and consider the Bible’s teaching on abundant life. God’s priorities for us have nothing to do with wealth, status and power, and everything to do with our relationship with Him.
Abundant life doesn’t refer to our physical and material lives. If it did Jesus would have been the wealthiest of men but we know that wasn’t true. Solomon had all the material blessings that you can possibly imagine and yet he found it all to be meaningless, as we read in Ecclesiastes. Wealth, power and position may be desirable but they can bring their own kind of trouble or worry to a person’s life. God may bless you with material things, good health, long life etc but they aren’t His main concern.
Jesus summed up what life to the full is in His prayer the night before He died. John 17: 3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”
This is the secret to an abundant life: to know God more and more, to keep on growing in knowledge and wisdom and grace and all the fruits of the Spirit. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.”
The more we strive to know God better, the more we will realise how utterly glorious and wonderful He is. As we meditate on Him and grow in our understanding of the hope and the life we have in Jesus, the more we will be blessed and strengthened to live for Him.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Let’s aim to make Him our way, our truth, our life.