Friday, December 6, 2013

Jesus: The Way, The Truth, and The Life

I went through what might be called a crisis of faith as I was finishing high school and entering college.  Between my junior and senior year of high school, I went to a six week residential program for "gifted kids." It was called Governor's school, but perhaps it should have been called "liberal indoctrination school."  While there, I wanted badly to fall for the idea that there are many ways to heaven.  Wouldn't a loving God allow people of many faiths who were sincere in their beliefs come to him?  Did it have to be through Jesus? Thankfully, I still had a profound respect for the Bible, and one verse kept tripping me up.  

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

I believed the Bible to be true, and this verse made it clear that there is only one way to heaven.   I didn't like it.  The problem was that I was focusing all my attention on the exclusive part of the verse: no one comes. The very center of this verse, and of everything I believe, is not no one, but Jesus.  As the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He did too much for us to even seek salvation by any other means.

Truth is an idea that John explores often, both in the gospels and in his letters.  We are familiar with Jesus being the Word of God in John 1, but he also identifies Jesus with truth.  

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth... For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14,17)

Jesus told us he is the truth, and that idea is inextricably tied with his incarnation.  God didn't sit in his heaven and tell us the truth.  He came down to us to be the truth for us. Sometimes I think we lose focus on what it cost Jesus to come here.  Two words that Paul used to describe what Jesus became for us are "poor" and "empty" (2 Corinthians 8:9, Philippians 2:7).  When I was a kid, I used to liken it to what it would be like if I became on earthworm.  That analogy breaks down on many levels, but it's the closest I can come to understanding just what Jesus did in becoming truth for us.  

When Jesus came to earth, he knew there was only one end to his life in the flesh.  I find it ironic that Jesus declares himself to be "the Life" just hours before his own unspeakable death.  The contrast is horrifying.  I find it difficult to think on the crucifixion for any length of time without welling up in tears. I won't dwell on the full horrors in this post, but here is a site with a full medical description of the agonies that Jesus suffered so soon after calling himself "the life." 

How could Jesus so calmly give himself this title, knowing the death he would soon suffer?  Because he knew that his death was the only way that we could have life (Hebrews 9).  I challenge anyone who believes we can go to heaven without the blood of Jesus to answer one question: Why would Jesus have suffered in such a way if it were unnecessary?  

If Jesus had simply died, the story would have been over.  As Paul said, if Christ had not been raised, our faith would be worthless and we would deserve nothing but pity (1 Corinthians 16-19).  Thankfully, we have a resurrection story to add to the incarnation and crucifixion. "The Way" is a road we follow, and Jesus paved the way for eternal life when he himself was raised from the dead.   In the religious world, Jesus is the only deity not only to be resurrected, but to give us a means to do the same.  If I want eternal life, I need to live out his death, burial and resurrection in baptism so that I can be raised again on the last day.  

The enormity of what Jesus undertook to bring me to the Father is beyond my comprehension.  I understand just enough to know that I don't need to look anywhere else, and that I need to tell those sincere people of other faiths that there is one way. And it isn't exclusive at all.  Jesus died one death for us all, and he welcomes each and every person on earth to follow him.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 

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