5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Perhaps John 14 has grown affectionately recently, but the profundity of Jesus’ claim motivates one to contemplate and write. Thomas, often known as “Doubting Thomas”, is someone I can relate to well. He’s the one who says, “Wait a minute, let me get this straight!” People have often put him down for not having enough faith, and maybe he sometimes wasn’t paying attention, but I think Thomas was a bit of a rational thinker. The incident for which he is most remembered is in John 20 when he missed Jesus’ appearance after His resurrection when he says, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25). He didn’t necessarily doubt that Jesus was risen, but that they truly saw Him. Thomas struggled with the same thing I myself do–he always wanted to know for sure because he needed certainty. That’s why his faith was lacking, as does perhaps my own–he needed to know.
Yet Jesus said, “I am the way”, thus answering Thomas’ question. In this statement Jesus equated Himself with the Father, who with Moses in Exodus 3 says, “I AM who I AM”. Essentially, Jesus is saying, “I am the way to life”. He changes our expectations on how the question should be answered. Rather than providing a philosophical path or religious set of laws, Jesus provides Himself. The tendency often is to hurry with the statement “I am the way, truth, and life”, so we can prove the point to be His next statement, the follow-up, “no one comes to the Father but through Me.” This tends to be the understood purpose for Christ’s descriptors of way, truth, and life; however, I find these qualities to themselves be provocative. In a sense, Jesus breaks our perceptions on the meanings of all three. He redefines each concept and says, “These are all rooted in a person, and I am He!” How will we know the way? We have really tried to answer that on our own. Throughout all its existence, humanity has made vast attempts at proposing paths and ways, sciences and philosophies.
The perfect example is Siddhartha Gautama. He was a unique individual for his time in his locale. He saw problems with the spirituality he was raised on, observed a struggle with the human experience in its suffering, and sought to find a “Middle Path” that we all ought to follow. Also known as the Buddha, he based his path, or way, on the premise that the problem with life is our attachment to the world—in this he makes some excellent valid points. However, Buddha’s “Middle Path” is itself an extreme way of moderation; for release from this life lies ultimately in a final detachment from it. In essence, Buddha’s “Middle Path” wasn’t meant to be “the way”, as Jesus proclaimed Himself to be, but rather a way out–escaping this life of suffering into eternal bliss of nothingness.
In contrast, Jesus presents salvation, not from life, but from death. The cross was not just an escape plan from sin’s punishment, but was itself an invitation for all people to participate in a life of the cross—Kingdom living, the true way. Jesus as Himself the Way does not just give us salvation at the end of our lives. He also leads the way to living a life as an alternative to the world’s broken way and broken system, but not just as merely an alternative to a crooked path–Jesus presents Himself as being the very way to doing humanity. His invitation for us to take up our crosses is so that we, with His presence and power, will die to the selfish ways of our own self-absorption and to live His way of humanity. He set the example for us to live and He paved the way, but He also gives us His presence because we can’t walk it on our own.