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What does it mean that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6)?

Have you ever thought that if you could have a face-to-face conversation with Jesus, you could gain a much better understanding of who He is and what He wants? We might assume that one good conversation would clear up a lot of our questions. But then we look at His often-fumbling disciples and realize that three years of walking beside Jesus, doing ministry with Him, witnessing miracles, and hearing His sermons with their own ears really did not help them to get it any better than the rest of us. Much of what Jesus said to them just did not jive with what they thought the promised Messiah would look like, how He would act, and what He would do to save the world from sin. Take the "I am the way, the truth and the life" statement (John 14:6). These words bewildered the disciples and causes confusion among Christians today.

To understand it, let's consider the context. Jesus is speaking to the disciples at what would later be known as the Last Supper—the night before Jesus was crucified. All the teaching, training, and miracle-working of the past three years had led to this moment. Yet they still weren't quite getting it. Jesus knew He had to give them the puzzle pieces NOW, so they could put it all together later. This teaching about the atonement of sin through Jesus' death was very confusing to the disciples who didn't have the clarity of context (like we do now).

Jesus told the disciples that He would only be with them for a short while, that He would die as a sacrifice, that He would go to a place (Heaven) where they could not follow (John 14:1-4). Confused, they asked Jesus questions you and I might have asked too, "Hey, Jesus, if we don't know where you're going, how can we follow you to this place?" (John 14:5). It was in answer to this question that Jesus uttered the famous "I am" statement. Let's break down this short, but extremely important statement.

I Am

In Greek, Yahweh translates to "I Am." It's an intense way for Jesus to refer to Himself and means "I am, I always was, and I always will be." When Jesus refers to Himself as I AM, He proclaims He is God. Later that evening, when the soldiers came seeking Jesus in the garden to arrest Him, He told them, "I AM He." His words were so powerful that the soldiers fell to the ground (John 18:4-6). "I AM" is the name of God, of power and authority, and Jesus claimed it as His own.

The Way

Jesus' words often spark controversy—both then and now. Notice He doesn't say "A" way. He says "THE" way—as in the ONLY way. Sin is a barrier that keeps us from God, and He hates that (Isaiah 59:2; Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 5:25). God knew that the only way to permanently destroy that barrier was through the sacrifice of His own perfect Son. Nothing else would cut it. Working to be a good person is an honorable pursuit, but it does not destroy the sin barrier. God knew there was only one Way, and He provided it (John 3:16). Jesus is the way—the only way—to secure that eternity.

The Truth

Again, Jesus emphasizes Himself as THE (the one and only) truth. As "the truth," Jesus is the manifestation of all God's promises. Not only does Jesus speak the truth, He embodies the truth, and He is the source of all truth. We can trust Jesus. We're safe when we follow Jesus. Jesus will never lead us astray, because He wants what God wants—to present a clear, surefire way for us to have an eternal relationship without the sin barrier blocking us.

The Life

As THE life (see a pattern emerging?), Jesus joins His divine life to ours. Jesus is God's Son, and God says we become His children when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Jesus is totally committed to the plan for our salvation; He willingly gave His life in exchange for ours. He accepted the penalty of death we deserve for sin so that we can reap the benefits of life eternal with God the Father.

This short verse is no small statement.

In a just a few words, Jesus makes it clear that He is God, He is Truth, and He is the Way we can secure our eternal salvation through His life, death, and resurrection. Some have scoffed at the "exclusiveness" of such a statement. God, through Jesus, did not desire a club that only an elite few could access—not at all! Instead, God is making the message of how to have an eternal relationship with Him as simple and clear as possible.

We can be very grateful for a God who does not leave us with confusing instructions, multiple paths that may or may not lead to Him, or finicky criteria for when the plan works and when it doesn't. That would be horrible! Instead, God makes it abundantly clear, "Hey, I love you. I want you. There's this barrier between us, but I'm willing to break that barrier for you through the blood of my Son. Cool?"

How do we follow Jesus today?

If we want to follow Jesus' way, we can do it the same way the disciples did long ago. They heard the words of Jesus, believed them, and obeyed them. They confessed their sins to Jesus as their Lord and God. They acknowledged that He died to take the punishment for their sins and that He rose from the dead to give them new life. They followed His example and command to tell others the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment. When we follow Jesus' way, we can be assured of following Him all the way to Heaven.

If you have done that, great! You are a son or daughter of God! If you have not, maybe you're reading this article because you want to know or understand more about God, Jesus, or salvation. Take a moment to pray and ask God to show you His way, His truth, and His life. Then, take another moment to ask God to extend this gift of salvation to you, and He will do it. He's been hoping you would ask!

TL;DR

God desires to have an eternal relationship with each of us, but our sin is a barrier to that relationship. In the Bible, Jesus makes it very clear that He is the solution to the sin problem. In John 14:6, Jesus teaches that He is God (I AM), He is the only way to have a relationship with God, He is the truth we can always trust, and He is the life that is promised to all who believe and call on Him for salvation. You can have assurance today that you are a son or daughter of God though the death and resurrection of Jesus.

By: Rhonda Maydwell

Rhonda is an author, wife, mother, and mentor. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in English and Religious studies. She loves studying God’s Word for truth and wisdom and uses it as a compass and roadmap for her own spiritual journey. Rhonda believes in sharing the Good News and the hope found in Biblical truths with others. She uses her writing and mentoring opportunities (often with a pinch of humor) to do just that.

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