Tag Archives: John 14

The Way, and the Truth, and the Life

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can 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. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  (John 14: 5-7)

Thomas always seems to ask Jesus tough questions. And Jesus’ answer to this question has probably raised more questions for many Christians than anything else Jesus ever says. Some people see this as a direct command to evangelism, a call to convert others to the Christian faith. In its wake, many followers of Christ have done much wonderful and powerful good in the world. Unfortunately, this verse has also been used as a reason to oppress others in the name of God, and history is full of examples of those who have gone on crusades, using both peaceful and forceful means to convert others to Christianity.

Is it possible that Jesus was saying to Thomas that no one comes to God without first struggling to figure out who God is? We have such difficulty with the concept of the Trinity. How can God be three people? How can God be Jesus’ father? How can God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all be one? How can Jesus be fully human and fully divine?  Can someone who thinks Jesus was just a man still believe in God? Unless we mindlessly accept what we read in the Bible, all of us struggle to try to figure out all the contradictions we read there. Perhaps, though, the struggle is the way to—and through—God. Perhaps any sort of conversion is positive only when others have the desire to convert because they have seen the face of God in us, just as many see the face of God in Jesus.

Wondering:  What does Jesus mean when he says, “No one comes to the Father except through me”? How can we find our way to God by wandering after Jesus?

My Peace I Give to You

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14: 18-19, 27)

Jesus promises his followers eternal life, and all of us have an instinct that tells us that there is something that is eternal—a soul, an essence of some sort that cannot be explained. Great writers have written about it. The stage manager in Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, says it well:  “We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars…everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it.” This is the something that Jesus talks about in these verses. Jesus never truly leaves us, and we can see him and see the eternal in each other by remembering that the inexplicable spirit that lives in Christ lives in us as well. This faith can be a source of peace and comfort to us if we try not to lose hold of it.

Wondering:  How can we hold on to the assurance that in life and in death, we belong to God, and how can we hold on to a peace that passes understanding?

Are You Kidding Me, God?

Family Bible

Mom’s Family Bible

There it is.  Right in the same chapter with the verse that Christians have quoted for 2000 years to say that Christianity is the only way to God.  And yet I’ve never heard a sermon that focuses on this verse, one of the most intriguing things that Christ ever said.  And it is, perhaps, the single biggest reason I don’t believe the Bible can be interpreted literally.

Thomas, always the one to question, has just asked Christ to explain what he means when he says that there are many dwelling places in God’s house, and Christ has responded that he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” and that Thomas shouldn’t worry about having a place with God.

Philip follows up by expressing his confusion and pleading with Jesus just to be plain—just to show them God’s face.

Jesus’ response astonishes me anew every time I read it:

“Believe in me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe in me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14: 11-12, NRV)

Now I don’t know about any other mere human out there, but in all the years I’ve lived on this earth, I have never met a single person, Christian or otherwise, who believes he or she can do greater things than John describes in the thirteen chapters leading up to this scene.  Jesus turns water to wine at the wedding in Cana.  He accepts water from a Samaritan woman he has never met and tells her everything she has ever done.  He heals the son of a royal official without even being in the room where the sick boy lies.  He heals a paralytic—despite the fact that it is forbidden on the Sabbath—and gives a perfectly logical explanation of his actions to religious leaders.  He feeds 5000 people with five loaves and two fish.  He walks on water to stand beside the disciples who are terrified by the storm…and more than a little scared of what they’ve just seen Jesus do.  He saves the life of a woman who is about to be stoned for committing adultery, gives sight to a blind man, raises Lazarus from the dead.  And even people who see these miracles with their own eyes walk away in disbelief.  Not even his own brothers can believe him.

So are you kidding me, Jesus?  I believe in you—and I believe the world could be a better place if all of us had your compassion, your wisdom, your love.  I believe in the God who sent you.

But if I’m supposed to read the Bible literally, as so many of my fellow Christians do, then I can’t quite find it in me to believe that I could do a single one of the things you did in the books leading up to this moment when you tell me that I can do greater things than you did.

But if I’m to read the Bible literally, then I have to believe that I, too, could raise someone from the dead.  And in the wake of losing one of my dearest friends on this earth, there’s nothing I’d like to believe more at this moment.

I don’t think even the most conservative Christians in the universe would say that they believe they can perform a single one of these acts that John describes to us and leaves us to untangle 2000 years later.  In fact, if someone uttered such a belief, those same literal readers would probably label her a heretic.

So I will read these stories of God for the people of God as best I can in my limited human understanding.  I will have faith that my dear friend is dancing with the Spirit of the universe and just beginning to understand what I cannot about the great I Am.  I will do what I can to follow the example Christ set for me—to be compassionate, to seek wisdom, to love God with all my heart and mind and soul and strength.

And I will remember, as a woman of great faith once told me, that I have something to learn from everyone I meet in this life—from people who share my faith and people who do not.  Because the one thing I believe most of all is that if people of every faith and no faith worked together to be a Presence in the world, then we truly could do greater things.  We might all have life…and have it more abundantly.