Summary: When Jesus presents Himself as "The Way," what are the implications for us as Christians and as needy people?
“Thomas said to [Jesus], ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way… No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
In the course of many years of ministering in Canada, I have witnessed many people who were offended at the preaching they heard. In almost every instance, when I have been able to discover what was particularly offensive, I learned that the offended person found the message inflexible. Perhaps it was people who enjoyed the preaching itself, but they were “turned off” by the repeated demand that they yield their lives to the Christ. At other times, it was church members who were outraged because their friends could not be members of the assembly without receiving believer’s baptism as taught in the Word of God. At yet other times, outsiders were deeply offended because there was no “wiggle room” for their cherished sins.
Many aspects of the Christian Faith are offensive—deeply offensive. The primary offence appears to be the exclusive claims of the Founder of the Faith. In this day far removed from the days of His flesh, we discover that the exclusive claims of the Son of God are still offensive. Muslims would make Him a prophet, even a lesser prophet than Mohammed. Hindus would be content to acknowledge Him as a demigod—part of the multiplied thousands of gods they fear. Buddhists are perfectly willing to say that He is a great teacher—an enlightened one. Secularists wish to ignore Him as irrelevant except when they need a personal boon.
However, His testimony that He is “the Way,” stands athwart every effort of fallen man to relegate Him to the sidelines, or to somehow diminish His authority. For the Master lays a narrow claim that He is “the way,” and that “No one comes to the Father except through [Him].”
THE DISCIPLES’ DOUBTS — “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his question! We don’t have an audio tape to determine if he asked in a sceptical voice, or if he was being negative, or if he sincerely doubted. I have always seen Thomas as a realist; and I believe he was a very brave man. You will recall on one occasion, when Jesus and the disciples were informed that Lazarus was ill, Jesus delayed doing anything. The disciples concluded that it was because the Jewish leaders were planning to kill him. After two days, Jesus suddenly announced that it was time to go to Bethany where Lazarus had lived. The disciples remonstrated with Him, reminding Him that His life was in danger [JOHN 11:1-10]. When it became obvious that He intended to return to the village, Thomas responded, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” [JOHN 11:16]. I see resignation in his words, to be certain, but I also see a courageous individual who, though knowing the risks nevertheless is willing to stand with the Master in the face of certain danger.
The fact that Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his question leads me to suggest that when Thomas questioned the Master in our text, he was voicing what the other disciples harboured in their hearts as well. Thomas appears to have had a quick mind; he was able to quickly assimilate multiple threads and assess the implication of what was taking place. He was able to assess and analyse, and in this instance, he quickly raised the issue of where Jesus was going.
Thomas heard the words that the Master spoke—words that you and I likely take for granted because we have heard them so often. However, put yourself in the situation in which the disciples found themselves. For three and one-half years the Master had spoken of his impending death. As the day of His passion drew near, the words that had precipitated Thomas’ question were delivered. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” [JOHN 14:1-4].
This testimony was elicited by a question Peter had asked followed by Jesus’ response. Jesus had warned the disciples that one of them would betray Him; after which, He gave the New Commandment that His disciples were to love one another. He had stated that the world would recognise that those who followed Him were His disciples because of their love for one another.