Summary: In our age of religious tolerance Jesus’ supposed intolerant message is still the truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to the Father.
During this season before Easter, which we call Lent, we have been looking at who the real Jesus is. Not who other people THINK Jesus is, but what Jesus actually said about himself according to an eye witness, his disciple John. Specifically, these are Jesus’ seven “I am” statements. Through each “I Am” statement Jesus revealed a little more about who he really was, what his purpose was on earth, and how we are supposed to respond to him.
I am the Way
Of all the “I am” statements Jesus made, this mornings statement is probably the most controversial in our society today. Jesus claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” The reason this statement is so controversial is because there is very little wiggle room, it is very exclusive. According to Jesus he is the only way to the Father.
In our society there is an increasing opposition (even among Christians) to what appears to them to be intolerant and exclusive claims. It has provoked people to respond, “Christians are arrogant to think Jesus is the only way, that somehow they have a corner of the market on God.” Perhaps you you’ve heard, “Don’t all religions basically teach the same thing anyway if you boil them all down?” Be good, love others, live peacefully, and resist evil. It shouldn’t matter if you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever because if you pulled out all of the basic teachings of these religions you would end up with the same basic ingredients. It’s like a lot of Italian dishes, they are all prepared differently, lasagna, spaghetti, ravioli, manicotti, pizza; but are basically composed of the same ingredients. Therefore “aren’t these religions just taking different roads going up the same mountain to God, so that the important thing is to be faithful in your practice?”
I was reading an article called “Faith for the Future” written by a United Methodist pastor in a magazine called the Futurist (Sept./Oct. 2005). The essential point of his article was that if Christianity was going to survive in the future it must evolve to remove these exclusive claims which divide people. Instead we must create a faith which is more inclusive of other views and particularly embraces science. Otherwise Christianity will become an extinct dinosaur totally out of touch with today’s culture.
Needless to say I was shocked and very upset that one of my fellow colleagues in ministry who has read the scriptures was so willing to quickly abandon any exclusive claims about our faith because the church would not supposedly survive in our ever changing society. The problem with this perspective is that it completely ignores Jesus’ teachings, Paul’s teachings, and basically the whole NT.
Jesus didn’t just teach people how to live good moral lives. Jesus came to teach us how we could be in a relationship with God, his Father, just as he was in relationship with the Father, and how God would work in our lives, giving us the power to change our lives. This relationship cannot be restored by following a particular teaching, this relationship can only be restored in one way, through another person, through Jesus, God’s Son. The way to God is not accomplished through Jesus’ teachings or anyone else’s teachings whether it is Mohammed or Buddha or David Corresh. It is not by obeying certain commands, praying five times a day facing a certain direction, or reciting some mantra.
Jesus was not just another road sign among many pointing us in the right direction to God, he isn’t just a compass or GPS to direct our path, Jesus is the path connecting us to God. Jesus said he would go to prepare a place for us in his Father’s house so that we might be with the Father, and one day he will return to bring us to be with God. We do not find the way to the Father, to heaven, by just following particular teachings, but by following a person, Jesus, by trusting in faith that he is in God the Father, and the Father is in him, and that Jesus died and resurrected for us, so that he might come live in us, and we in him.
Imagine being in a building which was on fire, and there was smoke all around and a fireman comes in and yells, “the building is on fire, all of the exits are blocked by the flames, you need to follow me, I know the way the out,” and some of the people in the room respond, “How do I know the building is really on fire? Perhaps you have created all of this smoke just to get us to abandon our comfortable place to follow you.” While the rest say, “I believe there is a fire but I think I would rather take my own way out of the building,” not trusting the word of warning from the fireman that all of the exits have been blocked by destruction caused by the fire.