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The Way, The Truth And The Life

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14:4-6 "And you know the way to where I go." Thomas said to him: "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way?" Jesus said to him: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Again and again Jesus had told his disciples where he was going, but somehow they had never understood. "Yet a little while I am with you," he said, "and then I go to him that sent me" ( John 7:33 ). He had told them that he was going to the Father who had sent him, and with whom he was one, but they still did not understand what was going on. Even less did they understand the way by which Jesus was going, for that way was the Cross. At this moment the disciples were bewildered men. There was one among them who could never say that he understood what he did not understand, and that was Thomas. He was far too honest and far too much in earnest to be satisfied with any vague pious expressions. Thomas had to be sure. So he expressed his doubts and his failure to understand, and the wonderful thing is that it was the question of a doubting man which provoked one of the greatest things Jesus ever said. No one need be ashamed of his doubts; for it is amazingly and blessedly true that he who seeks will in the end find.

Jesus said to Thomas: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." That is a great saying to us, but it would be still greater to a Jew who heard it for the first time. In it Jesus took three of the great basic conceptions of Jewish religion, and made the tremendous claim that in him all three found their full realization.

The Jews talked much about the way in which men must walk and the ways of God. God said to Moses: "You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you" ( Deuteronomy 5:32-33 ). Moses said to the people: "I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you" ( Deuteronomy 31:29 ). Isaiah had said: "Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, This is the way, walk in it" ( Isaiah 30:21 ). In the brave new world there would be a highway called the Way of Holiness, and in it the wayfaring man, even though a simple soul, would not go lost ( Isaiah 35:8 ). It was the Psalmist's prayer: "Teach me thy way, O Lord" ( Psalms 27:11 ). The Jews knew much about the way of God in which a man must walk. And Jesus said: "I am the Way."

What did he mean? Suppose we are in a strange town and ask for directions. Suppose the person asked says: "Take the first to the right, and the second to the left. Cross the square, go past the church, take the third on the right and the road you want is the fourth on the left." The chances are that we will be lost before we get half-way. But suppose the person we ask says: "Come. I'll take you there." In that case the person to us is the way, and we cannot miss it. That is what Jesus does for us. He does not only give advice and directions. He takes us by the hand and leads us; he strengthens us and guides us personally every day. He does not tell us about the way; he is the Way.

Jesus said: "I am the Truth." The Psalmist said: "Teach me Thy way, O Lord, that I may walk in thy truth" ( Psalms 86:11 ). "For thy steadfast love is before my eyes," he said, "and I walk in faithfulness to thee" ( Psalms 26:3 ). "I have chosen the way of truth," he said ( Psalms 119:30 ). Many men have told us the truth, but no man ever embodied it. There is one all-important thing about moral truth. A man's character does not really affect his teaching of geometry or astronomy or Latin verbs. But if a man proposes to teach moral truth, his character makes all the difference in the world. An adulterer who teaches the necessity of purity, a grasping person who teaches the value of generosity, a domineering person who teaches the beauty of humility, an irascible creature who teaches the beauty of serenity, an embittered person who teaches the beauty of love, is bound to be ineffective. Moral truth cannot be conveyed solely in words; it must be conveyed in example. And that is precisely where the greatest human teacher must fall down. No teacher has ever embodied the truth he taught--except Jesus. Many a man could say: "I have taught you the truth." Only Jesus could say: "I am the Truth." The tremendous thing about Jesus is not simply that the statement of moral perfection finds its peak in him; it is that the fact of moral perfection finds its realization in him.

Jesus said: "I am the Life." The writer of the Proverbs said: "The commandment is a lamp, and the teaching a light; and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life" ( Proverbs 6:23 ). "He who heeds instructions is on the path to life" ( Proverbs 10:17 ). "Thou dost show me the path of life," said the Psalmist ( Psalms 16:11 ). In the last analysis what man is always seeking for is life. His search is not for knowledge for its own sake: but what will make life worth living. A novelist makes one of his characters who has fallen in love say: "I never knew what life was until I saw it in your eyes." Love had brought life. That is what Jesus does. Life with Jesus is life indeed.

And there is one way of putting all this. "No one," said Jesus, "comes to the Father except through me." He alone is the way to God. In him alone we see what God is like; and he alone can lead men into God's presence without fear and without shame.

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