By J.R. Miller
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6
Jesus says that He is the WAY to God. It is the figure of a road that is in His mind. He had spoken of going away to prepare a place for His disciples, adding that He would come again to receive them to Himself, that where He is--they may be also. He then said further, "You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas, whose faith was always slow, said, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way." The meaning of His reply, was that it is not necessary to know everything or even anything about the details of the way. If we know Christ, if we are His, if we are following Him--that is enough; we will then find the way. To be with Him is to be in the way--for He Himself is the way.
It is very important that we should know the way to heaven. No one knows where heaven is. There have been guesses and speculations. A certain star is heaven, some have said to us. This great universe, with its millions of worlds and systems of worlds, astronomers tell us, is revolving round one center, one star in a certain constellation. That central star, they suggest, may be the place of the great white throne, the Father's house to which Jesus said He was going, where He told His disciples they also would come--when their work on earth was finished.
But no one knows surely where heaven is--and no one knows the way there. You can find guides to show you the way through the catacombs, or among the Alps, or amid the buildings and ruins of ancient Rome, or across some deep, impenetrable forest. But when you come to die, and your spirit leaves your body, who will show you the way home to the Father's house? And you never can get there alone without guidance. There are no maps or charts of the way.
The question of Thomas seems proper enough: "How can we know the way?" The answer of Jesus is full of comfort: "I am the way." We need not trouble ourselves with speculative geographical or astronomical questions, nor try to find a chart of the road to heaven. If we are Christ's, no matter where we die--we shall find ourselves in the hands of our Savior, and will be in heaven with Him.
There is another need, still more important than finding the way to heaven. We need to find the way to God. We never can get to heaven, unless we have first got to God. Here, too, Jesus is the way. He said, "I am the way," and then He added, "No one comes unto the Father--but by Me." To get to God is life's first and greatest need. Sin is absence from God.
In a certain sense we never can get away from God. "Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence?" Wherever we turn--God is.
But in a moral and spiritual sense, only those who have repented and returned to God, are near Him. In our sinful state we are in the "far country." We must get to God--or we shall perish. The cry of the world in all ages has been, "Show us the Father!" This is the interpretation of all heathen worship. Men everywhere have been groping in the darkness, trying to find God. Now Jesus says, "I am the way to the Father!"
He does not say, "I will show you the way." He does that too. He came to guide us in the way. He passed over this world, from the cradle to the gates of glory, and left His footprints wherever He went. In the early days of our country, when a pioneer went through a forest--he would blaze his path with his ax, and then others coming after him could easily find the way. Jesus, in going through life, marked His way, and all who come after Him may see where He walked and follow Him. He never went on any wrong path. He never was misled. He marked out for us, the way to God.
But that is not what He says here. He says: "I am the way. I Myself am the way." The figure is very suggestive. Often the words of Christ invite us to Him as if we had to go a distance, longer or shorter, to get to Him. He says, "Come unto Me." We see Him yonder, and He is wondrously gracious. But we must go on over the road that intervenes to reach Him. When we get there, we know He will receive us, welcome us, and bless us. But suppose we never get to Him? Suppose we faint and fall by the way? Yet now we learn that Christ is more than the goal, that He does not fix a point at which He will meet us, that there is no long or even short space to cross over to get to His feet. He is the way--as well as the goal. We have not even one step to take before we come to Him.
A beautiful story is told of Louis Agassiz. When he was a boy, his family lived on the edge of a lake in Switzerland. One day the father was on the other side of the lake, and Louis and a younger brother set out on the ice to join him. The mother watched the boys from her window. They got along well until they came to a wide crack in the ice. The taller boy leaped over easily--but the other hesitated. As she watched a moment she saw Louis, the older boy, get down on the ice, laying himself across the crack, his hands on one side and his feet on the other, making a bridge of his body. Then she saw the little fellow climb over him in safety to the other side, and both the boys run on to find their father.
This illustrates what Jesus Christ did for us. There was a great chasm which sin had made between us and God. We could not cross that chasm ourselves. Our goodness never could reach to the Divine requirements. The holiest of us could never get to heaven by any obedience of our own. Then Jesus came and laid Himself down in love across the chasm, making of His own blessed life a bridge on which whoever will may pass over into the presence and the joy of the Father. "I am the way."
There are two other words here which help us to understand the meaning of this figure. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life."
"I am the TRUTH." He does not say that He speaks the truth, or reveals it. He did this. He was the most wonderful teacher the world ever heard. No man ever spoke as He did. His words are like stars shining in the world's darkness. We cannot begin to understand what the world owes to the teachings of Jesus. The great truths which mean so much, the truths about God's love, mercy, and goodness, seem so familiar to us that they are almost commonplace. Yet it was Jesus who first made known to the world these truths. Two thousand years ago nobody knew them. The earth lay in moral darkness then. Jesus was a great teacher of truth.
But He does not say He is only a revealer of the truth. "I am the truth" is the tremendous assertion. The truth was not merely spoken by His lips; it was embodied in His person and in His life. He is the truth. This is more, too, than if He had said, "I am true." He was true--there was nothing false in Him, nothing insincere. He never professed to be what He was not. He never put forth claims which He did not fulfill. He never made promises which He did not keep. Not one word He ever spoke, has failed or will fail. Many good people are not so good as they profess to be--but Jesus was absolutely true. We may build our hopes for eternity on any one of His sayings.
But there is more than this in what He says here. He is a revealer of the truth. He is true. But He says, "I am the truth." God Himself is the great central fountain of all truth. All truth flows from Him. Christ was the incarnation of God--God manifest, made known, in the flesh. "He who has seen Me--has seen the Father," he said. All that God is--was revealed, was made known, in Jesus Christ. "I am the truth."
He said further, "I am the LIFE." Again notice that He does not say: "I will show you the life. I will tell you how to find life." You and I, if living truly, may show others how to find life. We can lead them to the fountain of life. That is what every sincere preacher of the gospel is doing continually. That is what every faithful teacher is doing. That is what every godly disciple does. But no preacher, no teacher, no holiest saint, can say to any other, "I am the life." We have no life to give to others. We cannot spare any of the oil out of our vessel to give for any other one's lamp. We cannot impart any portion of our little measure of grace to any dearest friend who needs. Only Christ can say, "I am the life." He does not merely tell us that there is life--He says, "Come unto Me--and you shall have life." The life is in Himself--all life's fullness--and if we believe in Him we are brought into union with Him--and because He lives, we live too.
Now because Christ is the truth and the life, He also is the WAY--that is, the way to heaven and the way to God. But how is He the way? In what manner did Jesus by His life or by His death--become a way, or make His life a way to God?
He did it in his incarnation. He was the Son of God--He became Son of man; thus His wonderful being bridged the enormous chasm between earth and heaven, between the "far country" and the Father's house. In His humiliation He reaches down to the lowest depth of human sin and need, and in His Divine life He reaches up to the heart of the Father. Thus He is the way from the abysses of sin--to the supremest reaches of glory, and on Him whosoever will, may go up out of the earth's dust into heavenly blessedness!
Christ is the way to God, also, because He REVEALED God, brought God down into our common life. It was this that made the incarnation so wonderful. Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." Philip and the other disciples had been with their Master all the time for three years, knowing Him intimately and seeing His life in its familiar revealings. They loved Him--but they did not dream that what they saw in Him, was what their hearts were crying out to see--the beauty and glory of the Father. Philip was thinking of some dazzling splendor, some radiance like a transfiguration, when he pleaded, "Show us the Father." Instead of this, however, he had been seeing the Father all the time--in the sweet, patient, pure, gentle, thoughtful, lowly life of Jesus. We are all apt to make Philip's mistake, looking up to the skies--for the glory that is shining close to our feet.
In one of his poems Lowell tells the story of an ancient prophet who made a pilgrimage into the wilderness until he reached Mount Sinai. God's presence had deserted him; and he thought that at Sinai, if anywhere, he would find it again. As he engaged in prayer on the holy mount, expecting some strange and startling answer to his prayers, the moss at his feet unfolded and a violet showed itself through the moss. That was the answer. Then he remembered that just before he left home his little daughter had come running to him, offering him a bouquet of these very violets. They grew at his own door; he saw them every day. He had traveled all that distance for a message that had been whispering itself to him all the time.
Many people miss the richest revealings of God's love, because they expect the good they seek to come in some startling or unusual way. We do not have to go up to heaven to find God; He has come down close beside us!
Even yet, people read the gospels and wonder if God really loves them, if God really sympathizes with them in their sorrows, if God really cares when they have troubles, if God really hears and answers their prayers, if God really is gentle, patient, kind, easily approached, if God is indeed merciful, gracious, and long-suffering. Even yet, men cry out, "O that I knew where I might find God!" Even yet disciples plead, "Show us the Father."
We look up and round about us, and ask, "Where is God's love?" Yet all the while we have our New Testament in our hands, with its blessed story of the love, the compassion, the gentleness, the purity, the kindness, the wondrous self-sacrifice of Jesus! We do not think that in seeing Him--we are seeing the Father, that the lovely things we behold in Him--are really revealings of God. In Christ, God indeed came down and lived among men to convince them of His love for them, to make them know that He is their Father, to show them His grace and truth. As a revealer, Christ is the way to the Father.
He is the way also as the REDEEMER. God does not love the world because Christ died for it--it is the other way; Christ died for the world--because God loved it. But the Scriptures teach very plainly that it was necessary for the Son of God to die--to make the way to eternal life and heaven. The cross opened the way for men to come to God. There was a veil in the temple which hid the holy of holies, the place of God's presence. No one but the priest could pass behind the veil. That meant separation from God because of sin. When Christ was dying, that veil was torn in two as by an invisible hand. This meant that now the way was opened to God for everyone who would come. Thus Christ became the way to God through His death.
There is another word here. "I am the way ... no one comes unto the Father--but by Me." Not only is He the way to God--but there is no other way. To reject Christ is therefore to reject eternal life and the only way to God. The mercy of God is as wide as the sea. "Whoever will, may come. Him that comes unto Me--I will never cast out." But there is only one way to come. Christ is the way to God. You need not vex yourself about theological questions. You need not be disturbed about the articles of the creed which you cannot understand. Christ is the way to God. To love Christ--is to love God. To have Christ for your friend--is to have God for your friend. To rest in Christ--is to be in the clasp of the everlasting arms.
Thus Christ is the way to peace, the peace of God. He is the way to happiness. He is the way to blessing and to all that is good. Christ is all that we need. The trouble with many of us, is that we think we can find the satisfying of our desires--in places or things or circumstances.
For a practical thought, set together the question of Thomas--and the answer of Jesus. "How can we know the way?" "I am the way." We are always asking Thomas' question. We come to points every day where we are bewildered, and know not where to go or what to do. We see no path before us. Sometimes it is a question of duty. Sometimes it is a choice that must be made between two courses. And we see no escape from it, no hope of relief or help, no way out of it.
Or it may concern life in a larger sense. What am I? Why am I here? What is there beyond death? What is God? Where is He? Where am I going? How can I find Him? What and where is heaven? How can I get there? Everyone who thinks at all asks such questions at some time. "How can we know the way?"
To all such questions Jesus answers, "I am the way." He is the way through all perplexities. He is the way out of all trouble--into comfort, peace, joy. He is the way through all danger--into safety. He is the way out of doubt--into faith. He is the way from sin--to holiness. He is the way from death--to life. He is the way from earth--to heaven.
Elsewhere He says, "I am the door." A door is for entrance. We pass in through the door--to the beauty, the comfort, the joy, the love, within. Christ is the door to everything that is worthy and good and blessed and eternal. There is only one door; if we will not enter at it, we must stay out in the darkness and sorrow.
One of Christ's great sayings is this: "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness." We may not know where we are going. We may not understand the things we are experiencing. We may be in sorrow. Loss may be stripping us bare. We may seem to be in a calamity. But if we are walking close to Christ, we are not in darkness. All is plain to Him, and that is enough.
"How can we know the way?" "I am the way." No one can ever be lost--with Christ. No one can ever get out of the way--with Him. The greatest and saddest of all trials--is to be in some trouble and to be alone, to have no one with us. Without Christ what can anyone do in the darkness, or in the storm, or in the floods? How could anyone find the way home through this world's gloom and peril--without Christ? Having Christ we do not need to have to understand things. He understands--and that is enough!
A godly woman suffering for weary months in painful illness said to her pastor one day, shortly before she went to heaven: "I have such a lovely robin that sings outside my window. In the early morning, as I lie here, he serenades me." Then, as a smile brightened her thin features, she added, "I love him because he sings in the rain." That is the most beautiful thing about the robin. When the storm has silenced almost every other song bird, the robin sings on--sings in the rain. That is what one who walks with Christ may do. Anybody can sing in the sunshine; but we should sing on when the sun has gone down, or when clouds pour out their rains, for Christ is with us! We should sing in the rain!
Why should we be afraid, though we cannot see the path, though all seems inextricable confusion about us, though circumstances appear to be against us? Christ is the way--and we never can be harmed and never can get lost while He is with us. To all our questions and fears He answers, "I am the way," and that is enough!
But we must remember that there is no other way to God, to the Father's house, no other way home, no other who can be to us the way in life's darkness and danger. "I am the way .... no one comes unto the Father--but by Me."
Some of us scarcely know where we are--or where we are going. We are not sure of our ground--whether we are going forward or groping backward. Perhaps we are not sure of our beliefs--we are troubled about some of the doctrines. Perhaps we are not sure we are saved. We are like men lost in a deep, trackless forest, not knowing the way out!
Suppose you found yourself thus lost some day, wandering helplessly, hopelessly, and a man came to you who knew all the tangle of the forest, offering to be your guide, to lead you through into the broad, open plain--and to your home; what would you do? Today, when you are in doubt and fear and perplexity, sure of nothing, in peril of being lost, not knowing what to do or where to turn--One comes to you, One who knows all the way. One who knows all about life because He has lived it all, and He offers to lead you through all the bewildering tangles, out of all the doubt and fears, out of the gloom and the danger--to God, to the Father's house--home. What should you do? What will you do?
"Thank God, thank God, the Man is found
Sure-footed, knowing well the ground.
He knows the road, for this the way
He traveled once, as on this day.
He is our messenger beside;
He is our door and path and guide."