Jesus said, “I am the way”- meaning He is the only way to God. Not a way, but the way- as in, the one and only. Eternal life in heaven is only possible through Jesus and His gift of salvation. This is the foundation of our Christian faith. What led Jesus to make this statement? How would you defend this core belief of our faith?
Jesus Says I Am the Way
Many people believe there are other ways to God, think Jesus was simply a prophet, or serve many gods. There are 5 major religious groups in the world, each with different beliefs that invalidate each other.
Non religious people believe being a good person will get you into heaven, but Jesus made it clear to all when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
He did not say He is the only way among other rational choices. He said no other teacher, philosopher, or religion can lead you to the One True God except for Himself.
Some see this statement as intolerant, narrow-minded, and offensive. While some may see Jesus’ Way as exclusive, it is actually the most inclusive.
Slaves or free, men and women, Greek or Jew- all were accepted from the beginning of Christianity. The same holds true today. All are invited to accept the gift Jesus offers.
The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. There are no hoops to jump through or any special qualifications. No acts of service, prayers, tithing, or good deeds ensure our eternal life in Heaven.
Everyone needs His mercy and grace. Jesus sacrificed His life for all so we could be with Him forever.
Jesus With His Disciples
But what led up to this important statement?
Time was growing short, and Jesus had some hard truths to leave with His disciples. One of them was that He was leaving them, but it wasn’t the first time He had explained His mission.
Jesus had predicted His death previously in Matthew 16:21-
“Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Each time we see the disciples confused and discouraged. Their expectation for Him was to set up a political kingdom. His death didn’t make sense to them.
While at the Last Supper, He explains that He was going to His Father’s house. But He also was comforting them with a promise of a future reunion.
He tells them He is preparing a place for them and promises to return and take them to be with Him. “You know the way to the place where I am going,” He explains.
Apparently, however, Thomas did not.
Thomas and Jesus
While we mostly remember Thomas as a doubter, we see him here in a different light. He was listening intently to Jesus but couldn’t grasp what He was saying. He was confused and wanted a clear answer about how to follow his beloved Rabbi.
“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’” John 14:5.
I’m so glad Thomas asked this question! It’s a question we all need the answer to- how can we know the way to God?
Jesus is the Way Bible Verse
Jesus continues His teaching and leads Thomas to a deeper, spiritual, meaning:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus explains that He is the answer to Thomas’ question. Jewish laws and rituals would not grant them eternal life with God. The only pathway to God the Father was through Jesus.
It is an exclusive path, but one in which all are invited to walk.
Narrow is the Way
As Jesus ends His sermon on the Mount, He gives this teaching about the way to Heaven:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV.
The narrow gate is the entrance to the path of Christian life. The narrow gate may be small (by One Man), and the path may not be easy, but it is open to everyone.
When Jesus said “few” will enter, He did not mean in numbers or as a private or exclusive group. The path to eternal life is open to anyone who puts their faith in Jesus. There is room in Heaven for all!
I Am Statements of Jesus
This “I am” statement of Jesus is one of the seven He uses to show us who He was. We see God the Father use it in Exodus when Moses asks God for His name. “I Am Who I Am.” Genesis 3:14.
By using “I am”, Jesus was declaring He was both God and man, something the Jewish people considered blasphemous. To the disciples, however, He was the only way, even if their understanding was limited-
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”– Peter. (John 6:68-69)
Way, Truth, Life
Jesus is the Way, our path, to the Father. Jesus was God in the flesh, sent from Heaven. He was essentially saying as He had many times before, “Follow me.” Following Him on the path He has set before us is the only way to Heaven.
Jesus is the Truth
God revealed His nature and will (His truth) through the law in the Old Testament. Jesus came as an exact replica of God to reveal truth through His life.
Jesus says that He came to fulfill the moral law (Matthew 5:17) by showing us what true obedience looks like. He showed us what it is like to live without sin, giving us the standard to live by. He also fulfilled the penalty of the law by His death on the cross.
His life- the truth- was recorded in His Word for us to read, study, understand, and put into action. His truth shines a light on our own lives and reveals the way we must walk to be transformed into His likeness.
Jesus is the Life
Jesus’ meaning of the word life meant He was the only source of both our physical life and our spiritual existence (now and in the future.) Only Jesus, the Waymaker, can give us new life through His sacrifice.
He is our path, our standard to follow, and our Savior.
Jesus, the Way to the Father
As good students of Scripture, the disciples should have been more in tune to Jesus referencing Himself as “the Way.” Moses tells the Israelites to “walk in the way” that God had commanded them; turning neither right nor left. (Deuteronomy 5:33)
God led the Israelites as they crossed the desert to show them the way. (Exodus 13:21)
David asked, “Teach me your way, O Lord.” (Psalm 27:11)
“God’s Way” in the Old Testament meant keeping His commandments and following His guidance on how to live as His people.
The New Testament verses on the Way build on those verses and denote a journey, a path. But Jesus didn’t say He would give us the GPS coordinates or a map with directions.
He said He was the path, the Way to the Father. We will find it when we follow Him.
What is The Way in the Bible?
The resurrection of Jesus changed everything for the disciples. Their eyes were opened to all He had taught them; they received the power of the Holy Spirit that unified them to the one, true, Gospel message.
Peter gave a powerful, Spirit-filled message at Pentecost that brought about 3000 new believers in Jesus in one day!
The early believers were called “followers of the Way” in the Bible, modeling their lives after Jesus.
It is mentioned several times in Acts. Peter refers to their faith in Jesus as “the way of truth” (2 Peter 2:2). The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins as “a new and living way.”
Jesus’ followers tried to imitate Jesus as much as they could. They were called “Christians” because they lived their lives with compassion, love, and humility, as Christ did.
These new believers showed the world God’s love by devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching, eating together, taking care of each other’s needs, and meeting for prayer and communion in each other’s homes.
Their fellowship was celebrating their love for Jesus and the Father, their desire to worship and praise Him, and sharing in each other’s lives- the struggles and the successes.
They had a common purpose to live for Him and to tell others of the Good News.
Walking in the Way
How do we follow Jesus as the Way? I love this vision of Paul’s:
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2.
It is a life of belief and practice. Our love and service towards others should be self-sacrificing. We look to Jesus and imitate Him.
We see the idea of walking with God numerous places in the Bible. God walked with Adam and Eve in the Bible. God said He would walk among His people and be their God. (Lev 26:12) Jesus and His disciples walked miles and miles together.
When we walk in the light of Christ (1 John 1:7) and in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), we are letting Him lead us, obeying His Word, loving others with our actions, and using the power of the Holy Spirit to control our sinful human desires.
Even when we veer off the way, God’s grace guides us back on. Walking in the Way takes persistence and perseverance.
Jesus is the Only Way
Jesus claimed to be God in human form, leaving His throne in Heaven to come to earth and suffer and die for our sins. God would raise Him from the dead, sealing our lives with His when we accept His sacrifice on our behalf.
Peter explains Jesus as the only Way in Acts 4:12-
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
We can’t pay the price for our redemption by being a good person.
No other religion offers or can make a redemptive payment like Jesus.
Only Jesus offers grace and acceptance of us- sins and all.
Right after the Last Supper, Jesus prays for Himself. In this prayer to His Father, we see a clear picture of how to receive eternal life-
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3.
We receive eternal life in one way only- knowing God through His Son and entering into a personal relationship with Him; trusting in His death on the cross as payment for our sin.
Jesus’ message is neither intolerant or narrow minded. The only “problem” with this message is that we each have a choice to decide if it is true.
Sharing this message is the most loving thing we can do for others, giving them the opportunity to decide if Jesus is the Way for them.
All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
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