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The Apostle John was very concerned about his readers not only believing that Jesus was the Messiah, but that they recognize his deity as well. To this end, John offers seven signs or miracles along with seven “I AM” sayings. The “I Am” discourses were purposely designed to bring to his readers minds the conversation that Moses had at the burning bush in which God identifies himself as “I Am Who I Am” (Ex. 3:14). John’s recording of these discourses were designed to offer insights into the nature of God that Jesus possessed. In this manner, he hoped to demonstrate that Jesus was not merely a human that achieved glory, but rather that Jesus was God in the flesh tabernacling with humanity (John 1:14).

Perhaps one of the most recognizable and enigmatic “I Am” discourses is found in the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel. This discourse comes as Jesus is explaining to his disciples that he must die and be resurrected. He is attempting to provide preemptive comfort from the upcoming disillusionment they will experience as a result of his death on the cross.[1] This disillusionment probably began with Jesus’ pronouncement that He was going to leave them (Jn. 13:33). This announcement would prompt Peter to ask, “Lord, where are you going?” (v.36a). Jesus responds to the question by stating that where He is going the disciples cannot follow. He, then, goes on to explain that the Father has many dwelling places and He is going to prepare them for habitation (14:2). He tells the disciples, although they cannot follow him now, they will join him later (13:36b). In fact, He informs them that they already know the way to where He is going (14:4).

Despite the assertion by Jesus that the disciples already in full knowledge of the path to get to where He is going, Thomas, ever doubtful, asks, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” (v. 5). This question prompts one of the most beautiful, yet puzzling responses from Jesus. He simply says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” (v.6). This statement is at once so very simple, yet so full of paradox. As Guzik points out,

“In light of soon events, this declaration is a paradox. Jesus’ way would be the cross; He would be convicted by blatant liars; His body would soon lie lifeless in a tomb. Because He took that way, He is the way to God; because He did not contest the lies we can believe He is the truth; because He was willing to die He becomes the channel of resurrection – the life to us.”[2]

Guzik correctly points out the singular importance of each of the three affirmations that Jesus points out. Yet ironically, as each one stands on its own merit, it creates an interdependence for the other affirmations. In essence, each affirmation of Jesus is a stand-alone reality that provides validity for the other affirmations. For example, Jesus being “the truth” does not necessarily mean that He is “the Way.” However, since Jesus is also “the Way,” He must also be “the Truth.” It is therefore necessary to understand the importance of each affirmation on their volition before considering the interdependence of one to the others. For in this one statement Jesus sums up who He is as the God-man.

The first affirmation of Jesus is that He is “the Way.” Jesus’ statement is one of exclusivity. In this simple statement recorded by John, Jesus lays the foundation for Paul’s later teaching on circumcision. As Morris notes,

“John is insisting that Jesus is the one way to the Father. He will not allow for one moment that the way of Jewish priestly leaders with their insistence on the place of the law and the significance of circumcision is another possible way to God. Whatever leaders might say, John is affirming that the person of Jesus is such that he and no other can bring us to the heavenly abode. He is not saying Jesus shows the way, but that he is the way.”[3]

Jesus as God who “became flesh” is the singular point of reconciliation between God and humanity. It is only through Christ that the Father is known and we are able to, as Paul states, “approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12).

Truth is an absolute that corresponds to reality.[4] When Jesus affirms that He is truth, He is affirming that He is reality. Jesus’ trial illustrates this in an interesting exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. Jesus asserts, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (Jn.18:37). Pilate then asks Jesus, “What is truth?” Jesus does not respond, rather Pilate simply leaves and declares that he finds no fault in Him (v. 38). Jesus’ existence corresponded to the reality of sin and death. Jesus was simply affirming this fact. A fact that was confirmed by the entire Old Testament. Jesus is the “substance of that of which the whole of the Old Testament was the shadow. But the substance of anything is the truth of anything. Therefore, Christ is Truth.”[5]

The final affirmation by Jesus is that He is life. Life is an attribute that belongs to God. As Towns points out, “The fact God has existence and is a Person implies a third characteristic in His description: God is life. Since the nature of personhood is life, and God is a Person, we conclude that God is life.”[6] Since Jesus affirms that He is life, Jesus therefore, is affirming his own deity. In essence, He is saying, “I am God who breathed into the nostrils of man, making him a living being. I am where life is to be found.” This is to be taken in both a present and prophetic sense. Presently, his existence shows that God exists and therefore He is life. Prophetically, He was referring to His death on the cross and the subsequent resurrection.

These statements, although able to stand-alone on their own merit, form an ideological comprehensiveness vital to all Christians. The exclusivity of these affirmations reveal that it is through Christ, and Christ alone, that God can be found; Salvation can be received, and reality can properly be understood. Jesus’ concern for his disciples was not that they comprehended where He was going but more so that they perceived who He was. As Morris concludes,

“This comprehensive saying, then, claims an exclusive position for Jesus. He is the one way to God, he is thoroughly reliable, and he stands in a relation to truth such as no one else does. The same, of course, is true of his relationship to life.”[7]

John’s purpose for writing his gospel was “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). By recording Jesus’ affirmations of “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” John is giving us the basis of that belief. Jesus is the messiah because through His death and resurrection Jesus provides the way to the father. Jesus is truth, because He corresponds to the present reality of a sin corrupted world by demonstrating his righteousness as the antidote thereby confirming the empirical nature of his ministry. Finally, Jesus is life because He is God. Only God is self-existent. It is only through Christ that life can be received. Jesus summed up his entire existence in one simple sentence. John summarizes this existence in with the words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (3:16).

[1] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2002), 140.

[2] David Guzik, Commentary on John (Santa Barbara: Enduring World Media, 2012).

[3] Leon Morris, Jesus Is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 118-119.

[4] The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), s.v. “Truth, Theories Of.”

[5] Sermons J. Vaughan, “Christ the Truth,” in Sermon Outline Bible Commentary, ed. Ephesians Four Group (Ephesians Four Group, 2014).

[6] Elmer L. Towns, Theology for Today (Mason: Cengage Learning, 2008), 104.

[7] Morris, 119.


Bibliography

Guzik, David. Commentary on John. Santa Barbara: Enduring World Media, 2012.

  1. Vaughan, Sermons. “Christ the Truth.” In Sermon Outline Bible Commentary, edited by Ephesians Four Group: Ephesians Four Group, 2014.

Morris, Leon. Jesus Is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.

Provenzola, Thomas, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene:Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2002.

Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. Mason: Cengage Learning, 2008.