Euripides expressed his pessimistic view of life when he said, “Account ye no man happy till he die.” His philosophy was similar to that of Buddha, who taught that the way of life is hard, full of darkness and trouble, and that the only answer to life’s problems is either death or nirvana.
By contrast, Jesus was the only one who ever made His personality the only way of securing peace and eternal life. However, Jesus identified His personality with a door, which is an emblem of separation because on the one side is the world and on the other side the home; but it is also a sign of protection, hospitality, and relationship. As the old city of Troy had only one gate, so Jesus said that He is the only Gate to salvation. Being united with Him combines a personal relationship with practical obedience in the world of action.
But He not only identified Himself as the door; He also claimed to be “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). That is equivalent to saying that without the Way there is no going; without the Truth, there is no knowing; without the Life, there is no living. Let us then examine each of these three points of His identity individually.
I. JESUS IS THE WAY
Jesus is the Way, but the Way becomes loveable not when it is in abstract code and commandments, but when it is personal. As Plato once said, the Father of the world is hard to discover, and when discovered cannot be communicated. Our Lord’s answer to Plato would have been that the Father is hard to discover unless He is revealed through the Person of His Son (see Matt 11:27).
But Jesus is not only the Way to the Father; He is also the Way to eternal life. This gift purchased at Calvary cannot be possessed by us apart from a living union with Christ. That union is so real that His fullness passes over to my emptiness, His righteousness into my sinfulness, His life into my death, as surely as the electric shock thrills my nerves when I grasp the poles of a battery (John 6:56–57; Rom 6:23; Col 3:4; 1 John 1:1–2; 5:11–12; 2:14, 25). But our privilege of participating in that eternal life is directly dependent on our continuing to abide in Him, for in Him alone is that life available to us.
Further, He is the Way by the doctrine that He taught, by the death that He died, by the inheritance that He purchased, by the example that He set, by the abiding and indwelling of His Spirit, by His sanctification, and by His eternal redemption. In the words of Edward Mote:
My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
II. JESUS IS THE TRUTH
Jesus said also, “I am the truth.” There is no such thing as seeking first the truth and then finding Christ, any more than there is any point in lighting a candle to find the sun. As scientific truth puts us in an intelligent relationship with the cosmos, and as historic truth puts us in temporal relationship with the rise and fall of civilization, so does Christ put us in intelligent relationship with God the Father; for He is the only possible Word by which God can address Himself to a world of sinners.
Before his death, Buddha said to Ananda, his favorite disciple, “The doctrines and the laws, O Ananda, which I have taught and proclaimed unto you, they shall be your master when I have left you.” By contrast, Jesus left the world without leaving any written message. His doctrine was Himself. The truth that all other ethical teachers proclaimed, and the light that they gave to the world, was not in them, but outside them. Jesus, however, identified Divine Wisdom with Himself. He embodied the truth He taught (John 1:17).
A journalist once asked Texas Congressman Sam Rayburn, “Mr. Speaker, you see a hundred people a day. You never seem to take notes on what you have told them, but I never heard of your forgetting anything you have promised them. What is your secret?” Rayburn’s hot brown eyes flashed. “If you tell the truth the first time,” he replied, “you don’t have to remember.’”
Jesus practiced the truth that He taught. Likewise, in our spiritual journey, a profession of faith must be supported by appropriate acts of faith. A “plus-nothing” faith avails nothing (Jas 2:14–26).
III. JESUS IS THE LIFE
Finally, Jesus is the Life. Life is resident in Him. There is no hope for immortality apart from Him. Euripides looked for it when he wrote,
If any far off state there be Nearer to life than mortality,
The hand of death hath hold thereof And mists are under the mists above.
The ancient mystery religions sought it. By elaborate initiation ceremonies such as baptism in a bath of bull’s blood, they sought it. The Egyptians thought that hiding the remains of the Pharaoh’s mummified bodies in monumental pyramids and underground tombs would guarantee their immortality. None survived. Today, Christian Scientists believe that disease, sickness, and death are not real, but only a state of mind. The spiritualistic medium naively claims the seven spheres of life on the other side. All are fallacies. Only through Jesus who is the Life can we claim the bright hope of immortality.
During World War II, a Marine Corps sergeant led his men into action on a precarious beachhead on a Pacific island with the bold challenge, “Come on, men! Do you want to live forever?” The universal answer is, “Yes!” And it is such a life that God’s grace deigns to bestow on us.
What is this “eternal life” that God has given to us in His Son? It is something more than endless existence promised at the eschaton. For the Christian, it is the reception and enjoyment of the life of God through Christ; it is a gracious participation in the very life of God, now. But what has been provided must be appropriated; what is objective must become subjective. Therefore, “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:19–20). Personal reconciliation to God in Christ is actual for us, only as we trust in Him.
Sometime ago, the body of a prospector who had evidently died of thirst was found in a desert in California. He had died clutching a bag of copper pyrites, “fool’s gold.” In his pocket was a piece of paper on which he had written, “I died rich!”
Before us are riches unimaginable, immeasurable, and unsearchable (Eph 3:8; 2:7). What are these promised riches? “Redemption through his blood” and “the forgiveness of sins” (Eph 1:7). “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance” (Eph 1:11, NKJV). Let us not then “despise the riches of His goodness” (Rom 2:4).
We may be wrong about many things, doctrinally, and yet be saved. But we may dare not be wrong about the object of our faith and the ground of our hope for God’s salvation. Christ Himself must be the sole object of our faith and the exclusive ground of all our hopes for heaven and eternity. To be wrong at this point is to miss the Way. Those who rest their faith on any other foundation are destined for everlasting despair. Jesus said, “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it . . . I am the door . . . I am the way . . . no man comes to the Father but through me.”
Today, follow the Way, accept the Truth, and receive the Life.
Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University.