“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the father if not through me.’”
This is one of the most well known statements that Jesus made, at the same time; we rarely take the time to reflect upon all of the theological implications that are contained within these words. The point of this little study is to take some time to unpackage all that there is contained in these famous words of Jesus.
To set the stage, Jesus has come to Jerusalem at the end of his three-year ministry to celebrate the Passover meal with his disciples. Though the disciples do not yet fully understand what is going to happen, this Passover will be the most important Passover meal of their lives, and indeed, of all of history. What marks this Passover celebration is not so much the slaughtering of the thousands of lambs that are brought into the city, but the slaying of one Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God himself. Jesus is the Passover Lamb for the world, the only perfect and pure sacrifice for our sins.
This last week of Jesus’ life is the most significant portion of the Gospels, and comprises a bit more than 40% of John’s Gospel text. There is a lot that goes on during this week, the triumphal entry, the clearing of the temple, the plotting and betrayal of Judas, the Last Supper held in the upper room, the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion, and praise God, the resurrection! Though all that Jesus did and taught is very important, this last week of Jesus’ life is vitally important for us to understand.
The passage in John that we will be spending some time with takes place in what we know as the “upper room.” Jesus has washed the disciple’s feet and the Last Supper has been given (although John does not detail it as the other Gospel writers do). Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial have been predicted by Jesus. This must have been a sobering thing to hear.
And it is in this context that Jesus gives some of the most wonderful words of blessing, commission, and assurance to his disciples. It is here where Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them in power and where he gives the analogy of himself as the true vine—a promise steeped in Davidic tradition. It is here where Jesus assures his apostles that while the world will hate them, he has overcome the world. Also, it is here where Jesus offers up what is now known as his “High Priestly Prayer” on behalf of the Apostles and on behalf of all believers who would come after them—on behalf of you and me. It is in this context that Thomas asks Jesus how they might follow him if they don’t know where he is going. And it is in this context that Jesus answers Thomas with this wonderful statement: “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the father if not through me.”