The Way, Truth, and Life is a Person
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
– John 14:6
Reality is About a Person
God is a person….not a force, not an idea, not a law, not an energy, but a person. He is “Supra-Person,” to be more precise, Father, Son, and Spirit – the divine Community in Unity, and the divine Unity in Community. And since all that is not-God is born from the imaginative overflow of this Person’s own interpersonal joy in Himself, it makes sense that reality is personal at its heart. What I mean is, when you get down to the roots of anything, it is not primarily facts and figures and math, but personal communication to persons about a person (just as a love letter is not primarily ink and lines and pulp, but deeply personal communication).
Since God is a Person and He creates a fundamentally personal reality, it is no surprise that when Thomas asks Jesus how they will be able to go to the place Christ is going, the Lord responds with these famous words:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
The answer to Thomas’ question is not a list of directions, but a person – Jesus Christ. However, while Christ’s answer is simple, it is also unfathomably profound, like a 12 inch rain puddle that’s hundreds of miles deep. What does it mean that Jesus Christ is the way, truth, and life? What are the implications of these realities ultimately being a person? Well, for the next few minutes I want to act like a water strider on the surface of the Pacific Ocean and delve, ever so slightly, into what beauty and significance might be bound up in this verse.
Jesus Christ, is the way to God. How glorious. God does not set out a physical or spiritual path of ascent for us. He does not (primarily) give us a code to follow or rules to obey. He does not give us “five pillars” to keep or a regiment of spiritual discipline to master…..all of these are man-made ideas, human creations that have an appearance of holiness and severity, but are ultimately rooted in flesh. No, instead of all of these things, God gives us a person, namely, Himself incarnate, and says, “I am the way.”
This design of God demolishes our natural desire for control. I can control my mastery of a list of rules, I can get my hands around a 5 or 7 or 12 step “way,” I can be in charge of planning a pilgrimage to a black stone or a brown river, but I cannot control a person – especially when that person is God. God’s design – like any sincere relationship – leaves us vulnerable and dependent on another.
This is merciful! If the way to God was anything other than Jesus Christ, we would all become stone-hearted legalists, but as it is, God woos us and beckons us out of ourselves and into fellowship with Him…we must be fully engaged persons (head, heart, hands, etc) in relationship to the incarnate God if we are to enter through the Narrow Way.
Truth is a person. Again, how glorious. Not only is the way to eternal life a person, but the truth to which we are conforming, the truth that reveals God to creation, is a person. Truth is not a list, or data, or a formula or insight, truth is not a metaphysical deduction, or a spiritual state, truth is Jesus Christ.
The implication here is that, apart from abiding fellowship with Jesus Christ, only the shell of truth can be known. The difference between an atheistic knowledge of truth and a Christian knowledge of truth is like the difference between a mannequin and a living human being. The two may look identical from the outside (atheists and Christians may have the same facts), but one is cold, bloodless, and dead while the other is vibrant, uncontrollable, and living.
Another example would be the difference between a doctor’s knowledge of my wife and my knowledge of her. A doctor might know hundreds of things about Courtney that I don’t know (her blood type, her DNA structure, here genetic makeup, etc.), but he doesn’t know her. He doesn’t know her personality or her heart. Jesus is telling us that Truth is like this. If we want to know the heart that beats behind physics, if we want to know the joy that runs beneath mathematics, if we want to know the zeal that gives meaning to ethics, the passion that gives rise to the universe, the imagination that bore reality, if we want to know the person who makes all truth sensible and who is the embodiment of its totality, then we seek out and look to and abide in Jesus Christ.
Being alive might be narrowed down to some sort of scientific criteria such as circulating blood or pulsing lungs or sparking synapses. However, being alive is not the same as “life.” If being alive were a glass, life would be the water; if being alive were an instrument, life would be the song; if being alive were a book, life would be the story. So, what really constitutes “life”?
Ultimately, life is knowing and loving God. We can prove this by thinking about it from God’s perspective. Consider, what is God’s life? What is the joy, vibrancy, or fullness of His existence? It is His own infinite knowledge of and love for Himself within the eternal Trinity. And if this is God’s life (a staggering phrase, if you think about it), can ours consist of anything more or less? For the human being, as for God: Life = knowing and loving God.
And this affectionate knowledge is not just the essence of life here and now, but it the essence of our eternal life as well (John 17:3). Knowing and loving God is the song the human instrument was made to play, it is the story every fiber in us longs to embody, it is the journey our soul’s muscles ache to begin (and, in a sense, already have begun), and it is the bottomless ocean and infinite heaven that we will thrill to explore for the unending ages to come. Eternal life is knowing and loving God, and we do this only through Jesus Christ.
Think of it this way, if I were to say that marriage is essentially knowing and loving my wife (which it is), then it is not wrong for me to say that Courtney is my marriage. She is all that makes it what it is and apart from her (and my fellowship with her) it is nothing. The same is true with Life. The essence of life is to know and love God in Christ, therefore it is not wrong (but, rather, gloriously and liberating-ly right) to say that Jesus is our life.
One of the most comforting and beautiful elements of John’s gospel is how he consistently returns all focus to the person of Jesus Christ. John again and again reminds us that LIFE is CHRIST and CHRIST is LIFE. May the Lord use these few thoughts to give us a bit more grace as we seek to flood our existence with the pervasive supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things.