The Way, the Truth, and the Life
By Peter Amsterdam
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In John chapter 13, we read how the night before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, Jesus and His disciples were eating together in what the Gospels of Mark and Luke describe as a large upper room (Luke 22:12, Mark 14:15). Unbeknownst to His disciples, this was to be their last meal with Jesus.
During the meal, Judas left to betray Jesus to the authorities. Once he was gone, Jesus spoke to His disciples about being glorified and also said: “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’” When the apostle Peter asked Jesus where He was going, He responded: “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward” (John 13:33, 36).
It’s easy to imagine the surprise this news must have been to the disciples. They had left their homes, families, and livelihoods to follow Jesus for years, and now He was telling them that He was leaving and they weren’t going with Him. Peter wasn’t the only one who questioned Jesus. Thomas, Philip, and Judas (not Iscariot) all had something to say (John 14:5, 8, 22.). It must have been bewildering and terribly sad for them to hear that Jesus was leaving, especially after having just heard that one of their best friends was going to betray Him.
Jesus comforted His disciples by saying: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1–4).
After telling them of His departure, He explained that things were going to work out, that His leaving wasn’t the disaster they thought it would be. He was going to His Father’s house to prepare a place so they would be together again. Most likely the reference to His coming back in this case referred to His return at the end of the age, at the time of His second coming.
He also made the point that they knew the way where He was going. They knew how to follow Him. As they continued to follow the way He had been leading them, they would come to where He would be. However, Thomas, like Peter earlier, was perplexed and asked for clarity. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5).
He was likely thinking of “the way” as a road leading to a specific destination, rather than as a way of being. His question led to Jesus giving more clarity, and Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
“The Way” was the primary theme. Jesus, however, wasn’t giving directions; rather He was saying that the way was a person—Himself—and the destination was also a person—His Father. As the way, Jesus is the link between the lost and His Father, and without Him no one can come to the Father. He is the one and only means for someone to enter into a relationship with the Father and to have eternal life. That message is echoed in many verses throughout the New Testament.
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16–18).
Jesus entered our world and gave His life in order to make salvation possible. He is the way to salvation. “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
As the way, Jesus is the means for people to enter into a relationship with the Father. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
God loves the world and all who are in it, and therefore made a way for salvation through the gift of His Son, who died in our place so that we would be able to come into the presence of God—to be part of His family, to be able to call Him Father. The “Way” to God is through Jesus.
Jesus also said that He is “the Truth.” Within the Old Testament we hear of God being called “the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16).
We normally think of truth as opposed to falsehood, or reality as opposed to mere appearance. However, the Hebrew word ‘emeth, which is translated in the Old Testament as truth, can also mean faithfulness, reliability, stability, firmness. When referring to God, this word conveys not only His truthfulness and veracity, but also His complete reliability and integrity. The Father is the God of truth in both senses.
As He said to Pilate right before His crucifixion: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). As the Father is truth, so too is the Son.
Along with stating that He was the way and the truth, Jesus added that He is “the life.” Life, in this context, focuses on eternal life. Over and over the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus is the means to eternal life, and that belief in Him results in everlasting life.
“As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (John 5:26, 21). “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26).
“God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.” “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (1 John 5:11–12; John 17:3).
Jesus, the one we love and serve, is the Way to eternal life with the Father. He is the Truth, both in the sense of complete veracity as well as in faithfulness and reliability. He is also the Life, the giver of life; and through giving His life for our sakes, He has made it possible for us to live forever with Him.
Originally published May 2018. Adapted and republished January 2023. Read by John Laurence.