For me, the term “the way, the truth, and the life” pretty much covers all the bases in life. It speaks to me of living in the present with purpose and focus, getting back to my word of the year: AIM. I AM. As I have been reading in John, I am paying closer attention to the context of the words. The words of Jesus, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” come during the last supper in John 13, after Jesus washed the disciples feet, after he tells his friends that one of them will betray him and after he tells Peter he will deny Jesus three times. Bad news to say the least. I bet this wasn’t the abundant life the disciples had in mind.
After serving his companions, leading by example, and giving two prophetic words, Jesus reminds his disciples of the key command: to love one another. At this low point, Jesus gently gives his friends hope and is sensitive to their pain as he gets ready to begin his own journey to the cross.
He begins John 14 (NRSV) with, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. 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, so that where I am, there you may be also…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…. The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”
Then came my surprise, in the following paragraph. I knew the verses were in the Bible, but in my mind I never placed them in this context. Jesus was talking about their future empowered by the Holy Spirit. He says:
“Truly, truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12 NRSV
This context makes me look at verse 12 in a new way, considering what “works” mean. I’ve tended to think it meant mostly something done in the supernatural like healing or miracles. So I looked the word “works” in John 14:12-14 at blueletterbible.org. Strong’s Concordance lists “works” as meaning work, deed, doing, labor. The bible usage of “works” refers to business, employment, what one is occupied in, an undertaking; any thing or product accomplished by hand, art, industry or mind; an act, deed, or thing done. The definitions would include healing and miracles like Jesus did, but it seems like the term “works” is much broader than I had considered. Now I see verse 12 saying: if I believe in God, in Jesus, I will, through the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life, also humble myself and serve others like Jesus washing the disciples’ dirty feet. I will tell the truth even if it is not popular. I will seek God to be glorified more than what would make me comfortable, and I will love those people around me. When I am faced with a path of suffering and sacrifice, I will give those around me hope to carry on. Wow! My definition of miracle is currently going through an adjustment, broadening because of this. For me to consistently live like that would be a miracle, a supernatural work of the Spirit. I certainly cannot live like that in my own strength. Jesus was doing much more than telling them he was the Way, he had also been living the Way, telling the Truth, and showing them how to live Life, the path from from life to death, to new life and beyond. He was asking them if they believe Him enough to follow Him, no matter what, and He was assuring them, they would not be alone and this was not the end. Extraordinary!
The message of Jesus, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” is hard to grasp, The visual expression is challenging as well. This symbol above is the Messianic Seal. I came across it and the meaning 11 years ago while searching to illustrate the “I AM” statements of Jesus for my painting thesis. This symbol, used today in Messianic Judaism and Christianity, includes the ancient Jewish symbol of the menorah, the earliest Christian symbol of the fish and the base of the menorah and the tail of the fish forming the Star of David.