I like Jesus…so I thought I’d blog about him for a bit…
I want to talk for a while about what Jesus said in John 14 – that he is “the way.” Whatever that means. Sometimes when we are familiar with a passage of scripture we assume that we know what it means. But I’d like for us to try and unpack this verse and see if we can think about it in a way that we may have never done before – some way that can speak to us currently and practically. What did Jesus mean? What does that mean for us? So, that’s what we’re gonna explore together for a few posts.
So, first off, let’s do a little word study. The word “way” means more than just a particular direction. It means a natural path that is obvious to everyone. Have you ever seen a sidewalk that made right angles or took the “long” way around to get to a destination? What do people do? They make their own path…and as people wear down that spot in the grass (ignoring the “do not walk on the grass” signs) a path shows up. And then others take that path too because anyone with a lick of sense knows that’s the shortest route to their destination, right? Occasionally, you may see a person who likes to follow the rules stay on the sidewalk. But really, they are the exception, aren’t they? It’s like that Staples advertisement: we’re gonna punch the “easy button” if we can, right? We want an easy way to understand or navigate our lives. We are willing to follow directions…but more often we follow people. People we know and have relationships with. We follow crowds. We follow the leader. Once a leader has cut a new path, people are willing to follow.
And that leads me to the first point: Jesus is the way to understanding God. He cut a new path to understanding. You see, people in the Bible were having problems with this. Kind of like we do today. In fact, up until Jesus, the entire biblical story was the story of people struggling to understand who God was and the proper way to relate to him. In the books of Joshua and Judges, some related to him through military conquest. In the books of Samuel and Kings, some related to him through a king or ruler. In the book of Leviticus, people related to him through a sacrificial ritual. And all the while, you have the prophets screaming at the people that they are missing the heart of God. Here are some passages where God is pleading through the voice of the prophets. Listen to the frustration in their words:
And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. You have depended on your own strength and the strength of your chariots and on your many warriors.
For twenty-three years, the word of the LORD has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And though the LORD has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention.
So, what’s going on here? If the prophets sounds a little ticked off, it’s because they are! Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke sums up the Bible to this point nicely: “My friends what we have here is failure to communicate.” People were taking what they assumed God wanted them to do and turning it into something else. And that’s why Jesus is the “way.” He’s the final commentary on how God deals with us and how he expects us to live life in his name. Jesus shattered all the preconceived ideas of what God should look like and act like. He flipped the funnel. He said things like: “I’ve come to serve and give my life as a ransom for many.” He gave us a radically different description of power: “If you want to be first, be the servant of everyone you know.” Jesus is our way of understanding God.