Wednesday, November 14, 2012



One of the most reassuring, yet troubling, verses in the New Testament is John 14,6. Jesus is at the Last Supper with His disciples and is giving delivering His, if you will, farewell address, which covers chapters 14-17. Early in Jesus’s musings, in an effort to reassure His disciples, He says (14, 3-4):

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going, you know the way.”

Thomas (who gets the undeserved rap as “Doubting Thomas,” partially for this inquiry but more for his very understandable attitude after Jesus’s resurrection, which will serve as grist for another mill) says (14,5):

“Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Then comes the zinger in 14,6:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This, along with a much less well known passage in the letter to the Hebrews (7, 25):

Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them. (Emphasis mine)

is great news, from an almost selfish point of view, for those of us who follow Christ, or at least try to follow Christ. But it’s perplexing, indeed impossible, to think that God shuts the proverbial gates of heaven to those who are not Christians, i.e., who do not come to God through His Son. This simply cannot be; God cannot exclude the vast majority of His children from His eternal presence; what father, let alone our ultimate Father, would do that?

I have heard two interpretations for John 14,6 that fully take into account God’s equal love for all His children, Christian and non-Christian alike. I can take credit for neither; I simply have heard them both and am simply reporting, and perhaps interpreting a bit, what I have heard.

The first is that the word “through” positions Jesus as the gate through Whom we must pass to enter eternal life. We don’t have to live as Christians in order to gain eternal life; we only must pass final muster, in a sense, with Him. We have to come through the gate of Jesus to enter heaven. This explanation might be consistent with Jesus’s proclamation in John 10,7-9 that

Amen, Amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep…Whoever enters through me will be saved.”

But it isn’t entirely satisfying.

A much better explanation is we, as Christians, believe as a basic, indeed THE basic, tenet of our faith that Christ is God. In John 14, 10, Jesus says

“…I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

If Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Him, Jesus is indeed God. So all who seek God, in whatever way, seek Jesus. Consequently, they are coming to the Father through Jesus; they approach God, who is Jesus, through Jesus, who is God. Put simply, Jesus is God so all who love and follow God love Jesus. This follows so naturally from the basis of our faith that it seems the perfect explanation for a very troubling, in some ways, passage, rendering that passage the reassuring message of love that God intended it to be.

No comments: