Of all the controversial claims Jesus made, one may be more incendiary in our day than all the rest: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In our pluralistic age, these feel like little more than fighting words. But have we missed their full meaning in the fires of the current controversies?
What’s surprising to those who would take the time to investigate more is that this claim first appears not in the public square or at a debate or showdown with religious rivals. Rather, it’s a private dialogue, in an intimate gathering, with Jesus’s closest of friends.
Comfort in the Chaos
His disciples are fearful, perhaps even beginning to panic. One of their own number has just left as a traitor (John 13:21–30). Then Jesus has announced that he himself will be leaving them for good (John 13:33). Now he informs them that Peter, chief among them, will deny him three times (John 13:38). Into this confusion and emerging fear, Jesus speaks a consoling word in John 14:1–4.
The banner over all that follows is verse 1: “Let not your hearts be troubled” (also John 14:27). Jesus as “the way” is first about the comfort and peace and assurance of his followers. These are not first fighting words, but soul-quieting, heart-feeding truth. Comfort first, not controversy.
Jesus is moving his disciples from troubled to trusting. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” That’s the negative. Then the positive: “Believe in God; believe also in me.” What is the great antidote he gives to being troubled, or being anxious or fearful? Faith.
And trusting Jesus is still the great antidote for fear today. But not just general trust. We need specifics — which he then provides. We could count them in different ways, but here are four.
1. God has a big house — and a big heart.
The heart of what Jesus says he will re-express in John 16:7: “it is to your advantage that I go away.” But first, he describes the wideness of his Father’s provision. His house is not small.
“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?” (John 14:2)
God’s house does not have only a few rooms, but many — not despite the Father’s heart, but as an expression of it. That his house has many rooms says something about who he is. And that he can be trusted even in the present trouble.
And these are not just rooms in general, this is not just mercy in general, but room “for you,” mercy “for you.” Jesus goes “to prepare a place for you.” Do not be troubled; you will be in God’s house! I may be leaving, Jesus says, but I am going to secure for you the most important good imaginable — so good that it dwarfs every one of your fears, if you only had the eyes to see it and heart to feel it.
2. Jesus will take you there.
Jesus has more details to give, and specific promises to make:
“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 14:3–4)
Not only is the Father’s heart and house for his chosen people, but Jesus himself will come back and take us to himself. He won’t sit around waiting for disciples to get to God on their own; he will come back and get them and bring them himself. And there is more.
3. Jesus himself will be there.
Maybe the two sweetest words in the passage are here: to myself. “I will come again and will take you to myself.” This is the great consolation to troubled disciples. Jesus won’t just get them to heaven, but he himself will be there. And the essence of that place will be communing with him: “. . . that where I am you may be also.”
Here we find a shift from place to person. Not only is Jesus heading to heaven, to his Father’s house, and not only will he himself come get his disciples and bring them there, but heaven itself for the disciples will be about knowing and enjoying Jesus. He will be there with us.
But Jesus doesn’t go directly from this upper-room conversation to heaven. There is a pathway to walk.
4. Jesus has prepared the place for you.
Twice Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2, 3). What does it mean that he “prepares” a place for his people? Is heaven in disarray? Is God’s house in shambles, and Jesus will be the renovator?
There is a second “way” in this passage: not for us, but for Jesus alone. And it’s inimitable and utterly unique to him. Where he goes next, after this upper-room conversation, is not first to heaven, but to death. “The way to where I am going” (John 14:4) is the way of the cross. Without Jesus taking this way (on our behalf), there is no way for us (to his Father).
“Preparing a place” doesn’t mean construction in heaven, but crucifixion on earth.
Jesus Will Be Enough
What comfort, then, do we find in confessing Jesus as “the way”? What communion with him do we find in this truth for which we’re often called to contend?
In John 14, Jesus speaks to his disciples in their confusion. In their uncertainty. In their anxiety and fears. And he comforts them by saying, in essence, “I will be enough for you.” You know the way already, because you know me. I am the way. I will be sufficient for you. You don’t need to look elsewhere; you don’t need to supplement me with anything else.
You’re disoriented, and I am the way.
You’re confused, and I am the truth.
You’re fearful, and I am the life.
Knowing me is enough, and will be enough, he says. Your search can end with me.
His Glory, Our Joy
Jesus gets the glory of being “the way,” (not “a way”), “the truth” (not just true), and “the life” (not just life), and as he does, we get the joy and peace and stability of having such a Lord and Savior and Treasure. “The way” is not centrally belief in certain principles and execution of particular actions, but trusting and treasuring a living person. At the heart of Christianity is not pillars to follow, but a person to know and enjoy.
Jesus is the way. By all means, contend for this precious truth in the classroom, over coffee, and on the street, but don’t miss its sweetness first in the depths of your own soul.