Jesus articulates once again here on the night before He dies, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. So the culture said there are many roads to heaven.
Jesus says there's only one road, and He is the road, because that's what the word way means here in the text, the road. There are many non-Christians who will express an esteem for Jesus, or at least a version of Jesus. Perhaps they'll say He was merely a good teacher or a wise man. That is until they confront the very words of Jesus Himself and His claim to be the exclusive way to the Father, the exclusive way to heaven.
Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. People outside of the church have many opinions about who Jesus is. Even some Christians have attempted to rebrand Jesus to make Him more palatable in the 20th and 21st centuries. But if we're to rightly know who Jesus is, we must go to the source, the words of Jesus Himself. Today, R.C. Sproul unpacks the controversial and unwavering declaration of Jesus that He is the way, the truth, and the life.
Here's Dr. Sproul. Once again, we have the opportunity to come together to explore the I Am's of Jesus, and the one that we're going to look at today has multiple attributes associated with it. And it appears in one of the most popular chapters in all of sacred Scripture, the 14th chapter of the Gospel according to John. And so let's look at the beginning of chapter 14, which is familiar to most of us, and see the context in which this I Am appears. In the midst of this discourse, which begins really the upper room discourse that Jesus had with His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed and in which He was arrested and sent for trial, Jesus meeting with His disciples says to them, Let not your heart be troubled.
You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions, and if it were not so, I would have told you, and I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also, and where I go you know, and the way you know. Now it's Thomas who interrupts Jesus at this point with a question, and he says, Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way? Now that's the context for this I Am of Jesus in which Jesus is meeting with His disciples on the night before His death and preparing them for His death, and telling them that He's going to be leaving them, that He's going away. And He says, You know where I'm going. At least they should have known where He was going.
He said He's going to go and prepare a place for them in His Father's house. And Thomas then, who's a little bit confused and bewildered by these statements, says to Jesus, Lord, we don't know where you are going, and how can we know the way? Now the concept of the way was very important in the early church. We've already looked at it briefly in terms of Jesus' statement, I am the door, which is the means through which access is gained into the kingdom. And in the early church, we know that Christians were not first called Christians.
The term Christian was a pejorative term, an insulting term. When they were first called Christians in Antioch, but before that took place, they were called the people of the way, because Jesus had spoken so many times about the way to God, the way to the kingdom, the way to the Father. As I mentioned again with respect to the I am the door saying, Jesus said, remember, that broad is the way, and wide is the gate that leads to destruction, many go in thereby, but narrow is the way, and straight is the gate that leads to life, and few there be that find it. And so now He's talking about this narrow way that yields eternal life for people, that yields access and entrance into that heavenly abode where Jesus is going to prepare a place for His people among the many places that the Father has. And so Thomas said, how can we know the way? Give us a map.
Give us the directions. How are we going to know how to go? And it's not all that different from Peter's question earlier, or Quo Vadis, you know, whither thou goest, where are you going? And it's in that context that Jesus answers Thomas' question with these words, Thomas, I am the way. I am the way, the truth, and the life. And again, this exclusiveness is contained in this dramatic statement when He said, no one comes to the Father except through Me, even as He had said the same thing when He said that He was the door through which men must enter to come into the kingdom. Now He says, He makes it very clear, nobody can come to the Father except by Me.
That's on a collision course with, again, all of the pluralism that we hear in America and the comparative religion courses that we see today in this country, and the Church more and more and more is buying into this inclusive theology where all the world religions are equally valid, equally true, and distancing themselves from this exclusiveness that Jesus articulates once again here on the night before He dies. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. So the culture said there are many roads to heaven.
Jesus says there's only one road and He is the road because that's what the word way means here in the text, the road, the pathway that one must follow to get to a desired destination. So that's how He answers Thomas initially, and He goes on to say, I'll come back to the other portions of it, but He goes on to say, if you had known Me, you would have known My Father also, and from now on you know Him and have seen Him. And Jesus is saying to His disciples, you haven't really understood who I am. You haven't really known Me, because if you would have known Me, you would have known the Father, and from now on you do know Him, and you have seen Him. Now that's one of the most radical statements Jesus ever made.
Now on you can say that you've seen Him. And Philip now responds to that and says to Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us. That modernized version of the statement has been made not to give more precision to the translation from the Greek, but to help the stumbling tongues of preachers like Me. Because the old King James said, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
That's a real tongue twister, sufficeth. Try to say that a few times quickly, and you'll see why the translators change it to sufficient for us, because they have mercy on the preacher. But in any case, what Philip is saying is, it's as if he said this, Jesus, we've been with you now these three years or so, and we can't believe what our eyes have beheld. We've seen you raise people from the dead. We've seen you give sight to the blind. We've seen you give hearing to the deaf. We've seen you walk on the water, and some of us have even seen you be transfigured before our very eyes. We have seen incredible things.
We saw you feed 5,000 people from a few loaves and fishes and all of these things, but we're still not satisfied. We want the big one. We want the one that even Moses was denied and of which every person has been denied since Adam and Eve were banished from paradise and not allowed to return. We want to see God. We want the beatific vision now.
We want to see His face, because if we see God the Father who's invisible, and we've tried to be obedient to Him, but it's so hard to be devoted and obedient to a God who is invisible. Just once, Jesus, show us the Father, and that will be sufficient. That's all we ask. And you know how many times they would say, just do this one last thing, and we'll never ask again.
Well, you know how people are like that. How many times have we said that to God? God, just answer this one prayer, and we'll never ask another one. And He answers it, and the next day we're there just one more, God, and we never stop. But here's Philip. He says, show us the Father, and that's enough.
It's sufficient for us. Now, if there's any time in Scripture where we see Jesus almost becoming impatient, Jesus being annoyed and irritated with His disciples, I think maybe this is the place. Now, of course, we operate at a disadvantage when we're reading these words of the written text because they don't tell us always the nonverbal gestures that accompany the words or the language inflections and so on, the intonations of the voice. We don't know how that goes, and sometimes just by changing the tone of our voice or raising our eyebrows, we can take a simple statement and make it satirical. We learn those tricks of communication. But Jesus seems to be exasperated here when He says, Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip? Now, I think that communicates not a little bit but a whole lot of rebuke. How long have you been with me, Philip?
And you're still asking me questions like that? This is an elementary thing that you should have grasped a long time ago is the import that I get out of Jesus' response to Philip. You've been with me all this time, and you still don't know me, Philip.
Then comes the dramatic addition. He who has seen me has seen the Father. So how can you say, Show us the Father?
What do you think I've been doing since the day I was born? You're talking to God incarnate. You're talking to the express image of His person. You're talking to the visible manifestation of the invisible God. If you have seen me, Philip, you've seen the Father. Because when you look into my eyes, you're looking into the eyes of God Himself. This is one of the most fantastic claims that Jesus ever makes when He says to His decision. It never ceases to amaze me when there are people who say that in the New Testament, Jesus never makes any claims to deity.
Well, here He's making one with a vengeance. You've seen Him. You've seen the Father. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you, I do not speak on my own authority but the Father who dwells in me does the works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. There is such a unity here in the Godhead between the Father and the Son that if you see the Son, you see the Father. If you know the Son, you know the Father. And conversely, if you know the Father, you know the Son.
This was the point of dispute that Jesus had with the Pharisees who claimed to be disciples of God the Father but who rejected Jesus. And He said to them, look, if you know the Father, you have to believe in the Son because the Father bears witness to me. And so the way to the Father is through the Son. The way to see the Father is to see the Son.
The way to get to the Father is to go through the Son. All right, well then let's come back to the multiple statement that Jesus makes with this I am when He says, I am the way, the truth, and the life. I think the middle one is one of the most important of the I am is when Jesus identifies Himself with truth. Remember years ago, Ligonier Ministries put on a seminar in western Pennsylvania in the early 70s on the question of the inerrancy of sacred Scripture. And we had scholars from around the world come in and present papers, and without collusion, every one of them came in and based their defense of the authority of the Bible on the authority of Jesus by showing that Jesus' view of Scripture was that that was the Word that is truth, that it is God's Word, that it is the Word that cannot be broken, and so on. And I also remember while I was studying higher critical theories that it was commonplace among critical scholars to acknowledge that the historical Jesus, if we know anything about the historical Jesus, we know that He embraced the first century Jewish view of the Bible that it was the inspired Word of God. But, they went on to say, that Jesus, in His human nature, was not omniscient, He did not know everything, and so He was unaware that the Bible was not inspired.
And so He made mistakes common in His day by saying, Moses wrote of me, and He didn't realize that Moses never wrote the five books of the Pentateuch, that that was written by a series of editors and so on, and redactors, and that Jesus was wrong in these earthly assessments about how the Scripture had come to be. And the critics would say, but that's okay, because Jesus in His incarnation, in His human nature, was not omniscient. There were things that He Himself said He didn't know, and that's right. His human nature was not omniscient. The divine nature was, but not the human nature. And so since the human nature was not omniscient, it was perfectly okay that there were things He didn't know. Now, I remember writing an essay in Table Talk many years ago, entitled, Did the Baby Jesus Know the Earth was Round? And I answered that question by, say, touching His human nature, the babe and the manger didn't know what shape the world was.
Touching the divine nature, He knew exactly what it looked like, because He made it. But it's all right for the human nature to have normal limitations of human knowledge. And so the critics say it's okay that Jesus didn't know the truth about the Scripture.
And that's where we came back, and we said, wait a minute. What's at stake here with respect to Jesus teaching correct statements of fact and reality in His earthly ministry is not His deity. But His sinlessness. Because if a teacher claims to know something that he does not know, and if he teaches people error when he claims to know the truth, then he is morally accountable for that. And it is one thing if I come into the classroom and I say to my students, for the best of my knowledge, this is what I believe to be the truth. You're not going to be mad at me or accuse me of immorality or sin if I'm proven to be wrong.
I mean, it goes without saying that I can be wrong and that I'm wrong many, many times. But what if I would preface my teaching? I came before you and I said, now before we get started today, there's a couple of things you need to understand about my teaching. First of all, I never teach anything from my own mind. I only teach what God tells me to teach. And He has given me all authority, by the way, so that if you don't submit to my teaching and to my authority, you are being rebellious against God Himself. And then I said, now the second thing before you take notes in my classroom, I want you to know that not only do I always tell the truth, but I am the truth. I am so truthful that I am the veritable incarnation of truth. Do you see what the scholars have to stumble over when they say, well, we still think Jesus is a great man and He's our Lord and our Savior, even though He was ignorant about certain things, and not only was He ignorant, and if He was ignorant, He should have kept His mouth shut, but not only was He ignorant, but He taught with as much authority as He could claim the people of God and the church of God certain things about sacred Scripture, and He taught them erroneously. Ignorance would not excuse that, because if I don't know something, I'm supposed to know that I don't know something.
And I'm supposed to bracket my claims of expertise in light of the limits of my knowledge. But for Jesus, there were no brackets. He said, I am the truth. And so identified was He with truth that when He was on trial before Pontius Pilate again, as we mentioned the other day, Pontius Pilate asked Him about if He was a king, and Jesus said, the reason I came to this world was to bear witness to the truth, and those who are of the truth hear my voice, very similar to His statements regarding the Good Shepherd.
Now, beloved, hear this. You live in an age where truth has been despised and lies slain in the street, where in the church people say, it's not doctrine that matters, it's relationships. Truth is not important, it's getting along that's important, except that when we say what's important, we're saying this is an important truth, and we have no way to evaluate the axiom unless we first have an understanding of truth. It's the truth of God that is supposed to define how we are to relate to one another. And so to set relationships and truth against each other is to divide and to tear asunder what God has put together. Truth and relationships are to be together and held equally sacred to us as the people of God. And how can we despise truth without at the same time despising Christ? Because He is the truth.
I take great comfort in that because virtually every principle and precept that the Bible teaches is denied somewhere in our culture today. So how do you know it's true? Well, if you want to know the truth, go to the source.
Go to the source of truth. And the one who is the source of truth, the norm of truth, and the embodiment of truth is Christ who is the incarnation of truth itself. I am the way or the road.
I am the truth. And once again, He introduces the same principle that we see in the I am the resurrection, and we saw in the I am the Good Shepherd when He says, I am the life. Not only am I alive, not only do I give this life, this divine life, this spiritual life to my people, but I am life itself. This anticipates Paul at Mars Hill when he talks about, in Him we live and move and have our being. Life itself would be impossible apart from Christ.
Any life, not just spiritual life, but apart from God, there is no life at all. And Jesus is saying to His disciples, to Thomas, to Philip, that they're befuddled on this difficult time after the Lord's Supper, that He says, I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life.
All three of these things find their essence, and they subsist in Him. You're listening to the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm Nathan W. Bingham.
What you just heard was a message from R.C. Sproul's Knowing Christ series. Whether you'd like to use this series to help a new Christian better understand who Jesus is, or use it to do a deep dive in the Gospel of John, we'll make the complete series available to you for your donation of any amount. When you give your gift at renewingyourmind.org, we'll send you this eight-message series on DVD and give you digital access to the complete series as well as the digital study guide.
So you can give your gift at renewingyourmind.org, or by calling us at 800 435 4343. How do we grow as Christians? Well, tomorrow R.C. Sproul answers that very question as he considers the truth that Jesus is the true vine, here on Renewing Your Mind. You
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