We humans are preoccupied with destinations. Whether it be academic destinations, career destinations, holiday destinations, material destinations or whatever else we believe we need in order to find satisfaction in this life.
Ecclesiastes records the story of how King Solomon tried to find peace and contentment in every possible earthly pursuit, only to discover how elusive earthly ‘destinations’ can be (see Ecc. 1:1-11; 12:8). Either we never actually ‘get there’, or when we do, like Solomon we are dissatisfied, left wanting more.
There’s a metaphysical reason for this human dilemma. You see, we were all created for only one destination – to be united with our Creator, God (cf. Ecc. 3:11; 12:13; Isa. 43:7; Rom. 11:36; Eph. 3:7-12; Col. 1:15-17; Rev. 21:3-4; 22:3-5). Anything short of that, be it fame, fortune or even family, will fail to satisfy this deep-seated need to be ‘at home’ with our Lord.
Jesus’ disciples were the same as us. They too were preoccupied with reaching a destination. From their Old Testament perspective, ‘home’ to them was coming out from under the yoke of imperial Rome and entering into the promised Messianic Kingdom. They had not yet come to understand the difference between Jesus’ first Advent and His Second Coming (see footnote below).
It was this misunderstanding that led to their confusion in our passage:
“And if I (Jesus) 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." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" (John 14:3-5)
This led to Jesus making one of the most important statements of His entire ministry:
“Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
“Jesus… the way”
“The way” is an interesting phrase. It can indicate a particular direction, such as “Do you know the way to San Jose?” It can also mean a manner of walking or behaving, like when a Rehab Physio says to his patient “Please try to walk this way”, and then he demonstrates the correct way to walk. Which sense was Jesus implying when He said “I am the way… to the Father”?
I don’t think it’s either / or, I think it’s both / and. Indeed Jesus not only points us in the right direction to the Father, His sacrificial death and resurrection provide the only solution to our sin problem and as a result the right path to reconciliation with the Father. And if that’s not enough, Jesus provided a living example of the best way to live as we travel the journey of this life in preparation for eternity with the Father.
Jesus is the source of wisdom (right direction), loving grace (right method) and compassion (right example). So, when Jesus says “walk this way”, He simultaneously points us to God via the cross while also showing us by example how to successfully traverse the hills and valleys along “the way”.
When it comes to our eternal destiny, there is only one way, one truth and one source of eternal life – Jesus Christ. From the beginning, God planned it this way (cf. Gen. 3:15; Col. 1:15-23). Jesus was, is and always will be the only way to salvation (cf. John 3:16-18, 36; 8:58; 10:9; Acts 4:12; Rom. 6:23; 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:20-22; 1 Tim. 2:3-6; Heb. 1:1-3; 1 John 5:11-13, 20).
In 600 BC, God used His prophet Jeremiah to remind Israel that faith in God is the only way to lasting peace and salvation:
“Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jer. 6:16a)
Sadly, true to form (cf. Judges 21:25), Israel made the wrong choice. The verse goes on to say:
“But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'” (Jer. 6:16b)
Maybe Frank Sinatra took inspiration from the Israelites when he sang “I did it my way!”
While God has made the way to salvation clear to all humanity, most people reject His way and choose their own path. Thinking they are wiser than The One who made the universe, they believe and follow the original lie of Satan (cf. Gen. 3:4-5), to their own ruin (read Rom. 1:18-25 for a sobering and timely reminder).
The good news is, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples finally figured out what Jesus meant when He said to “walk this way”. So much so that Christianity became known as “The Way” (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).
Jesus is the way, eternal unity with the Father is the destination. They are inseparable. One leads to the other. The next time you are unsure which path to take or how to walk along it, just look at Jesus – what He said and what He did, and strive each day to “walk this way”.
“...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Heb. 12:1b-3)
For some examples of relevant Bible passages that prophecy about the Second Coming, check out Psa. 2; Isa. 2:3-4; 4:2-6; 7:14; 9:1-7; 11:1-16; 12:1-6; 14:1-3; 24:21-23; 25:1-9; Hos. 3:4-5; Joel 3:9-21; Amos 9:8-15; Mic. 4:1-8; Zeph. 3:12-20; Zech. 14:1-11; Matt. 24; 25; 1 Thess. 5:1-11; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2; and Rev. 20:1-6.