This guy makes some pretty crazy claims. He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” I have to admit, I have a hard time with this one. I really don’t like being told what to do. And I really hate being told that there is only one way I can go. That basically makes me want to say, “Okay, fine. I didn’t want to go to the Father anyway!”
That was my attitude for the longest time. Even after coming back to Christianity after a very long absence, I still struggle with this claim of exclusivity. How can it possibly be that God is going to punish a person for not choosing to walk down the path of Jesus? Especially when the moral code of most religions teach the same basic things. When you look at it, the basic tenets of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, Sufism, Wicca, (etc…ad nauseum…) are basically the same. Love each other. Love God. Do good things. Don’t do bad things.
But still we’re left with this claim of exclusivity. So what do you do with it? Christianity does have the same basic moral code as the other religions, but it also has more. Jesus doesn’t claim to have spoken with God. He says he is God. He does not claim to have discovered a Way. He says he is the Way. He does not claim to point others to Truth and Life. He says he is Truth and Life. This is not something that is easy to swallow.
This weekend a visiting pastor, Mark Whipple, was discussing this verse, and he showed a clip from Forrest Gump. He showed the scene in Vietnam in which Forrest is looking for his friend Bubba. He keeps running in to find Bubba, and in the process keeps seeing people who are injured, and have no hope. He grabs them up and carries them out of the woods to safety. Mark said this is a better representation of Jesus as the Way. Finally it clicked in my head.
I have spent my entire life reading that verse with the attitude of “many paths, one way.” But it is not like that at all. Religion is a path to walk. It is something that we do of our own power. It is a series of hoops to jump through. What Jesus offers is totally different. It is like trying to drive a car to the moon. There are some roads that take you into valleys which are farther from the moon. There are some roads that take you up on mountain tops for a better view of the moon. But Jesus says He’s the space shuttle! It is not a claim that He is a better kind of road that we can scurry about on. It is a claim that what we need is not a road at all. If we stay on any road, we are ultimately driving in circles. It is a complete shift in transportation.
To put it another way, we are like a person who has been in a wreck. There are so many onlookers telling us different directions to the hospital. We are still lying there bleeding, and everyone is telling us that if we just follow their particular set of instructions, then we could get ourselves up and get to the hospital. Then comes the ambulance driver. He does not deny that these directions might get us to the hospital. But He also knows that in our condition, we have no hope of ever being able to follow them perfectly enough to get us where we need to go. So, He lifts us on His shoulders, cleans our wounds, and follows the directions perfectly for us. Our job is to stop fighting and trying to get there on our own, and just let Him save us.
If Jesus is just another path to walk down, then He is nothing. A path is something that is beneath us. It is something that we can choose out of our own power. And if ours is the True path, and everyone else’s is wrong, then we can be proud of how smart we are, and feel sorry for how stupid they are. Or worse, we can drag people kicking and screaming toward our path, and kill them if they refuse to walk it with us. Jesus is not just another path. He is not a set of rules to follow to achieve perfection. Jesus is the rescuing hero. He comes along side of anyone on any path who is willing to let Him, and He takes them with Him and says, “There, weren’t you tired trying to do this all alone?” And takes them Home.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30