Is The Way, The Truth, and The Life a Noun, Verb, or Both?
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6 (CEB).
Let me ask whether you consider yourself a Christian, a spiritualist, irreligious, an atheist, or an agnostic, possibly the most important question of all time. What did Jesus mean by his words in John 14:6?
With all the buzz and inspiration taking place around the globe with the movie “Jesus Revolution” (which is excellent, by the way, and produced with the quality of a major motion picture) and the momentum of the Asbury Revival, it’s a great time for every human to take this question seriously.
Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life a noun, verb, or both? Is it a destination, process, or both? This may be one of life’s greatest questions because its implications, including eternal life, could be costly.
If Jesus refers to the Way, the Truth, and the Life in the noun form, then Jesus points to himself as the final destination and excludes all other paths to God. This means there are around five thousand religions worldwide, comprised of billions of people who have it all wrong and will never truly experience God, know God, or spend eternity with God. That doesn’t seem fair to countless people trying to live along spiritual lines and committed to living a God-centered life, especially from a God portrayed as merciful, graceful, and loving.
Since we know factually, there are close to five thousand religions worldwide, comprised of billions of people claiming to know God and who have experienced a spiritual awakening in their lives, how does one make sense of this, using Jesus’ own words, if the Way, the Truth, and the Life is a noun (destination) versus a verb (process/path), or both?
Throughout history, this multitude of spiritual experiences comprises countless people whose lives have been spiritually transformed and who have witnessed a vast array of miracles in their own lives and the lives of others. How does one explain this fact if the Way, the Truth, and the Life are limited to a single destination, person, a.k.a. Jesus?
One could argue, and many do, that all these other religions, practices, and experiences have elements of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Still, they fall short; they are not the full representation of God; they are limited in nature because the fullness of God and God’s eternal purpose can only be experienced through the noun (person) of Jesus the Christ.
Let’s assume this is true; then this Jesus-looking God, described as the full essence of God (Hebrews 1:1-4), being all merciful, graceful, and loving, will turn his back on countless people from the past, present, and future. They will be forgotten because they didn’t fully acknowledge that Jesus is the “ONLY” way to know or experience God; they will spend eternity separated from God, or if you wish, in Hell, even though they sought to know and love God and committed to living God-centered lives. It’s hard to swallow this claim, given that Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and neighbor (Luke 10:27). With our own eyes, we can testify that these people have made a valiant effort to do just that.
What if the Way, the Truth, and the Life is a verb (a process or path) versus a noun (a person or destination)? I believe this changes everything, and now many more people are brought into the kingdom of God and will experience salvation and eternal life. Which best fits the definition of God’s character, defined throughout Scripture and exemplified through the teaching and life of Jesus? God’s character centers on justice, righteousness, and shalom (peace). Jesus confirms this through his message and demonstration. What if the Way, the Truth, and the Life can only be achieved by dying to one’s self-interest and living for God’s ambitions and purpose, meaning living a life centered on justice, righteousness, and peace?
Countless people throughout history from many different faith traditions, backgrounds, and contexts have clearly demonstrated they were committed to justice, righteousness, and shalom (peace). Their hearts were as Jesus-centered as many Christians and often much more centered.
So when a person dies and experiences God up close and personal, do you think it will be a “Son” test or a “soul” test (your soul is defined in three parts, your mind, will, and emotions)? Will God say, “Did you profess “ONLY Jesus” as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, or will God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, because you committed your heart and soul to the Way, the Truth, and the Life, you will be with Me for eternity, welcome home?
None of us can know for sure (it comes down to faith), but each must decide if Jesus, by his own claim, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Is Jesus a noun (a destination), a verb (a process), represents both, or merely a kook? If Jesus is a kook, he pulled off the greatest lie and illusion in the history of the world and continues to do so in the present. But, if what Jesus claims about himself, the Father and the Holy Spirit is true, we would bid ourselves well if we take his words, life, and prophecy seriously.
Reflect on this question honestly, is there a better way to live than by practicing justice, righteousness, and shalom (peace) in all our affairs? If we truly practiced this way of life as individuals, a community, a country, and as a global movement, we would end polarization, division, hate, poverty, violence, and racism immediately. Nobody would be excluded, wounded, or suffering at the hands of others.
Throughout the New Testament, the writers remind us that we are to be “ONE BODY” of believers, no longer to be divided. Worldly labels are no longer our identities; our new identity is as one among many in God’s family; we are all descendants of God and God’s kids (Galatians 3:28). Yet, when you look around the world, even in Christianity alone, there are thousands of sects and denominations doing their own thing, not living the way the early Christians did, nor how they are instructed to live as “ONE BODY” (Acts 4:32-37).
So be honest with yourself; what did Jesus mean when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life? No one comes to the Father except through me?”
If a person is committed to living a Jesus-centered life, they will die to their self-interests and live for God’s eternal purpose. Very few have done this with any longevity, but the ones who have shaped history, many of which were not so-called Christians. Listen to what Jesus says,
24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.25 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. 26 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives” (Matthew 16:24-26)?
Listen to the instruction come, say no, take up, follow, gain, give, and find. Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life a noun, verb, or both? Throughout Scripture, the message is clear that God’s eternal purpose will have the last reign on earth as it is in heaven. Humans will be either committed to worshipping and following the Way, the Truth, and the Life, or they will be separated for eternity and suffer the consequences of their selfish desires and way of life.
Jesus himself says that many will acknowledge and claim to know the “noun” but will be overlooked because they did not choose the Way, the Truth, and the Life of a verb. Here are the words of Jesus himself:
21 “Not everybody who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 On the Judgment Day, many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name and expel demons in your name and do lots of miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I’ll tell them, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you people who do wrong” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Listen closely to what he says, “ONLY those who do the WILL of my Father who is heaven will enter. A noun or a verb? Zap theology doesn’t apply here; people can’t claim they are saved because they point to the noun (Jesus), wear a cross necklace, a chrome fish on their car, sport a cool bible cover, and listen to Christian radio. Jesus, as a noun, doesn’t get you to heaven, by Jesus’ own words. The will of the Father is a verb, so don’t settle for only the noun; instead, live out your faith as a verb.
So what about those who do the will of the Father but don’t point to Jesus (the noun) as the Way, the Truth, and the Life? They instead point straight to God, the Father, the Mother, the Spirit, the Great Spirit, the Creator, the God of Love, the Holy Spirit, the Higher Power, or a Power greater than themselves. They are committed to justice, righteousness, shalom (peace), loving God and neighbor, and a life of love and service. So do they rot in Hell, or do they occupy and experience the kingdom of God on earth and in Heaven for eternity?
Listen to the wisdom from one of the greatest theologians of our era:
“Jesus is a person and, simultaneously, a process. Jesus is the Son of God, but at the same time, he is “the Way.” Jesus is the goal, but he is also the means, and the means is always the way to the cross.” ~ Fr. Richard Rohr
Here is a closing thought to consider. Using the illustration of climbing to the top of the mountain to experience God, or as Jesus put it, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” The facts as we know them today, there are many starting paths up the mountain. With close to five thousand different religions in the world and thousands of other sects and denominations inside Christianity, we can’t refute the evidence.
What if all these “means or processes” up the mountain have elements of the Way, the Truth, and the Life? What if, having reached the mountain’s peak, every trudger discovers the words of Jesus to be true? No one can reach the top of the mountain unless they do the will of the Father. The will of the Father is to commit one’s life to justice, righteousness, and shalom (peace), to love God and neighbor, and strive to live a life of love and service.
If a person committed themselves to the will of the Father and reached the peak of the mountain without having seen the movie “Jesus Revolution,” attended the Asbury Revival, experienced an altar call, been baptized, or worn a cross necklace, is Jesus going to shove them off the mountain because he is “King of the Hill,” or will he gracefully, mercifully, and lovingly, say, “well done good and faithful trudger, you will be with me in paradise? How you answer this question will be predicated on how you answered the opening question, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life a noun, verb, or both?
You might be eager to ask, “what is the correct answer to this question?” Well, it depends on who you ask; the more important question is, “how do you respond to this question being posed?” Jesus says, “9 And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened” (Luke 11:9-10).
If we seek to grow closer to God and desire a spiritual experience and awakening, we must approach our faith journey as a verb, not simply a noun. We must engage the process, not merely put our hope in the destination. Wherever you are on your faith journey, I hope you experience God up close and personal, and your soul is transformed now and for eternity.
God of all creation, I come to you today seeking the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I surrender my will and life to Your will and ask for Your forgiveness, mercy, grace, and love to fill and heal my soul. I am confused and frustrated by all the claims about how to experience a personal relationship with You genuinely. Please guide my mind, will, and emotions to follow the right path from now to eternity. I pray these things in the name of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.