Skip to content

When You Need The Way, Truth, and Life

Jesus said “I am the way of the truth and the life and no one comes to the father except by me.” I think there are some things that get lost in the focus on the second half of that statement. I want to focus on the first part in such a way that it doesn't negate the rest.

Corby Stephens
Corby Stephens
10 min read
When You Need The Way, Truth, and Life
Photo by Kyle Glenn / Unsplash

Table of Contents

The following text is the raw, unedited transcript from a sermon given on May 7th, 2023 at Christ Our Hope Anglican Church in Olympia, WA. You can also listen to the audio. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast! :-)

Sometimes when I read the Bible it's like a scene in a movie happening in my head. And sometimes that scene is probably funnier than it's supposed to be. There's a couple of moments in the gospel reading today that I call Jesus hitting his head against the wall. On the one hand, I can't blame him. On the other hand, I'm sure I would have been as dull as the disciples were, but that's how it goes in my head.

In our collect today, it focuses on one of the better known quotes from Jesus when he says “I am the way of the truth and the life and no one comes to the father except by me.” It's obviously a tremendous verse for sharing with people in our culture that is very multi religious; Jesus says he's the only way. Jesus himself says this. It's not me saying it, it's not me making it up. Jesus himself says he's the only way. So if you want to argue with somebody who's closed minded, you can take it up with him. However, I want to focus on the first part of that quote where Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life” in such a way that it doesn't negate the rest.

I think there are some things that get lost in the focus on the second half of that statement. This is all being spoken. In this part, they're about to go into the upper room or they're already in the upper room. Sorry if I am misquoting that. Jesus is downloading a lot of stuff to them. He's just passing on a whole bunch of stuff before the betrayal and the crucifixion.

He says things like: “I am the vine. You are the branches coming up.” He discusses the works of the Holy Spirit. And then there’s Jesus’ high priestly prayer where he says, “I'm in the father and the father is in me,” like 10 times and it gets really confusing. Like who's in who and what's in what? And I'm in that and you're in that? It's just a lot. It's a lot for God to pass along to us.

But now for a couple of the head banging moments I should highlight. In verse seven, Jesus says, “If you had known me, you would have known my father also... and you know the way to where I am going.” Then Thomas is like, “I don’t even know where you're going.” Are we going to the store? What are we doing? What is happening?

I think God was like: “I am the way! Me! Hello? Jesus has been with you for years trying to tell this to you.” Then Jesus says, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you, you do know Him and have seen him.” Then Philip said, “Lord, show us the father and it is enough for us.” Deep breaths, Jesus, deep breaths. It's ok. That's how it plays out in my head.

But we get to this very significant statement: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” I was pondering this. There's something almost Trinitarian about it. The way, the truth, and the life. God is the way, Jesus is the truth, and the Holy Spirit gives us the life. That's what the Spirit is. It's the breath; it's God's breath of life in us.

When Jesus is before Pilate, Pilate says, “Who is truth?” And Jesus is standing right in front of him like the truth is right there. Then God is the way and Adam and Eve left God's way. But God, of course, provides a way back to his way. I thought that was rather interesting. Another way to look at the way, the truth, and the life could be three ways to describe the Torah, God's word. It is literally the way. It is the path. In the Psalms, we see it referred to repeatedly as both truth and life. Life in his word, life in his commands, truth. His word is truth. Of course, Jesus is that word, isn't he? He is the word of God. In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. It all points to Him, but it's not just a matter of knowing this. It's a matter of living it. In fact, in the middle of our collect, it is that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal glory.

This is not just knowing that Jesus is the only way to the Father. This is living this out. So how do we do this? What does this look like? There are times (I don't know about you) when I don't want this way or I have forgotten this truth and I certainly don't have this life. On the one hand, I'm not lifting up any of my struggles or frustrations as “these are the worst ever” because everybody has their own stuff that goes on. I think everybody's frustrations and pains are valid whether it's a D on my test at school or my loved one’s dying of cancer. To me if you're in that place of needing God, it's the same thing. Don't undervalue somebody else's pain, but also don't overvalue yours. But that's a whole different sermon. For Jess and I, it has been a rough seven years now. Over seven years I've grown to hate the question, “How's it going?” because it's a lot to unload with somebody. They're going to regret asking this question 10 minutes later while you’re still telling me what's happening.

When stuff is hitting the fan, how do you answer that? It turns into, “I'm all right. I'm good. How are you?” You bounce it off to the other person. It's been a weird seven years and this last week, for the second time in the last seven years, I hit close to emotional bottom. Just, “I quit. Forget it.” The first time this happened was when we found out Jess’s diagnosis about the mold illness. We called it having a fire sale because we basically had to get rid of almost all of our stuff because of how the mold embeds. We couldn’t take it with us. The house was less than 20 years old, but had the mold that she was allergic to. So at this point the house was mostly cleaned up and empty and of course, you have to keep it ready to show when you're trying to sell a house. It's got to be ready to be shown at a moment's notice. Plus we were really anxious to get rid of this house.

One day I went home to check on the puppy. Alice, the puppy, was relatively new to us and she was still making messes and such. When you want to show a house, you don't want a pile of dog poo around. So I went home from work to check on the house and pick up Alice and take her with me so that the house could be shown. Not only was there dog poop and pee, but there was a trail of ants from the front door through the living room, into the kitchen, to behind the fridge. I think I'd already been having a rough day at work and I was already pretty heavily brought down from all the stuff we were going through and I just walked in and I looked at all this and I sat on the floor. Then I, excuse my abbreviated French, said “What the f do you want from me?” I'm getting a little choked up now even thinking about it. I was so done. I actually screamed that in my house by myself. I was like: “I have no way. I have no truth. I have no life.” To use a deeply theological spiritual term, which I think you will recognize, it sucked. It did. I cleaned up and followed through. That was a pretty low, not fun thing.

For whatever reason this last week, it just got really heavy again and mentally I said I'm done. I quit. Forget this. But then I get to read these passages. God has a sense of humor. “You feel bad? You're going to preach on it!” So I was thinking about the way, the truth, and the life.

When we look at the other passages in Acts, we see it's some years later and Paul and friends are on a mission trip. They are itinerant preachers. They're trying to plant churches and going from place to place to establish new fellowships. In chapter 17 we read about them going to Thessalonica and Berea. Some people think Paul was only in Thessalonica for three weeks that first time. And yet he writes this five chapter letter back to them where he goes into all the things he taught them. It's not lightweight, new believer stuff. It's some heavy lifting that he passed on to them.

He goes to the synagogue first to preach to the Jews out of what we would call the Old Testament. Some people believe and he's teaching them the way, the truth, and the life. He's teaching them Jesus. In some places they're more dedicated to their position of power than they are into following God. The ones in Thessalonica chase them out. Then they go to Berea where it seems the leadership in the synagogue is more open and receptive, but the ones in Thessalonica hear about it, and say “We're going to go get him!”

But Paul is trying to do this and it's the beginning of his story where he’s shipwrecked many times and arrested and in jail and sick; but this is all for the way, the truth, and the life. Now, if we're going to compare stuff, I think Paul's situation was way worse than my ant trail and dog poop situation. That must have been no fun.

There is a beautiful Psalm that is very celebratory of God's word, love, faithfulness, and compassion. It refers back to the parting of the Red Sea and walking on dry land. On one hand, when I was first reading this, I felt that the psalmist is referring to some pretty old works of God, but that doesn't make them any less valid does it? He's not referring to something that God did in his life the year, month, decade before. This is the foundational stuff, which to me suggests that there is the way, the truth, and the life, no matter how far back God's work goes. Creation, the flood, delivering Noah and his family through the flood, and the Red Sea and the miracles that happened there. Their landmarks were landmarks for them and are for us of what God can do, does, and will do.

Peter talks about a number of things. He talks about growing up in this way, truth and life. “Like newborn infants long for the pure spiritual milk, so that by it, you may grow into salvation. If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good as you come to him. A living stone rejected by men in the sight of God chosen and precious. You yourselves, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house. To be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

We are blocks of stone that are being built up into a spiritual house, which means that like a wall of bricks or stones, there are some stones that are supporting others. Also those ones above are resting on those below. That as a house, as a pile of rocks, we support one another and are supported by one another as one. That's how it's supposed to be when you are in that terrible, sucky place of no way, no truth, and no life. You really want to isolate. I really want isolate. I want to be the rock that's over there by itself. I don't want anything to do with anything else. But then you're not being supported, are you? You're not a part of the house. You're not a part of the priesthood. You're alone, but God calls us to be together, to support one another and to be supported.

I love supporting other people. I don't necessarily love being supported by others. I don't even like it when people say “nice sermon.” I get really self-conscious. I appreciate it. When somebody says good job about something, I say “No, thank you, and bless you.” But I'm a work in progress. God's still chipping away at my blockhead. The role we have as a royal priesthood, a holy nation of people for his own possession just reinforces that we're not these little islands. We are together in this thing. I am a part of a holy priesthood.

When I was first investigating Anglicanism, one of the words I was hung up on was priest because growing up in a non-denominational background, I associated the word priest Jewish priests; the high priest, the one who stands, who intermediates between God and the people. Someone who has this position like Jesus does between God and the people. And I thought, “But we're all a priesthood.” Interestingly though, someone explained to me that priest really has more to do with the word president, or the one who presides over.

So the priest in this tradition is not so much about the priest being in the way between you and God as it is one who is presiding over this service and who, in some cases, yes, is acting the role of Jesus. They're presiding and making this service happen. In some cases, they do stand in for Jesus, but only symbolically. They're not Jesus, the high priest. In a sense, we all get to be in this royal priesthood. We all get to represent. We all get to deliver. There's nobody who's more special than anybody else because we are a holy nation. A holy people.

I love the phrase, “A people for his own possession. That you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

This connection to the way, the truth, and the life in this instance has to do with not isolating. With understanding that other people go through the same kinds of pain. With not isolating ourselves from one another, but walking together in this way, in this truth, and in this life. It's remembering that there is a way, a truth, and a life.

That is a process to go through! It's not just a switch. It's something that you have to be reminded of and grow through, but you do need to be reminded of it by others and by the Holy Spirit. So as we remember where Jesus has gone and where he's coming from to then take us back, as we remember that the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the father, we must remember that so are we. The Father is in us, Jesus is in us, the Spirit is in us and we are in Him to do the works that He has given us to do.

Jesus is the way to do them. He is the truth that is communicated and he is the life that makes it happen. Let's sit with that today. Whatever you're going through and whatever I’ve been going through. Let’s soak in that and support one another and be supported by one another as we go through these things. Because what did Jesus say there at the end? I am with you. Even until the end of the age, you are never alone.



Related Posts

Members Public

Hearts Surely Fixed

Do you have an unruly will? Therefore, what we are determined to do sometimes gets off track, out of whack. Our affections, the things we desire at any given time, are also unruly. Therefore, our feelings can be flippant.

Hearts Surely Fixed
Members Public

Right Relationship With God and With Others

God's Law gives us the boundaries that keep us on the path instead of falling off the path and off the cliff or into the water or whatever the danger might be, but they keep us in line.

Right Relationship With God and With Others
Members Public

Ash Wednesday and 80s Movies

Ash Wednesday is every '80s movie training or preparation montage you've ever seen. It's recognizing the need for training, practice, exercise, whatever word you want to use, and doing it.

Ash Wednesday and 80s Movies