What if there’s only one way?

Check out John 14:1-14!

Where Is The Escape Hatch?

If you ask my parents, I was not always the easiest of children to deal with. I was lazy, tempered and very often downright disobedient. I remember one late night saying goodbye to some guests who had come over. Everyone made their way inside, but for some strange reason I thought the wing mirror of my mum’s car looked as attractive as the monkey bars in the local playground. Swinging to and fro, I was happy as larry. Until snap. And I knew in that moment trouble was imminent. I thought to myself, “is there a way out of this?” What excuse could justify this? “Mum, I ran into it by accident, I swear.” I desperately wanted to find an escape hatch; to make things easier, to comfort me in the situation. 

The way I felt that evening is quite similar to how I feel encountering the extremely controversial claims of Jesus. I want to tuck them away in a neat box and store them in the attic for a long, long time. In the book of John, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Surely Jesus does not mean he is the only way? Where is the exit? Is there an escape hatch?!? 

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6

Recently, I came across these words: “Nothing is more nauseating to contemporary youth than hypocrisy, and nothing more attractive than sincerity.” I write here with sincerity, honesty and heart, for this unswerving truth of Jesus is not only for me to know; I am called to tell it to all. I am not going to brush aside this man Jesus, who has transformed my life.

The Elephant In The Room:

“All religions are just the same, they are different paths to God. None of them have the whole truth.”

Usually, what follows this statement is the analogy of the elephant (truth) and blind men (world religions). The idea here is that religions are akin to blind men feeling various parts of the elephant. While they blindly feel the elephant, they attempt to determine what it is like. One man feels the tail – “an elephant is like a rope!” Another feels the leg and says, “it is like the trunk of a tree.” Gripping the trunk, another man expounds, “it is like a snake!” And so the analogy goes on, asserting that the blind men are all right, to some degree; they are each witnessing some part of the truth. “No religion has the whole truth.

“Really?” That’s my first response. How exactly are you certain of that? Have you thoroughly investigated every religion in existence? Do you have access to the whole truth, in order to make such a judgment about no religion containing the whole truth? Can you see the entire elephant, and the blind men? I think James Anderson highlighted the issue best: “the more pertinent question isn’t whether any religion has the whole truth, but whether the central and defining claims of any particular religion are in fact true.

This is where the distinctiveness of Christianity is expressed. As a Christian, I do not claim to know the whole truth. I am a messed up, finite and limited being. However, Christians do not make exclusive claims on the basis of our own knowledge, but on the basis of Christ’s. As soon as you claim that no one has the absolute truth, then you yourself have made a wide, sweeping, all-encompassing, absolute truth claim that must be justified.

In making the truth claim that Jesus is the only way, truth and life, my assertion rests on a source of knowledge that is fixed, complete, and all-encompassing. Christianity fits into the above analogy by claiming that God sees the whole elephant. In fact, He is the source of all truth and knowledge. God has revealed Himself to us through the Bible and ultimately in Jesus. Nobody backed up their own claims more than Christ. So, ask yourself, “Do I have such a source of knowledge? Where do I look to?” If you are unsure, I lovingly point to Jesus – the true source, the only way. While intellectual discussion can be stimulating, the relational reality of our humanity demands something more.

God sees the whole elephant. In fact, He is the source of all truth and knowledge. God has revealed Himself to us through the Bible and ultimately in Jesus.

What If Truth Was Relational? 

John wrote his gospel with two main aims in mind: that those who read might believe in Jesus and that you may have life to the full in his name (John 20:28-30). You might think that I am narrow-minded, short-sighted and intolerant to claim Jesus as the only way to God. But this claim was first uttered from the mouth of Christ, therefore I must be on borrowed narrow-mindedness and intolerance, because these are Jesus’ claims, not mine. 

However, when you read about Jesus in the four Gospels, you never encounter a narrow-minded, intolerant, conceited man. Rather, Jesus is humble, wide-hearted, inclusive, compassionate, full of grace and truth.

We might speculate that Jesus communicated these exclusive words before great leaders or in the public square. Was this some sort of all-out declaration to usurp the Roman Empire? 

No. Jesus brought these words before his dearest friends to comfort and console them. In a private dialogue, intimately gathering with his dearly beloved disciples (those 12 lads who followed him around), Jesus spoke into fear and anxiety. What caused all this tension? The disciples are panicking as one of their fellow disciples has just left as a traitor (John 13:21-30), Jesus has revealed he will be leaving for good (John 13:33) and Jesus informs the great disciple, Peter, that he will deny Jesus three times (John 13:36-38). This is the height of tension, angst and despair for the disciples. 

And Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” He assures the disciples of the provision of the Father. God’s house does not have rooms reminiscent of the ‘Sleep-Eazy Motel’ in the Simpsons; rats, cobwebs, and poor maintenance are not the disciples’ destination. Rather, a place of rest and peace, without any suffering, is what Jesus secures in the Father’s house for those who believe in him (John 14:2).

Jesus also promises to bring those who trust him there. He won’t be sitting around waiting for us to claw our way to heaven. He will come back and bring us himself. (John 14:3).

Thomas then asks the question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Into the fear, uncertainty and anxiety of the disciples, Jesus replies, “You know the way, because you know me. I am sufficient for you.”

Are you disorientated? Jesus is the way. Are you confused? Jesus is the truth? Are you fearful? Jesus is the life. The good news of Christianity is that Jesus – the truth himself – seeks intimate and faithful relationship with those who trust in Him. But this just expresses pieces of the puzzle. Where does this caring Christ fit into the bigger picture?

“You know the way, because you know me. I am sufficient for you.” Are you disorientated? Jesus is the way. Are you confused? Jesus is the truth? Are you fearful? Jesus is the life.

The Bigger Picture Underlying It All:

You might be at a point where you think, “look, if Jesus is the only way to salvation, then why the whole having to die on the cross?” The answer is that God is more holy than we comprehend, and we are more sinful than we assume.

In this world, we have people constantly crying out for goodness and moral honour. However, this world is full of compromises and cheats. There is something deep within us that calls out, “this is not the way things should be! Where is the justice, fairness and goodness?” In the Bible, we find God that answers this cry. God’s central quality is His holiness – He alone is absolutely good and right about everything. He is distinct and perfect, separate from all other beings. Holiness describes the incomprehensible greatness and awesomeness of God. 

In contrast, from the inside out, human beings desire the things of self, not of God. Humanity turned its back on God at the start. This turning from God and relying on ourselves is called sin. Tim Keller argued, “the real cultural war is taking place inside our own disordered hearts, wracked by inordinate desires for things that control us, that lead us to feel superior and exclude those without them, and that fail to satisfy us even when we get them.

Sin leads to death and separation from God. We are all lawbreakers, and those who break the law deserve punishment. So, if God is holy and sin is our main problem, what is the solution?

Christianity is profoundly different from all other religions when it comes to attaining salvation. The solution is Jesus – his brutal and gruesome death on the cross. Jesus went to the cross in order for us to be reconciled to God; he took the punishment that we deserved. Therefore, God accepts us into heaven on the basis of what Jesus has done, not our own efforts or understanding. The difference is grace; no other religion expresses grace so unfathomable and unconditional, that welcomes us into the Father’s arms and calls us to follow Him.

The solution is Jesus. Jesus went to the cross in order for us to be reconciled to God; he took the punishment that we deserved. Therefore, God accepts us into heaven on the basis of what Jesus has done, not our own efforts or understanding. The difference is grace.

In The Cross of Christ, John Stott sums it up well. He writes,

“the essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We… put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God… puts himself where we deserve to be.”

Likewise, Randy Newman observes, “the only way to get to heaven is by accepting a gift (grace) – not by earning a reward. That’s humble. Thinking you deserve to go to heaven is arrogant.”

What If We Need A Saviour? 

The world tells us many things. Its constant bombardment of information is downright confusing. I will conclude with the words of Albert Mohler, a man whom I deeply respect for his defence of the Christian faith:

If all we need is a teacher of enlightenment, the Buddha will do. If all we need is a collection of gods for every occasion and need and hope, Hinduism will do. If all we need is a tribal deity, then any tribal deity will do. If all we need is a lawgiver, Moses will do. If all we need is a set of rules and a way of devotion, Muhammad or Joseph Smith will do. If all we need is inspiration and insight into the sovereign self, for crying out loud, Oprah will do. But if we need a saviour, only Jesus will do.

Consider Christ’s claim: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Delve deeper into John’s gospel to uncover more about the man who has died for you.

What if Jesus is the only way? Find out for yourself if Jesus’ claims hold true. After all, you have nothing to lose.

 

Written by Andrew Burke, TCD alumni.