The Claims of the Christ: I Am The Way, The Truth, And The Life
Charles Templeton declares that the world in our century has been shaped by the events which took place in two second-floor rooms—rooms separated by both time and miles.
The first of these rooms can be found in a drab flat over a dingy laundry in the Soho district of London. Through the dirty, curtainless window one can see a small, round table covered with a strange conglomeration of articles; a heap of tattered manuscripts, a smoking pipe, a teacup with a broken handle, a child’s toy, some odds and ends from a woman’s work basket. There, under the harsh glare of an overhead light, a man with fierce jutting eyebrows and a bushy black beard wrote the lines which ultimately became a book. The man’s name was Karl Marx and the book was called Das Kapital. It was believed by many that the thoughts of that man’s mind and the words of that book would revolutionize the world through the movement we know as Communism.
The second of these two “upper rooms” could be seen nearly two thousand years ago in the ancient city of Jerusalem. It, too, was centered around a table. On the table were the common ingredients for a basic meal. Around the table were thirteen men. One of them, obviously the host, spoke to the others to strengthen and fortify them for events which would soon break upon them with threatening force. His name is Jesus, and the words He spoke that night have changed the lives of billions upon billions of people. It is His Gospel of love and truth, not the Marxist doctrine of strife and duplicity, that will revolutionize the world.
The proof can be found in what Jesus said in the Upper Room. He was telling His disciples not to be troubled by the uncertainties of life because death would not be able to destroy them. Not only that, but Jesus told them that He would be going ahead of them to prepare the way. Suddenly Thomas, good old Thomas, you know he just never could keep his questions to himself, and whatever was on his mind, he always just blurted out—well, Thomas looked at Jesus and said: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how will we find the way?”
At best it was a rather stupid question. After all, Thomas had been with Jesus for three years. He had heard every sermon Jesus ever preached. He had seen every miracle Jesus ever performed. There were only eleven other men on the face of the earth who were as close to Jesus as Thomas was. He had seen and heard it all. Yet just as Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of heaven and the part they were going to have with Him there, Thomas interrupted with his insistent inquiry: “How shall we know the way?” It is fascinating to note that Jesus answered that simple, naive question with one of the most significant sentences in all of Scripture: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” It was a staggering claim. There has never been anything else like it. It was a claim not merely to point the way to God or to speak the truth about God or to show the life in God, but a claim to be the way, to be the truth, to be the life. The claim is quite categorical. “No one comes to the Father but by me.”
Now if Jesus was willing to bless that simple, naive question of Thomas with such a magnificent answer, then perhaps He might be willing to bless this simple, naive sermon with the tender touch of His Holy Spirit. At least I pray it shall be so.
Jesus said: “I am the way.”
Notice that very carefully. He did not say: “I have come to show you the way.” He did not say: “I have come to point you to God and to glory.” He did not merely come to show the way. Other religious teachers, Buddha, for example, have claimed to point the way to God, but Jesus made the unparalleled claim, “I am the way.”
The best illustration of that that I know is found in the writings of Daniel Crawford, the great English missionary. He told of being led by a guide through the thick, African jungle toward what was known then as the city of Elizabethville. There was no trail. No one had ever gone that way before, and this great African guide, with a machete in his hand was actually hacking out the trail as they went. After a long time of following this man, as he slowly cut his way through the dense jungle undergrowth, Crawford finally said to him: “Are you sure this is the way?” The man stopped chopping, turned, pointed at the jungle and said: “That not the way. I the way.” Do you hear what he was saying? He was saying: “There are no maps, no paths, no signposts along the way, you’ve got to trust yourself to me. You’ve got to place yourself in my hands. I am the way. If you want to get where you are going, I will get you there. You cannot get there without me. You’ve got to go with me.”
That’s what Jesus means when He says: “I am the way.” If you want to get where you want to go in life, then you’ve got to go with Him. Jesus is the way. He was the way for multitudes twenty centuries ago. He spent all of His earthly ministry picking up people who had fallen down. He lifted a prostitute up out of the dirt, set a crown over her head, and she spent the rest of her life trying to live up to it. He hauled a crooked tax collector out of a tree, put his feet on solid ground, and then ushered him toward heaven. He took those who were diseased of body or mind or spirit or all three, and by the touch of His hand or a word from His lips they were transformed into brand new people. He was the way for people then. He is the way for people now.
I believe that He is the answer to any need any human being can ever face. He gives me the power to love and a hope on which to stand and a purpose to drive me everyday. Not only that, but I believe that death cannot conquer me. If I were to die today, the one undeniable reality of my life is this: nothing can separate me from God’s love in Jesus Christ. The Lord God Almighty reigns in my life, and that means that one day out of the weakness of this life, He will lift me to eternity with Him. I believe that with every fiber of my being.
Do you believe that about your life? Do you have a relationship with this One who can give you a purpose in life that is so exciting that it draws the best out of you, with One who can give you the certainty that death has been defeated and that the grave cannot hold you? Well, Jesus is the way.
And Jesus said: “I am the truth.”
He is not only the way, but He is also the truth about life as it is supposed to be. In everything that He ever did and in every word that He ever spoke, Jesus was saying to us: “This is what life is supposed to be. Look at me. I am the truth about life.”
The Russian novelist, Turgenev, describes a vision which came to him as he worshipped in church. Suddenly a man stood behind him, and though he did not move his head, he felt instinctively that the man was Christ. At last, emotion, curiosity and awe got the best of him and he turned to look at the man. He saw a face like all men’s faces. “What sort of Christ is that?” he thought. “Such an ordinary, ordinary man it cannot be.” But it can be, and that is the truth about God that we see in Jesus, a God whose almightiness consists in His ordinariness, a God who is close to us, beside us, and bound up in our lives, a God who shows us all we need to know about living the life He has called us to live.
My friends, if you want to know about love, look at Jesus and see the children crawling up on His lap and running their fingers through His hair. If you want to know about forgiveness, look at Jesus as He takes into His own hands the rough, crude, profane hands of the big fisherman who had denied Him and listen to Him as He says: “Feed my sheep.” If you want to know about courage, look at Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate in what could only be described as splendid silence. If you want to know about anger, look at Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the temple and learn that anger is to be leveled only against the forces of evil. If you want to know how to die, look at the way He died. If you want to know how to live, look at the way He lived. If you want to know when to laugh, look at when He laughed. If you want to know when to cry, look at when He cried. If you want to hear words that will thrill your soul and lift your spirit and set before you a challenge which you will never reach but which you will never get tired of reaching for, then look at Him. If you want to know the truth about God, then look at Jesus.
Edwin Stanton treated Abraham Lincoln with bitter contempt. Stanton called Lincoln “a low cunning clown” and “the original gorilla.” Lincoln said nothing in response. Instead when the Civil War began, he appointed Edwin Stanton as his Secretary of War, believing him to be the best man for the job. Later, after Lincoln was shot, Stanton stood over the dying body of the President and through a haze of tears, said: “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.” You see, Lincoln’s great forbearance of Stanton ultimately won Stanton over. Lincoln learned that from Jesus.
For when we look at Jesus, we see a God of amazing forbearance and grace. He meets us where we are, stands by us in our shameful ways, and will not leave us even when we hound Him to a terrible death upon the cross. It is there on Calvary, in that lonely figure, mocked, beaten and spat upon, His life-blood ebbing slowly away, that we see the great loving heart of God laid bare before the whole world. Calvary did not make the love of God; the love of God made Calvary.
All of this we see in Jesus and this is the truth about God. No need to guess what God is like. We know. We see Him in Jesus. So if you want to know the truth about God and the truth about life, and the truth about what your life is supposed to be like, then look at Jesus. He is the truth.
And Jesus also said: “I am the life.”
The life of Jesus can be captured in a single word: L-O-V-E. In the way He lived, and in the way He died, He epitomized the power of love. Think what would happen if our lives could show the same power.
When the famous writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald died, he left among his papers the plot-lines for a play which he never wrote. It was to be a simple story about five people who lived in various parts of the world. They all inherited one house. However, there was a catch: they all had to live together in the house. My friends, that is the plot-line for our shrinking world today. We have got to learn how to live together in this house called “earth,” and therefore, our only hope is to be found in Jesus and the love He embodied.
We all know that Babe Ruth was perhaps the greatest baseball player who ever lived. What you may not know is that he played too long. Age diminished his abilities both at bat and in the field. During one of his last games, the aging Ruth had a terrible day. He made several errors leading to five runs by the opposition. He produced nothing at the plate. As Babe Ruth walked off the field after a particularly disastrous inning, a crescendo of catcalls and boos was directed at him by the angry crowd. Babe Ruth had never known a moment like that. It was a painful, humiliating experience for the once-great athlete.
But just then, a little boy in the bleachers couldn’t stand it. He couldn’t bear seeing Babe Ruth hurt like that. So he jumped over the railing and onto the field. With tears streaming down his face, he ran toward Ruth, knelt before his hero, and threw his arms around his legs. Babe Ruth picked the little boy up and hugged him tightly. Suddenly, the jeering noise from the stands stopped. An incredible hush fell over the entire ball park. That boy’s love for Babe Ruth had melted the hearts of that hostile crowd. Love happened in right field and suddenly the outcome of a baseball game didn’t seem that important anymore.
Love is what Jesus’ life was all about. Love is what our lives are all about. And when we live like Jesus wants us to live, our lives will epitomize the power of love. That’s what Jesus meant when He said: “I am the life.”
Years ago the great preacher, Phillips Brooks, used to lean over the pulpit at Harvard and say to the students there: “Young people, commit your life to God, believe in Him, lean on Him, and in the last analysis nothing will ever overcome you.”
I can do no better. Therefore, I say to you today: “My people, commit your life to God in Jesus Christ, believe in Him, and lean on Him. For then, you shall find “the way,” and you shall know “the truth,” and you shall begin to live “the life,” and in the end, nothing will ever overcome you…