Sunday Morning Greek Blog

June 12, 2011

“I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6)

My reading schedule landed me in John 14 today, so I will go ahead and expound on Jesus’ sixth “I am” statement. I realize this is out of order, but I want to cover this while it is fresh in my mind.

More Connections with John 4

When Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6; ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή egō eimi hē hodos kai hē alētheia kai hē zōē), his disciples should not have been surprised by this. This is another statement where the life, ministry, and words of Jesus should have prepared the disciples to understand this claim. In my chart in the Bread of Life post, I made a tentative connection between this “I am” statement and the healing of the royal official’s son in Cana of Galilee (John 4:43–54). Jesus does tell the official that his son will live (ζάω zaō), but that is the only significant verbal connection that I could discern. However, if the whole context of chapter 4 is taken into consideration, then the connection becomes less tenuous. In his discussion about living water with the woman at the well, Jesus makes the statement “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (4:24; TNIV, as for all Scripture quotations herein, unless I indicate otherwise). This thought certainly parallels Jesus’ follow-up statement in 14:6b: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” In 14:16–17, Jesus promises to give “the Spirit of truth.”

But the parallels between these two chapters don’t end there. After the Samaritan woman in chapter 4 brings her friends back to see Jesus and talk to him for two days, her Samaritan friends make this remarkable statement: “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (4:42; emphasis mine). The Samaritans, the people most hated by the Jews, know that Jesus is the Messiah! But look at the context in John 14 surrounding Jesus’ “I am” statement:

  • In verse 5, Thomas says, “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
  • In verse 7, Jesus says, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
  • In verse 9, Jesus responds to Philip’s request, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?”
  • In verse 10, Jesus continues: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?”

His disciples still don’t get it! I think they had warmed up to the idea that Jesus is the Messiah by this time, but they still don’t seem to understand the implications of it all. Some of the disciples did come to this realization before the Last Supper (see Peter’s response to Jesus in Matthew 16:16, for example), but most Gospel accounts reveal that the disciples don’t come to a full realization of Jesus’ power and authority until after his death and resurrection.

“Where I Am Going…”

In chapter 6, after the discussion surrounding Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” statement, and especially after he has spoken about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, several of his early disciples desert him, because they don’t understand what he is saying. Jesus makes a statement in verse 62 that is the precursor to his “I am the way and the truth and the life” statement, especially the part about being “the way.” Jesus says, “What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?” (Recall that in 1:51, Jesus alluded to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:12 when he said, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”) In 7:34, then, we have the first of several statements of Jesus recorded by John, where Jesus says (my translation), “Where I am, you are not able to come” (ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν hopou eimi egō hymeis ou dunasthe elthein; 30 of the 82 occurrences of ὅπου hopou, ‘where’ in the NT are found in John’s Gospel). In 8:21, Jesus changes verbs: “Where I am going, you are not able to come.” But in 12:26, Jesus turns this to the positive with a condition: “If anyone would serve me, he must follow me, and where I am there also my servant will be.”

In chapter 13, Jesus returns to the negative, but not without some hope: in vs. 33 he repeats his words of 8:21, but then in 13:36, Jesus opens the door a bit (my translation): “Where I am going, you are not now able to follow me, but you will follow me later.” In 14:3–4, Jesus returns to a positive statement: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming back again (note present tense) and I will receive you (note future tense) to myself, in order that where I am you may also be. And where I [myself] am going, you know the way.” In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, we find the last of these types of statements (my translation): “Father, I desire the ones you have given to me, in order that where I am they also may be with me.” In his final earthly prayer, Jesus expresses his longing that his disciples, the twelve men closest to him on earth (and yes, I think he included Judas Iscariot in that group), be with him both in his final struggle on earth and in his glorious eternal kingdom with the Father.

That desire extends to all who come after the disciples as well. Jesus longs for each of us to be with him in eternity, because he shed his own blood for our salvation. That’s how much he loved us. That’s how much he desires us, because he knew there could be no other way by which men and women could come to him.

“The One Who Sent Me”

Related to the discussion of where Jesus is going is the recurring theme of “the one who sent me.” Of the 27 times John uses the participle for πέμπω (pempō ‘I send’; the participle form used as a noun is translated as “the one who sends” [present tense] or “the one who sent” [aorist/past tense]), 24 of them in are attributed to Jesus, referring to the Father who sent him; one of the key passages where this connection is made is 8:14–18: In verse 14, Jesus says (TNIV): “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.” Then in verse 18, Jesus closes his argument with, “I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”


PS: One of my favorite Rich Mullins songs is “Where I Am, There You May Also Be,” released posthumously on his “Jesus Record.” Here is a link to the Ragamuffin Band performing the song live in Nashville in 2002. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


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