Jesus: "The Way" or "In the Way"?

John 14:6 is a fairly widely quoted passage these days. In it, Jesus speaks these words:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Here’s a great little snippet about this verse, spoken by one of the characters in Brian McClaren’s book, A New Kind of Christian:

Too often, when we quote the verse about [Jesus] being the way, it sounds like we’re saying he’s in the way – as if people are trying to come to God and Jesus is blocking the path, saying, “Oh no, you don’t! You have to get by me first.” I really don’t think that’s what he meant when he said he was the way.

What he did mean, I think, is this: to know Jesus is also to know God. God may be inaccessible and mysterious – someone who is (apologies to Rollins here) un/knowable and un/available –  but God is revealed in him.

I don’t think this was intended as a statement about other religions – an excuse to allow Christians to wag their collective hineys in the face of Bhuddists, Hindus, etc. It is simply another way of saying that, in Jesus, God becomes accesible to us.

In other words, Jesus is not a cosmic goalkeeper, blocking every shot that people take to get at God. He is (to borrow another image from John) a beacon of hope that points the way in a world that is otherwise in darkness.

What do you think? Can John 14:6 be abused, when taken out of context?


3 Responses to Jesus: "The Way" or "In the Way"?

  1. curtis says:

    THAT’s where I read that explanation of John 14:6. Thanks for the reminder!

    I FREQUENTLY bring up this point, when it fits into conversations that I’m having, to point out to people that our assumptions about what that verse means may be a little off… but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember where I had gotten that idea from. I should’ve guessed it was McLaren.

    But he probably actually got it from Dallas Willard or NT Wright, he typically seems to be re-explaining some of those guys thoughts in a more palatable-for-the-masses kind of way.

    And to answer your question, yes it can, and has been, abused. I just don’t see how anyone could read that verse, in the context of everything else Jesus did and said, and hear it as an exclusivist statement about how He is standing in the way between us and God. Jesus is supposed to be our intercessor… which to me sounds like He’s HELPING us all get to God, and not standing in our way, requiring us to do A, B and C so that he will open the gate and let us through…

    end rant…

    Great post! šŸ™‚

  2. kimmie827 says:

    Wow. Very good point and well written!! I agree. I will surely come back and read more.

  3. Brent McGuire says:

    I haven’t read the entire context of Mr. McClaren’s book, so I give him the benefit of the doubt, that he’s not saying what the person who quotes him is saying. But the person who quotes him is very confused. His point that Jesus is not some “cosmic goalkeeper…blocking every shot that people take to get at God” betrays a fundamentally un-Christian understanding of salvation. Jesus “is” the way to heaven in precisely the sense that no one else or nothing else is. It’s only the one who gives up shooting, who recognizes he doesn’t have it in himself to get the ball between the posts, that is open to accepting Jesus as Himself the Way. Jesus says, “I am the Way.” The Buddhist says, “No, this is the way (or, this is *also* the way). [Insert Buddhist philosophy here.]” If you want to reduce Jesus to being “in on the assist,” then you are no longer confessing Jesus as “the Way.” Jesus wants the Hindu and the Muslim to have confidence in Him. The person responsible for the original post seems to think Jesus wants people to have confidence in themselves. Indeed, “in Jesus” God is accessible to us. But the person still trying to get to God on his own – still shooting the ball as though he had the strength in himself to get the ball to the goal – is not “in Jesus.” He is “out of Jesus.” And if you insist on God judging you on your own merits, on your own performance on the field, well, good luck to you. But Jesus comes and says, “You can’t do it. Give up thinking you can. I’ve done it for you. Rely on that and that alone.” Read Galatians. To trust in Jesus plus something else for one’s salvation – whether that something else be circumcision or the laws of the Koran – is not to trust in Jesus at all. Is Jesus exclusivist? Well, He is if you force Him to be. Jesus doesn’t will that anyone be excluded from His grace. But He does allow Himself to be rejected. Those who say Jesus’ death on the Cross isn’t the necessary and sufficient cause of one’s salvation – and that’s what Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims believe or else they’re not really Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims – exclude themselves from the forgiveness Jesus freely won for them.

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