I’m preaching for three weeks in our church’s contemporary worship service, Mosaic, on the Sundays of Jan 18 and 25, and Feb 1.
What I plan to explore is what it means about our salvation and discipleship to say, as he said of himself, “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.” The reference comes from John 14:6.
I’ve been doing a little bit of thinking about this, so I’m going to preach on it so I have the opportunity to try and work it out a little more. It seems to me that, while I’m very much committed to read Scripture in narrative context, that talking about Jesus as the way, truth, and life is a really helpful way of talking about our salvation and Christian life. It’s a little more spiritual theology than biblical exegesis, but I think it can be something that is quite faithful to Scripture.
I hope to blog these individually in the prep time (so please converse with me–it will help me think through it all), but here is the rough sketch of where I’m going with these thoughts. I’m helped in my thinking by my reading, and listening to, Will Willimon, NT Wright, Eugene Peterson, and Joel Green.
JESUS AS THE WAY
Whereas Protestantism (at least in America) has mostly seen the “point” of our salvation as “going to heaven when we die,” the bible presents a somewhat different view. This is more than a little ironic since those denominations most vociferous about their respect for the authority of Scripture seem to have been among the least biblical in their understanding of salvation. The New Testament seems to think that the kingdom of God is the point of salvation, which is better understood as the redemption of creation–“new heavens and new earth” in the words of Revelation. In other words, salvation is about the whole cosmos, including us, becoming a part of God’s new creation, God’s kingdom, God’s mission, and that is strongly linked to our living according to the Way of Jesus.
JESUS AS THE TRUTH
I think of basically two aspects to this part. First, I think of the fact that much of our theologizing has involved developing systems that help us get our minds around God and what God is doing. Unfortunately these systems gain a life of their own and become less than biblical as they either work out their logic in ways at odds with the way Scripture actually narrates the Story of God or move toward a reliance upon propositions as where we get the truth about God rather than relying on the person of Jesus as where we get the truth about God. There’s a clear motivation behind this: If truth is really found in a set of statements about Jesus, then we can master truth; but if truth is really found in the person Jesus, then we find the truth mastering us. It isn’t hard to see why we lean towards the former. By grace we realize that we need the latter.
Second, the above point having been stated, there are still some things we can say about Jesus that are helpful as we read the Scriptural Story. I think of the relationship between Creed (or doctrine) and Scripture as analogous to the relationship between the page with the cast of characters listed and the pages that follow containing the play itself. That page at the front tells me that Hamlet is someone different than Laertes, for example. In other words, we know enough about the identity of each character to know that they are themselves and not someone else. This is important because we need to know that Jesus is the 1st century rural Jewish itinerant rabbi and not someone else. Knowing at least a few basic truths about Jesus’ identity helps us know him as “the truth” embodied. One set of truths about Jesus is that he is the Son of God, Savior of the cosmos (of which we are a part), and Lord (and therefore, not Caesar or you or me) of all creation (of which we are a part).
Something about being saved into a community that is being converted to the Way of Jesus demands that we hold some convictions about Jesus being the Truth as well, which is helped by our knowing the truth about Jesus–his identity and his vocation.
JESUS AS THE LIFE
Knowing Jesus as the Truth gets us partly to living the Way of Jesus. To get all the way to living the Way of Jesus, we need something more. That something, it seems to me, is addressed by Jesus’ being “the Life.” We hear Paul’s confession, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20) and “walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16). Jesus as the Truth becomes lived as the Way of Jesus because we have the Spirit of Christ in us, powering us, animating our movements, leading us to places and people we’d prefer to disregard, demonize, and avoid—places and people to which and to whom Jesus goes. The Spirit that enlivens us has us living Resurrection, that is, living the Way of Jesus, because we couldn’t do it based on our own strengthen, cleverness, or intellectual or emotive motivation. A conversion of the will is required. A commandeering or mastering of our lives by a Life more powerful than us, a Truth greater than we can fully summarize or explain in a series of well-crafted statements, a Way that upends even (especially?) the best ways we’ve come up with… this is what happens with salvation and conversion in Jesus.
Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life puts together the point, the foundation, and the possibility of our salvation. Conversion seems much like a journey of realizing how apparently (appallingly?) little we’ve actually converted and in doing so, give, little-by-little, more ground to the Gospel.