The Way of the True Disciple

John 14:5-7 begins with a statement from Jesus to His disciples:  “And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 

Thomas gives an honest answer that must resonate with all who turn to follow Christ. “Lord, we do not know where you are going.” In this life we do not know where our Lord is going in his leading of our daily living. We know the general directions – holiness, intimacy with Him, conversational communion with His Spirit, an abiding relationship that brings forth fruit, etc. But we do not know how our God will make that come to pass. The ways of our God are higher than our comprehension.

Thomas then asks the question that is in every true disciple. “How can we know the way?” We are so spiritually weak and ungainly in our flesh, so bent by our rebellion and the resulting sin, we cannot imagine how we can find our way into experiencing our God intimately. The the narrow path Jesus presents, the “highway of holiness” in Isaiah, seem at best very difficult, if not an impossible climb.

The answer from Jesus to Thomas sums up the way all true disciples then and now are seeking. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is very deliberate in His reply to Thomas. He Himself is the way in which we are to go. He Himself is the truth we seek. He Himself is the life to be lived in us.

Notice what Jesus did not say here. He did not say that He would show us the way, teach us the truth, and model the life. He did not set Himself up as the prototype we are to emulate, repeating truths we learned from Him. He did not set up a system of instruction so that we might learn to speak and act like He did. Yet this is so often how this passage is used, to tell people that we must try hard (or harder) to live in a way that is like Jesus.

Jesus, and later the apostles, were very clear about the life we are to live; it is His life and none of our own. We are to get out of His way so that He can live His life in us and live His truth in us. The way we live every day is only His way of living in us. It is no longer we who live, but it is Christ Himself Who lives in us. Without exception, this is the only way to the Father.

Jesus went on to add these words: “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  Jesus here speaks of His union relationship with the Father while on earth. He laid aside the prerogatives of His deity to be filled with the life and power of the Father by the Holy Spirit. Thus, our pursuit of intimate communion with Jesus Who lives His life in place of ours will join us as well into union with the Father. We will indeed know Him and experience Him.

This is the way of the true disciple; it is the life of Christ lived in place of our own, and the truth of Christ lived by Him in us every day. All of this is given to us in Jesus the Son, alive in us by the Holy Spirit.

1 John 5:11-12And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The one who has the Son has the life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

Image via author, Cloud Peak Wilderness, WY.

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