“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
We want options. Lots of them. The more the better. We want cars with bells and whistles. We want television service with a million channels. We want restaurants with huge menus and buffets with over 100 items. One of the worst feelings in the world today is having no choice about something. As a result, this is one of the hardest things Jesus said. Can we make it any easier?
Before we try and tackle that one, let’s go ahead and make as clear as possible what Jesus was actually saying here. He was saying that there is no way to get to God that doesn’t go through Him.
Every path we walk through this life is aimed at some sort of an ultimate purpose or being. All of them. They may not be very noble ultimates or they may be very praiseworthy, but all of them are aimed at one. And, any path we set ourselves on that is other than that one Jesus laid out will take us somewhere other than the God of the Bible, Jesus’ Father.
The problem here is that the God of the Bible is the only one who has ever offered us an eternal heaven like what is described in the Bible. Every other eternal destiny offered up by some religion is different in some way and all are inferior to that one. So, if only one path gets us to Him, namely, Jesus, then that means only one path gets us to Heaven. That just makes things harder.
When we hear this, many people immediately start looking for some kind of a loophole. Because we want options. But also because there are so many people who aren’t on Jesus’ path. They aren’t on His path and by every estimate we have devised, they’re “good people.” We can’t imagine that the just God we worship wouldn’t make a place for someone who is living basically the same way we who are on Jesus’ path do even though they are confessionally on a different one.
Some folks try and squeeze an option out of something else Jesus said about having other sheep that we don’t know about. C.S. Lewis was notably one of these. He argued that there are folks who, even though they say they are following Mohammed or Buddha or Vishnu or someone else that they are really following Jesus. Maybe. It certainly feels better to say that. They have to get the character of those others awfully wrong based on the standard teachings about them that their confessed religion offers, but maybe. We don’t know the mind and heart of God and He is just, so maybe. But if I’m pressed I’ll acknowledge I suspect that’s pretty rare at best.
Other folks will take the route of arguing that there is just one supreme being, one God, and people just describe Him in different ways, thus different religions. Thus all religions really do lead to the same place. The problems with that position are many. For one, it arrogantly assumes a knowledge about all of these different religions that their most devoted adherents don’t have. To think that someone who has spent a lifetime studying their particular religion knows less about what they’re really worshiping than you who’ve read a few internet posts or books from clever writers or taken a few college courses takes a lot of chutzpah, as our Jewish friends might put it.
Others just deny outright that this could be the case because it’s unjust of God and arrogant of Jesus and His followers to claim. But again, Jesus actually honors the choices of free people here. He’s saying that you can choose any path you want. His is simply the only path that leads to His Father. If you don’t want to get to His Father, you can choose a different path. The choice is yours and it will be both meaningful and consequential to make. There’s nothing arrogant about that at all. He doesn’t say that His way is better than another here, He just says that His is the only path that leads to this particular destination.
As for unjust, that could only be the case if everyone doesn’t have the chance to make it. And the reality is that there are thousand and thousands of missionaries around the world who are working diligently to make sure that every people of every nation have the opportunity to make this choice. Additionally, more and more stories are coming in of people who had God call them to follow Him in a dream or vision without ever having met a missionary or read a Bible. God is not limited in how He calls people to Himself. For us to say that some people will never get the chance to choose Him assumes we know everything He’s doing. That’s a pretty arrogant assumption.
No, the simple truth is that there isn’t a way to make this statement of Jesus any easier. We still have all the options in the world we could want, but this is the only one that leads to the life that is truly life. Receiving the life only God offers, means taking up the only path He has created to get there. It requires us to give up our right to and control of our lives. We lose ourselves as we understand ourselves. But, we do that to gain the self God created us to be from the beginning. We do it to gain life that doesn’t end. We do it to gain hope and joy and peace and freedom and love in abundance. That seems like a pretty good trade off to me. So take the path Jesus offers. You won’t be sorry.