“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’”
By Bill Perry
The moment couldn’t be any more poignant. It was their last meal together, at least that side of the cross. And at this pivotal meal — what was expected as the Passover but became the first Lord’s Supper — the disciples were as clueless about what was going on, as they were so many times before.
With Judas already departed, entering the darkness of what would begin his eternal night, Jesus broke the bread and shared the cup, reinterpreting their meaning in light of himself. Once a memorial of their bondage in Egypt, now it would be a memorial about what would transpire in less than 24 hours. Then the news of his departure came. The combination of a new focus, his impending death and departure increased the confusion of the clueless ones. So to assure and comfort them, we find the dialog in John 14.
Turns out his destination is his Father’s house, where many mansions await (v. 1), and that Jesus is leaving to complete preparations, perhaps like Peter and John had prepared for the Passover (Luke 22:8). That much they could understand. But then he said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” This was a deliberate test to see how much they were paying attention: he had just told them where he was going. Spokesman-for-the-clueless Thomas responds (v. 5), “Lord, we don’t know where you are going [wrong!], so how can we know the way?”
Ah, now the time was ripe to put everything in perspective! Notice, Jesus didn’t repeat his destination but did jump on the opportunity to bring home the point: “I am the way…” But he didn’t stop there: “…the truth and the life” (v. 6). In other words, if he is the way to his Father’s house, he must be the truth, and if the truth, then the life as well. “Got it?” I can see him asking.
So we arrive at the claim of Jesus being the truth. In a postmodern world there is no such thing as truth, at least not in the ultimate, capital ‘T’ sense. Last week I mentioned this during the taping of a radio interview, and the host said, “Bill, what do you mean by postmodern?” I replied, “Here’s a street-level definition of postmodern: since there is no truth, everything’s OK.” Most likely you won’t hear a bona fide philosopher defining it that way, but that’s what it works out to be.
I find it fascinating, therefore, that one of the key buzzwords of Gen Y (a.k.a, Millennials and Mosaics), the first generation born (1982-2002) in a postmodern world, is “authentic.” Unless you don’t know your synonyms, authentic means true or real, along with a bunch of other very similar words.
So if one automatically removes even the possibility of ultimate truth existing, how much “authenticity” is left or can be discovered? Only that which can be individually experienced, as if their physical senses alone are the determining factors of what’s real. And of course, what they experience is only true or real for them.
It may have (and most often probably has) nothing to do with ultimate truth as Jesus claimed in himself. In his interrogation of Jesus (John 18:28-40), Pilate, being the skeptic that he was, cynically asked him, “What is truth?” Little did he know a whole generation would follow in his tracks. Notice that his question was in response to what Jesus said just before: “…I came into the world to testify to the truth.” In other words, there is an objective truth to which he was its chief exponent.
This demonstrated to Pilate — and Gen Y, along with the rest of the world — that a choice to accept or reject that truth must be made. His scoffing question indicated his choice. Only believers can fully know the reality of his statement, “I am the truth.”
As I ponder this, I wonder what our court system will be like when post modernism fully catches up to it. The last time I checked, for someone to take the witness stand, they must, with right hand raised, repeat these words: “I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” That is what court trials are all about: finding the truth about the accused.
Truth means, “that which conforms to reality.” In other words, what really happened. Is the accused guilty or innocent? The truth waits to be discovered. Hopefully it is; sometimes it’s not. But the truth really happened: a body turned up, a house was burglarized, money was embezzled. Somebody’s guilty, but not just somebody: we all are.
It shouldn’t surprise us then, that because of our guilt, the Truth showed up at our trial! The fact that Jesus came to earth confirms it. But here’s the best news: “…the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we my know him who is true…” (I John 5:20).
How well do you know him?
Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)