"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.'"--John 14:6
By Jo Floyd Lucas
Less than 15 words long, and yet this declaration by Jesus has been perhaps the most misunderstood statement of all time. Evangelists have long used this statement to proselytize the world over. Wars have been fought, people have been persecuted, and lives have been lost because we have taken this phrase so literally.
I'm not an expert on religion. I'm not an expert on Christianity. I certainly am not an expert on The Bible. I consider myself, though, to be a student of Christ's teachings. Given the number of years I've read his words and attempted to follow his radical instructions to us, I'm surprised that so many people read this phrase in it's most simplistic way.
Jesus is poetic in his sermons, and his language is full of imagery. Parables are the mainstay of his lessons. Most of us know several of his parables...stories in prose or verse that illustrate a lesson. There is the parable of the prodigal son, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the lost sheep, and the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, just to name a few. More than 30 parables are credited to Jesus in The Bible. Every one of them is filled with the beauty of metaphors.
And so, I have always read the above bible verse in the same way I've read his other words...with reverence at his mastery of symbolism. As everything in The Bible is open to translation and iterpretation, let me offer my humble interpretation of this passionately loving statement.
To put it in context, Jesus speaks these words to his disciples as he tells them of his fate. He's assuring them that they will see him again, and that he will always be with them. He affirms his mission on earth by saying to them "I am the way, the truth and the life."
We've become so used to hearing the one-dimentional translation that we forget who is speaking. This is a man who denied dogma. This is a man who raised up the poorest of the poor, who shared meals with the tax collectors, and welcomed women to hear his lessons. Jesus is the man who challenges us to 'turn the other cheek,' to 'love our enemies', and to 'love as I have loved you.' His final lesson to us all, shorter, yet more eloquent than all the rest, is a message of absolute inclusion.
"I am the way, the truth, and the life."
Turn the phrase over in your mind as you would read it from this Jesus. Dubby explains a bit about Taoism in his blog entry. The word ''Tao' can be translated as 'the way.' Some Jews today still refer to their religion as 'the one true religion.' And more than one of the 99 translations for the word 'Allah' in Islam is 'life' or 'giver of life'.
The way, the truth, and the life.
Could Jesus really have been telling us that through any and all of these paths, through the very act of seeking God, Allah, Gaia, or what ever name you call the power of Love, you will reach it? I think he is. I believe that Jesus is affirming that we all...no matter what we call ourselves, will reach Paradise if we earnestly seek it.
Free yourself from the labels you've accepted. Throw away your preconceived notions. Read the words of Christ with new eyes. Accept your neighbor as your brother or sister in the true family of God.
We can continue to allow religious dogmas to divide us. We can continue to insist that our own narrow view of the world is the only valid one. We can continue to wage war and feel self-righteous, and NOT love our enemies. But I don't think for a moment that is what Jesus would have us do. I believe with all my heart that he would encourage us to enter into a season of sharing, cooperating, learning from one another, and of COEXISTING.
A few more lines into the Book of John, Jesus says it even more clearly. We are all one. Love will come set us free.
"On that day you will realize that I am in my Father,
and you are in me, and I am in you."--John 14:20