“I am the WAY the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me,” says a Jewish man known for his faithfulness to his heritage. So, did Jesus come to create a new religion? Or was he sent to create a new Way within and expanding out from the religion of his ancestors? Did Jesus focus on religious principles and creeds or did he teach people about to live daily life, about right relationships and holiness in the most practical of ways? What IS the way to which he called us?
The closest we can come to a doctrine within Jesus’s teachings can be summed up in two verses, “Love the Lord your God…” where He quotes from Deuteronomy, and “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” which was the mantel of John the Baptist that scripture tells us was taken up by Christ. Even these statements can not be compared to abstract doctrinal truths of religious import, they are so much more. Derived from centuries of instruction by God to the Jewish people these truths are the powerful fulfillment of the gospel rather than a contradiction to the Jewish faith. Jesus himself says “I did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.” We can know beyond a doubt, through language and historical reference that the Law he speaks of is the summation of those centuries of Divine revelation, and thereby we can trust in the Truth of this man who claimed to bring Truth.
“I am the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.” What truth? The truth that God is sovereign over all and deserves our love and adoration. The truth that he is omnipresent as well as omnipotent, that he is personal as well as powerful. And what would an all powerful but all personal and caring God ask of his creation except that they obey? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Our first instructions were to have dominion over the earth and to serve as God’s caretakers and stewards along side Him. But we foresook his command and disobeyed. So he has given us a new command, repent. And by repentance we may have LIFE again. Eternal life, eternal significance beyond our fallen world.
Some of you may cringe that I dare to say that we ourselves are significant but I put forward that it is the Truth, for we are made in the image of an almighty and awesome God who deemed it worth his while to devote his life to our restoration. And he will have it done His Way.
Above all Jesus teaches us about the WAY. Reminiscent of the Psalmist who says, “raise up a child in the way he should go,” this identification of his person shatters our earthly perceptions of Way and Right by placing himself at the center of both. “This is how you should pray.” “care for the poor” “Love the Lord your God. Love your neighbor as yourself.” These are all practical and exact instructions for daily life, and the living of them may not coincide with how we want to live our lives. Christianity is not about our Ways and our Bents, for scripture says that the heart of mankind is deceitful above all things. WE are fallen and our natural bents will become as deceitful as the first Deceiver, for they will naturally supersede the authority and rightful place of God in our lives. The only Way left to us is to place Christ’s WAY at the center so that we can be transformed and made holy. “You will have NO other Gods before me,” says the Lord, his first Law in the desert to his new people. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” instructs Paul, as he teaches the men and women of Rome how to BE in the kingdom of God. It is not in our power to “put Christ on the throne of our lives” to quote popular evangelism, as though he could not be king without our permission. Christ IS King and it is by His grace that we may become a part of His kingdom. And he will have that happen according to His Way not ours, which as we’ve seen is by repentance of sin.
How does this not contradict Jewish religion?
Because the Jewish people understand much better than we do the significance of Genesis 1 & 2, for it is the First creation of the Kingdom of God, his Holy Temple, and the Way of Christ is that he is the restoration of that temple. Do you want to follow Christ? Then you must take up His Way. What is His Way? He is the new Temple of God by which His presence can again dwell with us as in the beginning, and he teaches that we are also to be vessels for the Spirit of God, just as the tabernacle in the desert housed His Holiness. To be his temple we must be holy as he was holy. How do we be holy? To live as Christ who gave up himself so that we could have life.
Today let us give up ourselves as Christ did. Not to follow a new religion but to live a new Life that shines with the presence of God in us just as the garments of the high priest shone with the radiance of Divine Beauty. And we need not fear the giving up of ourselves for God himself has shown to us our value and significance in His kingdom, “He cares for the least of these. Will He not care for you?” We need only fear the Lord our God. He is the Way in which we should go, he is the Truth which sets us free, he is the Life which restores us to the presence of God and to His kingdom.