“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” – John 14:6
The fourteenth chapter of John contains some of the most striking statements concerning the Lord to be found in the Scriptures, and in it the Lord revealed Himself more freely to His disciples than He had done in any of His previous conversations with them.
One of these statements is, “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus here places Himself on an equality with God, and demands the same belief in Him as that which men should direct to God. But although He is God and God alone, He here makes a distinction between God and Jesus, or between the Father and the Son. This distinction is a most important one, as our Lord plainly teaches. He said to His disciples, “Ye believe in God.” Why ask them to do more? It was because though they believed in God, yet they were in darkness and not in light. They were in doubt, obscurity, and fear. He told them that if they would believe in Him, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, would come, who would lead them in the paths of peace. If they would believe in Jesus as they believed in God, they would be brought out of bondage and dwell in the Promised Land.
“God” is Divinity pure and unmanifested; Jesus is this Divinity clothed in humanity. It is not by belief in God but by belief in the incarnate God that we can find security of heart. It is not blind belief in something that we do not understand but belief in God visible in Jesus Christ that gives peace.
If the Lord as God could have brought peace to men, He need not have come into the world. It was because He could not do this as God that He became Man. So it is in belief in Jesus as God manifest that men find rest for their souls.
“Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him,” and again, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” “I am the way.” The one and only way to God is through Jesus Christ. We cannot approach God in His essential Divinity except in and through the Divine Humanity in which it dwells. So He is called “the way.”
“Search the scriptures, for they are they which testify of me.” Our knowledge of the Divine Humanity can come only through our reading of the Word, not only the Gospel story but the whole Word. In very truth the Word was made flesh in Jesus Christ. “The way” is the truth as revealed in the Word. We are commanded, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” We prepare ourselves for the reception of truth when we read, meditate upon, and obey the precepts of the Word.
“What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.”
And we note also the promise to Abraham: “And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”
The Christian Church was founded upon belief in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ for the redemption of man. The Incarnation, the ministry of Jesus Christ, and the Redemption are the supreme facts upon which Christianity rests. For a time these facts remained unquestioned in the church, but with the development of modern science facts of another order came to light, and men became critical. The basic facts of Christianity were questioned, and with the development of psychology and metaphysics the facts upon which the Incarnation rests were judged to be spurious. The modern mind thinks that it has outgrown the Christian mode of thought. For example, the idea that God at one particular point in history assumed a human form is repellant to the scientific spirit of the modern man, and so, under the stress of criticism, many of the churches have been forced to give up their doctrine of the Incarnation, and with the loss of this goes true Christianity; for once the doctrine of the Incarnation is abandoned, however pure the humanity of the Lord may be seen to be, He cannot be an object of worship. If we deny the Incarnation, we must reject many of the Lord’s statements, such as, “Ye believe in God, believe also in me,” and “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”
Again the very idea of the Redemption is for the modern mind an absurdity. It contradicts the most conspicuous assumption of evolution, man’s inner strength and self-sufficiency. Man’s capacity to develop and improve endlessly is a presupposition of all modern life. Modern man sees no fall, no need of redemption. He cannot believe the statement of the Word that “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth,” that the sensual and corporeal man had destroyed all understanding of truth and consequently all good.
The Lord declared Himself to be the way. The way to the Lord is closed by the denial of His Incarnation or of His mission, and consequently all access to truth or to the good of life. For the Lord is both the truth and the life. If we look only to self, to the evidence of the senses, to the capacities of the natural man, we must necessarily corrupt the way of the Lord upon the earth, and be among those to whom the Lord said the spirit of truth could not come – “the spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” “Seeing they see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand… For this peoples heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
In one sense nothing is more important than to know what is true, for truth is the means by which man forms for himself, as it were, a soul such as he shall be to eternity. And the statement “I am the truth” means that the Lord is the source of all truth, that there is never any truth except from the Lord.
When the Lord was brought before Pilate and asked if He were a king, He replied, “For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”
We all remember Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” Pilate was an educated Roman, familiar with the disputes of the Greeks, epicureans, and stoics over this question. And Pilate’s question has also a modern import. We ordinarily think of truth as conformity with fact or reality. An idea is true if it correctly represents the object to which it refers. So a story is true if it correctly reports the facts; it is true if the facts are really there. An idea is true if the object really exists. A judgment is true if it satisfies a real situation.
This view is convenient and a highly serviceable way of interpreting and representing what we mean by truth in many ordinary situations, but it will not bear close analysis. People see and experience things differently. A pleasant experience for one may be painful to another. Two persons will not tell the same story of the same event. So truth cannot be independent of mind. There are many theories of truth but if we are honest in our search, we will eventually be brought to the Lord. When Pilate finally delivered the Lord up to the people for crucifixion, the Lord said, “Behold the man!” The translators put these words in the mouth of Pilate, but the Greek text gives no authority for this. This is the Lord’s final answer to Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” “Behold the man” is in direct agreement with the Lord’s statement, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall know the truth.” Evil, the love of self, and the love of the world close the mind to truth. In the language of the writings, “If one would be wise, let him shun evils as sins.” The Lord in His assumed human overcame evil and error in His own person and as truth overcame the world. So He could say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
It is the mission of the New Church to keep this teaching before the world. Truth is personal and develops itself in the form of a personal life. God is love and love in its essence and in its wholeness is in the Divine Man, and truth is the form that this love takes.
But what does this mean for us in terms of practical, everyday life? It means that if we are to have a true science, true economics, a true social philosophy, true human relationships, they must be born of true love. “This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you.” If self-advantage is the generating power, there will be no true theory of economics. If the Lord is left out, there will be no true science. Scientific facts and knowledges are not truths, but merely the vessels into which truths can come. One may have all the knowledge in the world, yet be an empty vessel, a vessel in which is no water.
So we are warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits… A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit… Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”