The Pulpit Commentary

John 14:5-7 (John 14:5-7)

(4) The question of Thomas , eliciting from Christ that he was going to the Father , and that his death was their " way " as well as his own way thither .

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John 14:6-7 (John 14:6-7)

Jesus saith to him, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had learned to know me, ye would have £ known (absolutely) my Father also: from henceforward ye know (by personal experience) him, and (or, perhaps, even) ye have seen him . The whole sentence must be taken together. The whither of Christ is obvious enough, and throws consequent illumination upon the way thither. "The Father's house" is the whither no one cometh unto the Father ( but ) except through me . Christ explicitly says

—all the relations, not only those of saints and holy angels, but those of rebels and sinners, whose destiny he has taken upon himself. He is the Way because he is the whole Truth about God and man and concerning the way to the Father. More than this, and because of this, he adds, "I am the Life"—"the life eternal ," the Possessor, Author, Captain, Giver, and Prince of life—the life in the heart of man that can never die; the occasion, germ, condition, and force of the new lath. It were impossible to imagine higher claim. But he leaves his hearers without any doubt as to his personal and conscious identification of himself with the Father. Hitherto he had not so clearly unveiled himself as in that which he has here said and is now doing. Hence his nearest and dearest only partially knew him. If they had seen all they might have seen, they would have seen the Father also. Then, as though he would close all aperture to doubt about the glory involved in his humiliation, and the way in which his human life had revealed the Father, he says ἀπάρτι henceforward this must be a fact of your consciousness, that you do learn and come to know him by personal experience ( γινώσκετε ); and as a matter of fact ye have seen him ( ἐωράκατε ). Possibly in the ἀπάρτι , involving the notion of a period rather than a moment, the Lord was including the full revelation of the glory of self-sacrificial love given alike in his death and resurrection. And the important thought is suggested that neither the knowledge of God can ever be complete, nor the vision either. Is Thomas answered or no? He is silent, and perhaps is pondering the words, which will lead him, before long, notwithstanding his doubts, to make the grandest confession contained in the entire Gospel, the answer of convinced though once skeptical humanity to the question, "Whom say ye that I am?" The other apostles feel that Christ's words have met the mystic vague fear of Thomas, and that "henceforward" they all belong with Christ to the Father's house. They would go to the Father, and at the right time dwell in the place prepared for them; but how can they be said to know and have seen the Father already—to have passed into the light or received the beatific vision?

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John 14:5-7 (John 14:5-7)

Thomas's questioning.

It turned upon the ability of Christ to bring the disciples to the end of the way.

I. THOMAS 'S OBSCURITIES . " Lord , we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?"

1. He imagined that the Messiah ' s reign was to be on earth . Where, then, could be the royal home to which the Messiah was about to depart, and into which he was to gather his saints?

2. The question illustrates the peculiar temper of a disciple who is not destined to receive the higher blessing of those who "have not seen , and yet have believed ."

II. OUR LORD 'S SOLUTION OF THOMAS 'S DIFFICULTIES . "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." The answer is larger than the question. To know Christ is to know the goal and the way to it.

1. Jesus is the Way to heaven .

"No man cometh to the Father, but by me."

2. Jesus is the Truth .

3. Jesus is the Life .

4. The Father is the End of the way . "No man cometh to the Father, but by me." Christ's mediatorship is an essential fact in Christianity.

5. The manifestation of Jesus is the manifestation of the Father . "If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him." This manifestation will be fuller as the day of Pentecost is at hand, with its shower of spiritual blessings and its wide enlargement of knowledge.

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John 14:4-6 (John 14:4-6)

The way to God.

The course of the conversation here is not hard to follow. First, there is the assertion of Jesus, following upon his revelation of the heavenly dwelling-places, that his disciples knew well the road he was about to travel. He had often of late spoken of his approaching departure from this world, and even of the manner of it. Secondly, there is the difficulty, started by Thomas, that they knew not the goal, and therefore could not know the path by which it should be reached. This difficulty may have been partly an unspiritual stumbling; the twelve were thinking of an earthly road and an earthly destination, and were confusing the approach to the Father with the approach, to a city or a mansion, in which latter case, indeed, a traveler needs to know first his goal and then his route. Partly, too, the perplexity may have been owing to a deep depression, by reason of which the twelve did not do justice to their own knowledge and standing, and took a lower tone than they should have done. Then, thirdly, there is our Lord's explanatory reply. In this he gives what we may call a turn to the conversation, passing in thought from himself to them. The Father's house is for both—for the elder son and for the younger members of the spiritual family. To know the road thither—this is the matter of chief concern to all. Thus Jesus is led to communicate to them the great revelation of the sixth verse—to point to himself as "the Way," and to represent himself as the sole and sufficient means of approach to God.

I. CHRIST IS THE WAY TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD . It is not so much by explanatory language that Jesus reveals to his people the character of the Father; he does not merely point out the way. But in his own Person, his life and ministry, he displays to us the attributes of Deity which it most concerns us to know; and thus he is the way. As incarnate God, as the one Mediator, he presents the Father before the view of his spiritual family.

II. CHRIST IS THE WAY TO THE FAVOR OF GOD . To understand how holy and how righteous is the Divine Ruler and Judge, is to understand that sinners forfeit his favor. Our Savior is the divinely appointed Way to reconciliation and harmony with him whose laws all men have broken. He removes obstacles otherwise insurmountable, bridges chasms otherwise impassable, makes of himself a path of safety and of progress, so that the passage to the Divine friendship becomes possible and safe. On this account, probably, Christianity is, in the Book of the Acts, repeatedly spoken of as "the way," i.e. the path by which sinful men return to the affectionate interest and regard of a righteous God.

III. CHRIST IS THE WAY TO THE FATHER 'S FELLOWSHIP . It is, indeed, with a view to this that the former is desirable. It is moral union which is chiefly important. And the Spirit of Christ exercises over the nature of believing men that power and grace which transform into the Divine likeness. In coming thus unto the Father a man becomes a son indeed; he experiences the grace of true adoption; lie is made in the likeness of his Lord.

IV. CHRIST IS THE WAY TO THE FATHER 'S PRESENCE AND HOME . This perhaps is both the ultimate sense of the language, and the first meaning attached to it by those to whom it was addressed. Jesus was himself about to go to the Father, and he wished his beloved friends to understand that he would not go alone, that in due time they should enter the sacred presence and know the mystic joy. And since it was difficult for them to believe and realize this, he drew their regard to himself, and led them to cherish the hope that in his society and through his mediation they should be introduced to all the honors and to all the immortal employments of the Father's house.—T.

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John 14:6 (John 14:6)

Christ the Truth.

Often in the New Testament do we find our Lord Jesus associated with truth. Those who saw him as he wan beheld him "full of grace and truth." His promise to the disciples who studied him was that they should know the truth, and by the truth should be made free. When the crisis of his ministry and the hour of his sacrifice arrived, he summed up the whole purpose of his mission in the declaration that he came into the world in order to "bear witness unto the truth." Hence in the Apocalypse he is named as "the faithful and true Witness."

I. WHAT IS THE TRUTH TO BE FOUND IN CHRIST ? All truth is beautiful, worthy of reverence and of quest; but there are grades of truth. There is a common notion that upon matters of little moment truth is attainable; but that, the higher we go in our inquiries, the more is it imperative to be content with doubt and uncertainty; whilst upon the most wonderful and sacred of all themes truth is absolutely beyond our reach. This accounts for much of men's absorption in trifles. How many are content with the knowledge of individual facts and unimportant generalizations, just because the skeptical spirit of the time indisposes them to believe in the possibility of grasping the truth upon the greatest subjects of all! Yet it is a persuasion as unreasonable as it is dreary, that man is not made to know the truth. Pilate asked, perhaps with a cynical and wearied indifference, "What is truth?" But multitudes are like him in the conviction, the prejudice, that to this query there is no reply. Positivism tells us that phenomena and their invariable connections may be known, but that it is a waste of human time and power to seek for what really is, for what accounts for all that appears. Yet there are times when the most hopeless skeptic longs for truth. And especially are we constrained to desire truth regarding our own nature, truth regarding the character and purposes of God, truth regarding the Divine purpose in our being and our life, truth relating to eternity. The small syllogisms by which men attempt to prove that truth, on all matters upon which we really care for truth, is beyond our reach, impose upon none of us. And Christianity is the highest reason, because it offers that which our limited and unaided experience cannot acquire—the truth, which may take to one mind the form of spiritual beauty, to another the shape of a law of infinite righteousness, but which is what alone can satisfy the craving nature of man.

II. HOW DOES CHRIST REVEAL THE TRUTH ? The most obvious answer to this inquiry is, that our Lord's recorded words are the embodiment of religious truth both speculative and practical. And he distinctly and boldly claimed to tell his auditors "the truth." Certain it is that upon all matters of highest interest we are indebted more to Jesus than to all others. The intuitions of genius, the conclusions of meditation and of learning, cannot be compared with those Divine utterances of the Prophet of Nazareth, which, though in form and in language so simple, have been recognized by the thoughtful as consummate wisdom—as, in fact, revelation, and nothing less than revelation. Sit at the feet of the great Teacher, and you will learn more truth from his lips than can be acquired from studying the treatises of thinkers and the aphorisms of sages. Yet it is observable that Jesus does not say, "I teach the truth;" he says," I am the Truth." This may be paradoxical, but it is just. The truth upon the highest of all themes cannot be put into words. Human language is not always adequate to express human ideas, human emotions; how can it be expected to utter the thoughts and the principles which are Divine? There are subjects to which the close precision of words may seem adapted; they are capable of verbal vesture. But how much there is which no words can tell-even those words which, as their Speaker said, are "spirit and life!"

"Truth in closest words shall fail,

When truth, embodied in a tale,

Shall enter in at lowly doors."

There was but one way in which man could learn God, and that was by God becoming man. "The Word became flesh." We learn Divine truth in the ministry, the life, of God's Son. The truth as to God's character we read in the deeds of Immanuel, so gentle, yet so grand and God-like. The truth as to God's purposes of love we learn from Christ's sacrifice, from Christ's cross. The truth concerning our salvation we know when we witness Christ's victory over sin and death. It is the complete picture which portrays the complete original; he who would acquaint himself with the whole truth of God, as far as God is related to man, must take into his mind the perfect and glorious representation offered in the gospel. There is no other way in which the truth can be grasped and held by the finite, created nature. Know him who is the Truth; and then, then only, do you know the truth itself.

III. BY WHAT MEANS IS THE TRUTH TO BE GAINED ? If what has been said be accepted as a just expression of the fact, and a just interpretation of the text, then we are on the way to a solution of the practical difficulty. There is no place for skepticism for that superficial and often unreflecting denial of the possibility of attaining truth, which leads some men to despair, but more to indolence of mind or to sensuality of life. And yet truth is not to be found by a mere passive submission to human authority; nor by a process of scientific inquiry applied to matters with which that process has no affinity. But it is to be found by those morally prepared for the discovery by humility and reverence; it is to be found by those who come to Christ, to listen to him, to watch him, to win him by the wide receptiveness of faith, and by the luminous sympathy of love.—T.

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John 14:6 (John 14:6)

Christ the Life.

The broadest and most impressive distinction in nature is that between what is inanimate and what lives. Beautiful as are earth's landscapes, grand as is the rolling sea, awful' as is the storm, still there is an interest in life far deeper than can be found in the passive and the non-sentient creation. The power which living things possess of taking into themselves, and of making their own, the matter of which their own structure is composed—the growth of framework and of organs, the exercise of function, the obvious working out in the individual of an end appointed; the reaction of living things upon the lifeless world, and the mysterious connection of life with feeling, and in its higher forms with mind; above all, the union between the living being, man, and the rational, accountable, immortal spirit;—all these render life intensely and imperishably interesting. It is not, as at first sight may seem to be the case, a fall in dignity when Jesus, having asserted himself to be "the Truth," goes on to claim that he is also "the Life." In fact, the true is the theoretical, and the living is the practical, in which latter the former finds its true expression, interpretation, and end. In a universe governed by infinite reason and righteousness, the highest truth and the noblest life must be for ever linked in perfect union.

I. CHRIST IS IN HIMSELF THE POSSESSOR OF PERFECT SPIRITUAL LIFE , Such was the testimony of evangelists and apostles. "In him was life;" "The life which was with the Father was manifested unto us," etc. The same witness was borne by the Lord himself. "I am the Resurrection and the Life;" "I live." Such language declares the independence of the eternal Word, his underived authority, his supremacy over all who live by and through him. No man can dare to say, "I am the life;" a creature of Divine power, born but yesterday, and every moment depending upon providential care, he cannot but shrink from a claim which would be as absurd as it would be profane. But Jesus could say, "As the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself."

II. CHRIST IS THE PRINCIPLE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE TO MEN . As far as we can trace it, life always comes from life. A mysterious principle, in its origin of lineal derivation, enables the living being to appropriate to itself its appointed nourishment, to discharge its proper functions, to do the work assigned to it in the economy of nature. Without this principle the lifeless matter is powerless. Now, the spirit of man is the breath of the Almighty. Informed by this Divine energy man lives, spiritually as well as naturally. But there is a life which is distinctively Christian; and this is always traceable to Christ himself. He communicates the life which he possesses. Imagine the earth as it is in the chill, hard grasp of winter; and in your fancy watch the change which takes place when that grasp is relaxed. The sun shines more warmly, the breezes play softly over the fields and the forests, and radiant spring smiles upon the earth, which beneath that smile begins to live. The corn springs up, the flowers bloom, the leaves burst into greenness, the grove lately still and silent echoes with the songs of birds, and all creation flushes, blossoms, murmurs into life. Such is the change which the coming of Christ brings to the soul, brings to the world. "Newness of life," life "more abundantly," the movement of emancipated energies, the chorus of newborn joy, the brightness and the smile of a glorious hope,—these all tell that Christ, "the Life," has come. His advent, his sacrifice, his resurrection, his Divine outpouring of blessing, were the means by which his spiritual vitality was communicated. The same Christ who gave the life at first, sustains, enriches, and develops it, and will in his own time also perfect it. It is his work to slay death itself, and to pour the vitality which streams from the bosom of the Eternal through all the channels of the spiritual organism. It must not be overlooked that it is not the mere bodily presence of the Savior upon earth that ensured this result. It is his spiritual presence which secures the fullness of Divine life to humanity. From the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit, i.e. the Spirit of Christ, was poured out from on high, life has entered human souls in new measure and with new fruits, and in many a spot the desert has rejoiced and blossomed as the rose.

III. CHRIST IS THUS TO MAN THE AUTHOR OF AN IMMORTALITY OF BLESSEDNESS . The life of created organisms, both vegetable and animal, is perishable and brief. The life even of a species, a race, is but for a season. There are good reasons for regarding the spiritual life as above the action of this scientific law. To that law the body, a part of nature, is subject; from its action the spirit is exempt. There are those who hold that endless continuance of being is the purchase of the Savior's redemption. But certain it is, that what makes life good and desirable is due to the Spirit of the living Redeemer. He has "brought life and immortality to light by the gospel." He has said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." A mere enduring sentiency is valueless; eternal progress in the knowledge and fellowship of God himself,—this is life indeed. It is in this sense that he who liveth and believeth on Christ shall never die.

IV. THAT CHRIST IS THE LIFE OF MEN IS PRECIOUS TIDINGS WORTHY OF ALL ACCEPTATION . Spiritual death is indeed dreadful to contemplate; to experience it is the most awful doom that man can know. Yet the Scriptures represent sinful men as spiritually dead—"dead in trespasses and sins." To those in such a state it seems, if they know themselves and know not Christ, that existence is a curse. With what sweetness must the gospel come to such! To them it is the bringer of hope; for to them Christ is the Bringer of life. The welcome message is, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead , and Christ shall give thee light!"—T.

- The Pulpit Commentary

John 14:6 (John 14:6)

Ample supply for three great needs.

Jesus here suggests three great needs. He has spoken of journeying, continuous movement into ever new places—in one place to-day, in another to-morrow, and the day after in still another. Even while we are moving about in the same locality, so far as natural life is concerned, we —the real we —must be ever moving forward into higher and still higher states. That Jesus should speak of a way was therefore evidently appropriate. But there are two other needs—the need of truth, all that gives a sense of reality, stability, security; and the need of life, all that gives energy, persistence, enjoyment. Or we might say that Jesus here indicates three aspects of the universal need, of which first one aspect and then another rises into prominence. But, whatever the aspect of human need may be, in Jesus there is something to correspond, for full and immediate supply.

I. THE WAY . There is a way which we must take—the way along which time takes our bodies; the way of physical development, maturity, decay. But side by side with the way which cannot be chosen, and in striking contrast with it, is the way which must be chosen. For that way we are responsible; none can compel us to take even one step in it. And what that way shall be depends on where we want to get. Those who want to be with Jesus hereafter must be with him here. And those who want to be with the Father hereafter, having knowledge of him, and receiving of his fullness, can only gain this through Jesus. There is no other name given whereby men are to be saved. No one else has a sure and certain path into the future. In Jesus there is a provision, the very neglect of which only sets in a most melancholy light the various provisions which men make for the life of time. Men who can walk diligently enough in the way of ordinary industry, in the way of frugality, in the way of intellectual activity, yet stumble and retreat at once when the Way Christ Jesus is put before them.

II. THE TRUTH . HOW much useless disputing, how many weary doubts, are saved to those who can put a real faith in Jesus! Everything practical and possible is known by knowing him. Truth is a very large word, but all that it suggests is amply comprehended in Jesus. In Jesus only do we find the real, the abiding, and that which can never be shaken. How simplified our inquiries become the moment we can rest in the all-sufficiency of Jesus! "Where is Jesus?" not "What is true?" becomes the main question then. All that lies outside of his intent and his support is seen to be but as a passing dream. All investigation of the problems of the universe is in vain apart from him. All phenomenal realities, all human sciences, only find out their use as they become subordinate to the truth as it is in Jesus.

III. THE LIFE . Jesus becomes the Existence of the believer. In him he lives and moves and has his being. Through Jesus we are born again into newness of life, and being born again, we find in Jesus the atmosphere, the nourishment, and all the ministering associations of our new life. We need all the energy and perennial freshness of his own vitality; and if we truly have Jesus, whatever we may lack, we shall not lack life.—Y.

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