John 14:6 ESV
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:6 ESV
Matthew Henry's Commentary
Christ, having set the happiness of heaven before them as the end, here shows them himself as the way to it, and tells them that they were better acquainted both with the end they were to aim at and with the way they were to walk in than they thought they were: You know, that is, 1. “You may know; it is none of the secret things which belong not to you, but one of the things revealed; you need not ascend into heaven, nor go down into the deep, for the word is nigh you (Rom. 10:6-8), level to you.” 2. “You do know; you know that which is the home and which is the way, though perhaps not as the home and as the way. You have been told it, and cannot but know, if you would recollect and consider it.” Note, Jesus Christ is willing to make the best of his people’s knowledge, though they are weak and defective in it. He knows the good that is in them better than they do themselves, and is certain that they have that knowledge, and faith, and love, of which they themselves are not sensible, or not certain.
This word of Christ gave occasion to two of his disciples to address themselves to him, and he answers them both.
I. Thomas enquired concerning the way (John 14:5), without any apology for contradicting his Master.
1. He said, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest, to what place or what state, and how can we know the way in which we must follow thee? We can neither guess at it, nor enquire it out, but must still be at a loss.” Christ’s testimony concerning their knowledge made them more sensible of their ignorance, and more inquisitive after further light. Thomas here shows more modesty than Peter, who thought he could follow Christ now. Peter was the more solicitous to know whither Christ went. Thomas here, though he complains that he did not know this, yet seems more solicitous to know the way. Now, (1.) His confession of his ignorance was commendable enough. If good men be in the dark, and know but in part, yet they are willing to own their defects. But, (2.) The cause of his ignorance was culpable. They knew not whither Christ went, because they dreamed of a temporal kingdom in external pomp and power, and doted upon this, notwithstanding what he had said again and again to the contrary. Hence it was that, when Christ spoke of going away and their following him, their fancy ran upon his going to some remarkable city or other, Bethlehem, or Nazareth, or Capernaum, or some of the cities of the Gentiles, as David to Hebron, there to be anointed king, and to restore the kingdom to Israel; and which way this place lay, where these castles in the air were to be built, east, west, north, or south, they could not tell, and therefore knew not the way. Thus still we think ourselves more in the dark than we need be concerning the future state of the church, because we expect its worldly prosperity, whereas it is spiritual advancement that the promise points at. Had Thomas understood, as he might have done, that Christ was going to the invisible world, the world of spirits, to which spiritual things only have a reference, he would not have said, Lord, we do not know the way.
II. Now to this complaint of their ignorance, which included a desire to be taught, Christ gives a full answer, John 14:6, 7. Thomas had enquired both whither he went and what was the way, and Christ answers both these enquiries and makes good what he had said, that they would have needed no answer if they had understood themselves aright; for they knew him, and he was the way; they knew the Father, and he was the end; and therefore, whither I go you know, and the way you know. Believe in God as the end, and in me as the way (John 14:1), and you do all you should do.
(1.) He speaks of himself as the way, John 14:6. Dost thou not know the way? I am the way, and I only, for no man comes to the Father but by me. Great things Christ here saith of himself, showing us,
[1.] The nature of his mediation: He is the way, the truth, and the life.
First, Let us consider these first distinctly. 1. Christ is the way, the highway spoken of, Isa. 35:8. Christ was his own way, for by his own blood he entered into the holy place (Heb. 9:12), and he is our way, for we enter by him. By his doctrine and example he teaches us our duty, by his merit and intercession he procures our happiness, and so he is the way. In him God and man meet, and are brought together. We could not get to the tree of life in the way of innocency; but Christ is another way to it. By Christ, as the way an intercourse is settled and kept up between heaven and earth; the angels of God ascend and descend; our prayers go to God, and his blessings come to us by him; this is the way that leads to rest, the good old way. The disciples followed him, and Christ tells them that they followed the road, and, while they continued following him, they would never be out of their way. 2. He is the truth. (1.) As truth is opposed to figure and shadow. Christ is the substance of all the Old-Testament types, which are therefore said to be figures of the true, Heb. 9:24. Christ is the true manna (John 6:32), the true tabernacle, Heb. 8:2. (2.) As truth is opposed to falsehood and error; the doctrine of Christ is true doctrine. When we enquire for truth, we need learn no more than the truth as it is in Jesus. (3.) As truth is opposed to fallacy and deceit; he is true to all that trust in him, as true as truth itself, 2 Cor. 1:20. 3. He is the life; for we are alive unto God only in and through Jesus Christ, Rom. 6:11. Christ formed in us is that to our souls which our souls are to our bodies. Christ is the resurrection and the life.
Secondly, Let us consider these jointly, and with reference to each other. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; that is, 1. He is the beginning, the middle, and the end. In him we must set out, go on, and finish. As the truth, he is the guide of our way; as the life, he is the end of it. 2. He is the true and living way (Heb. 10:20); there are truth and life in the way, as well as at the end of it. 3. He is the true way to life, the only true way; other ways may seem right, but the end of them is the way of death.
[2.] The necessity of his mediation: No man cometh to the Father but by me. Fallen man must come to God as a Judge, but cannot come to him as a Father, otherwise than by Christ as Mediator. We cannot perform the duty of coming to God, by repentance and the acts of worship, without the Spirit and grace of Christ, nor obtain the happiness of coming to God as our Father without his merit and righteousness; he is the high priest of our profession, our advocate.
(2.) He speaks of his Father as the end (John 14:7): “If you had known me aright, you would have known my Father also; and henceforth, by the glory you have seen in me and the doctrine you have heard from me, you know him and have seen him.” Here is, [1.] A tacit rebuke to them for their dulness and carelessness in not acquainting themselves with Jesus Christ, though they had been his constant followers and associates: If you had known me--. They knew him, and yet did not know him so well as they might and should have known him. They knew him to be the Christ, but did not follow on to know God in him. Christ had said to the Jews (John 8:19): If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; and here the same to his disciples; for it is hard to say which is more strange, the wilful ignorance of those that are enemies to the light, or the defects and mistakes of the children of light, that have had such opportunities of knowledge. If they had known Christ aright, they would have known that his kingdom is spiritual, and not of this world; that he came down from heaven, and therefore must return to heaven; and then they would have known his Father also, would have known whither he designed to go, when he said, I go to the Father, to a glory in the other world, not in this. If we knew Christianity better, we should better know natural religion. [2.] A favourable intimation that he was well satisfied concerning their sincerity, notwithstanding the weakness of their understanding: “And henceforth, from my giving you this hint, which will serve as a key to all the instructions I have given you hitherto, let me tell you, you know him, and have seen him, inasmuch as you know me, and have seen me;” for in the face of Christ we see the glory of God, as we see a father in his son that resembles him. Christ tells his disciples that they were not so ignorant as they seemed to be; for, though little children, yet they had known the Father, 1 John 2:13. Note, Many of the disciples of Christ have more knowledge and more grace than they think they have, and Christ takes notice of, and is well pleased with, that good in them which they themselves are not aware of; for those that know God do not all at once know that they know him, 1 John 2:3.
1. Philip’s request for some extraordinary discovery of the Father. He was not so forward to speak as some others of them were, and yet, from an earnest desire of further light, he cries out, Show us the Father. Philip listened to what Christ said to Thomas, and fastened upon the last words, You have seen him. “Nay,” says Philip, “that is what we want, that is what we would have: Show us the Father and it sufficeth us.” (1.) This supposes an earnest desire of acquaintance with God as a Father. The petition is, “Show us the Father; give us to know him in that relation to us;” and this he begs, not for himself only, but for the rest of the disciples. The plea is, It sufficeth us. He not only professes it himself, but will pass his word for his fellow-disciples. Grant us but one sight of the Father, and we have enough. Jansenius saith, “Though Philip did not mean it, yet the Holy Ghost, by his mouth, designed here to teach us that the satisfaction and happiness of a soul consist in the vision and fruition of God,” Ps. 16:11; 17:15. In the knowledge of God the understanding rests, and is at the summit of its ambition; in the knowledge of God as our Father the soul is satisfied; a sight of the Father is a heaven upon earth, fills us with joy unspeakable. (2.) As Philip speaks it here, it intimates that he was not satisfied with such a discovery of the Father as Christ thought fit to give them, but he would prescribe to him, and press upon him, something further and no less than some visible appearance of the glory of God, like that to Moses (Exod. 33:22), and to the elders of Israel, Exod. 24:9-11. “Let us see the Father with our bodily eyes, as we see thee, and it sufficeth us; we will trouble thee with no more questions, Whither goest thou?” And so it manifests not only the weakness of his faith, but his ignorance of the gospel way of manifesting the Father, which is spiritual, and not sensible. Such a sight of God, he thinks, would suffice them, and yet those who did thus see him were not sufficed, but soon corrupted themselves, and made a graven image. Christ’s institutions have provided better for the confirmation of our faith than our own inventions would.
2. Christ’s reply, referring him to the discoveries already made of the Father, John 14:9-11.
(1.) He refers him to what he had seen, John 14:9. He upbraids him with his ignorance and inadvertency: “Have I been so long time with you, now above three years intimately conversant with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? Now, he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Wilt thou ask for that which thou hast already?” Now here,
[1.] He reproves him for two things: First, For not improving his acquaintance with Christ, as he might have done, to a clear and distinct knowledge of him: “Hast thou not known me, Philip, whom thou hast followed so long, and conversed with so much?” Philip, the first day he came to him, declared that he knew him to be the Messiah (John 1:45), and yet to this day did not know the Father in him. Many that have good knowledge in the scripture and divine things fall short of the attainments justly expected from them, for want of compounding the ideas they have, and going on to perfection. Many know Christ, who yet do not know what they might know of him, nor see what they should see in him. That which aggravated Philip’s dulness was that he had so long an opportunity of improvement: I have been so long time with thee. Note, The longer we enjoy the means of knowledge and grace, the more inexcusable we are if we be found defective in grace and knowledge. Christ expects that our proficiency should be in some measure according to our standing, that we should not be always babes. Let us thus reason with ourselves: “Have I been so long a hearer of sermons, a student in the scripture, a scholar in the school of Christ, and yet so weak in the knowledge of Christ, and so unskilful in the word of righteousness?” Secondly, He reproves him for his infirmity in the prayer made, Show us the Father. Note, Herein appears much of the weakness of Christ’s disciples that they know not what to pray for as they ought (Rom. 8:26), but often ask amiss (Jas. 4:3), for that which either is not promised or is already bestowed in the sense of the promise, as here.
[2.] He instructs him, and gives him a maxim which not only in general magnifies Christ and leads us to the knowledge of God in him, but justifies what Christ had said (John 14:7): You know the Father, and have seen him; and answered what Philip had asked, Show us the Father. Why, saith Christ, the difficulty is soon over, for he that hath seen me hath seen the Father. First, All that saw Christ in the flesh might have seen the Father in him, if Satan had not blinded their minds, and kept them from a sight of Christ, as the image of God, 2 Cor. 4:4. Secondly, All that saw Christ by faith did see the Father in him, though they were not suddenly aware that they did so. In the light of Christ’s doctrine they saw God as the father of lights; in the miracles they saw God as the God of power, the finger of God. The holiness of God shone in the spotless purity of Christ’s life, and his grace in all the acts of grace he did.
(2.) He refers him to what he had reason to believe (John 14:10, 11): “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and therefore that in seeing me thou hast seen the Father? Hast thou not believed this? If not, take my word for it, and believe it now.”
[1.] See here what it is which we are to believe: That I am in the Father, and the Father in me; that is, as he had said (John 10:30), I and my Father are one. He speaks of the Father and himself as two persons, and yet so one as never any two were or can be. In knowing Christ as God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, and as being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, we know the Father; and in seeing him thus we see the Father. In Christ we behold more of the glory of God than Moses did at Mount Horeb.
[2.] See here what inducements we have to believe this; and they are two:—We must believe it, First, For his word’s sake: The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself. See John 7:16; My doctrine is not mine. What he said seemed to them careless as the word of man, speaking his own thought at his own pleasure; but really it was the wisdom of God that indited it and the will of God that enforced it. He spoke not of himself only, but the mind of God according to the eternal counsels. Secondly, For his works’ sake: The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth them; and therefore believe me for their sake. Observe, 1. The Father is said to dwell in him ho en emoi menon—he abideth in me, by the inseparable union of the divine and human nature: never had God such a temple to dwell in on earth as the body of the Lord Jesus, John 2:21. Here was the true Shechinah, of which that in the tabernacle was but a type. The fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily, Col. 2:9. The Father so dwells in Christ that in him he may be found, as a man where he dwells. Seek ye the Lord, seek him in Christ, and he will be found, for in him he dwells. 2. He doeth the works. Many words of power, and works of mercy, Christ did, and the Father did them in him; and the work of redemption in general was God’s own work. 3. We are bound to believe this, for the very works’ sake. As we are to believe the being and perfections of God for the sake of the works of creation, which declare his glory; so we are to believe the revelation of God to man in Jesus Christ for the sake of the works of the Redeemer, those mighty works which, by showing forth themselves (Matt. 14:2), Show forth him, and God in him. Note, Christ’s miracles are proofs of his divine mission, not only for the conviction of infidels, but for the confirmation of the faith of his own disciples, John 2:11; 5:36; 10:37.