Followership: On the Way

After challenging his readers to lay down the largely-secular model of the “CEO Christian leader,” Sweet turns his attention directly to Jesus, interpreting his statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” in the bulk of his book.

I agree with Sweet that the verse has been misused (in some cases even misinterpreted) by jumping past the first part of Jesus’ statement and concentrating on the last part.  But the truth is, we can only understand what Jesus said at the end in relation to what he said at the beginning: “I am the way, the truth, and the life….”

Moreover, we misunderstand the verse when we fail to notice that the context is Thomas’ lament that he and the rest did not know the way, even asking, “How can we know the way?”

In other words, this is not a verse aimed at the lost world showing them how to be saved, but rather a statement in response to the legitimate concern any believing disciple can have.  The question of knowing the way becomes more important (not less) once we have put our faith in Christ.  And that is what Jesus is really dealing with here.

We’ll need to spend some time reflecting on these three metaphors (way, truth, life), but we will need to be clear that Jesus is speaking to those of us who have decided to follow him—not to those who are still unwilling to make that decision.  We can find occasions and verses to have a conversation about Jesus as Savior.  But this verse will serve as a window to address several key issues which disciples must address.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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