The Road Occasionally Traveled

Path
Path (Photo credit: Guerito)

People eager to emphasize the idea that Jesus is unique, people with good hearts, people who ultimately might be right, often point to these words from the bible:  

Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

People recite those words all the time.  And usually, they only get one word wrong.

That word is “replied.”   Usually, people recite “Jesus said, “I am the…”

The difference is actually incredibly important.   Because we can say something in a vacuum.  But we don’t reply in a vacuum.  By definition, a reply is in response to something.  And the words that Jesus was responding to are utterly disconnected with the meaning people so often put these words to. 

Jesus had told his followers that he had to leave and that his followers new where he was going.

5 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Through out the scriptures, Jesus creates many metaphors: he tells us that he is something else.  Metaphors are mysterious things.  They leave us to work out just what they mean because they do not spell out just exactly where the comparison is.

Jesus tells us that he is the way.  That is tricky word.  Because “way” can mean path, as in “Show me the way to get to your house.”  or it can mean “method.”  As in, “show me the way to make chocolate chip cookies.”  Clearly these two meanings are closely related, but there are some important differences.  

Jesus’ followers had just said, “We won’t know where to go.”  It seems clear that Jesus is talking about that second definition.  Jesus is the route.    When Jesus, a moment later, says “No one comes to the father except through me.” he is reinforcing this image.  It’s not like Jesus is standing there, ghost like, and we have to pass through his immaterial body.  Jesus is stating that he is the path itself, and the way to get to God the father is by taking the Jesus-path.

Assuming you’ve made it this far in to my meanderings, and further assuming that you’re enough of a massochist to regularly read Jeff’s Deep Thoughts, you may at this point, be asking, “Didn’t you write pretty much this same blog a couple months ago?”

The answer to this question is, “Yes I did.”  But there is some stuff I wanted to add, some new thoughts I wanted to share.  So I hope you’ll forgive me for posting this recap.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “The Road Occasionally Traveled”

  1. When I lived in London we had an advanced conversational adult ESL class we called “Language, Faith and Culture” because that what we would converse about in it. At one point we had three Buddhist monks attending (from Thailand and Burma, if I remember correctly). We once got into a really interesting discussion with them about how Buddha said he would SHOW people the way but Jesus said He IS the way. That concept (and contrast) really seemed to strike them. I think inherent in this discussion was the assumption that, as you say, Jesus is the path itself.

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