The Distant Jesus

In John 14:6, Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  It sounds pretty strait forward and yet because it is often reduced to a sound-bite-turned-into-proof-text-propositional-claim, there is something we are missing.

To begin with, Jesus says “I am the way…truth…life.”  In other words, the way, truth, and life is a person and the person is Jesus.  Jesus is the way, truth, and life.  This has profound implications, for all of our creeds, confessions, statements of faith, etc… must never be substituted as the way, truth, and life.  Further more, Jesus’ claim to be the way, truth, and life is a triune claim.  The three aspects of this claim come as one claim and we cannot truly accept any one aspect of this claim apart from the others.  But by truly believing that Jesus is the way, truth, and life, we see him as the embodiment of all that is true and the way he lived his life as the true way of life and thereby participate in the life that he is.

From this perspective, Jesus’ claim appears to be very functional.  This seems even more clear when we realize this claim comes in the midst of Jesus’ final conversation with his disciples before his death, in which he is preparing them to carry on his mission after his departure.  Jesus begins this conversation by washing the feet of his disciples as a demonstration of the mission he has prepared them for (Jn 13:1-16).  Then shortly after making this claim, Jesus says to his disciples, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” (Jn 14:12).

Confession…

I have often confused Jesus and scripture, seeing the later as the the way, truth, and life when in fact it is only a witness to this.  In doing so, I am struck by the ways I have used my interpretation of scripture as a box to contain Jesus and make him into a safe and palatable way, truth, and life.

I don’t think I am alone.  In fact, I know I am not alone.  Other Christians have done the same or similar thing with Christian tradition.  While others have turned Jesus’ claim in John 14: 6 into a proposition, making the proposition to be the way, truth, and life.

The more we do this, the more Jesus seems to become a distant figure within history to make a statue out of rather than the Living God we follow.

And the greater things…  As they say on television, “Stay tuned!”

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5 responses to “The Distant Jesus

  1. In Orthodoxy the Creed is more properly called the Symbol of the Faith, for the faith is not the dogmas but the Incarnate Person of Christ, as the Second Person of the Godhead.
    When Revelation is reduced to Scripture, as with sola Scriptura, then it follows that an idolatry of Scripture will occur. We are not a people of the Book; the Book having been superceded by the Incarnate Lord.
    When Scripture is said to be perspicuous it idolatrizes reason and its ability to know the Truth, and the Way and the Life; for the Way and the Truth and the Life is not apprehended primarily with the brain but with the hungering and thirsting heart that is pure.
    When belief in the Church as the Resurrected Body of Christ fails, then we no longer have the ‘organ’ through which the fulness is revealed, the person of Christ, in His Body, animated by His Spirit. Christ’s kenosis was to the level of Humanity, not a Book.

    • I don’t been to be offensive but regardless of the semantics of our language, the Creed (Symbol of the Faith) among Orthodoxy is just as susceptible to becoming the object of the way, truth, and life, rather than a window or vehicle into the way, truth, and life that Jesus is.

      • This is entirely true, but in Orthodoxy the consensus of the Faith is that the entirety of the Church is Sacrament. Out contact point with God is not narrowed down to Sacred Text alone. Because of that Scripture is less likely to be spoken of formally and approached formally and informally as the Word become Text.
        There is also the 2000 year old Tradition of Inner Prayer that militates against the misperception Scripture in the place of Jesus. The whole Tradition of Inner Vision of God , the descent of the Mind into the spiritual heart, and the Hesychastic Tradition of the Presence within the Stillness, work powerfully against that.
        There is also the strong teaching that Scripture is formally speaking not Revelation, but inspired pointer to Revelation. Revelation is not propositions in Orthodoxy, but because It is the Uncreated Energies of God Himself, is Ineffable. And Revelation comes, not to the educated, but to the hungry and pure in heart.
        There is also the Lex Credendi preserved in the Lex Orandi of the Liturgical Materials that point away from that. I have never heard any Orthodox say that though there probably be a good number that, because of lack of true heart engagement with the Lord, exist on the outside, and the outside is all they know. But never have I heard, in these days the Spirit only works through the Word, since the death of the Apostles.

  2. Jn. 1:17 also makes a large distinction between Jesus and most of scripture: the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Yet even parts of the N.T., like Paul’s letters, can be (mis)interpreted in order to focus only on Jesus’ death (as Savior for sins), and miss how close Paul was to the living Jesus. And of course people can pick and choose which parts of the Gospels they prefer, so their Jesus ends up looking a lot like themselves.

    • I believe scripture serves as a window to know Jesus. However, I also realize that we can read scripture in such a way that we only end up remaking Jesus after our own “ologies” and “isms”.

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