|Early spring from inside George Eastman House|
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (I am the one, true way to have life.) No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7This the response of Jesus to queries from the apostles to make clear who he is and to show them how they can follow him. The initial response is one we have heard countless times because it seems to underscore a belief that Christianity is the sole possessor of the Truth and thus the only path to God. This belief has led to a great deal of bad behavior by Christians including discrimination and persecution of those who are not Christians.
It is a problematic rendering because it uses a set of three nouns which in most translations are capitalized: The Way, The Truth, The Life. This easily played into the Greek love of abstract reasoning and to define concepts as though they were things. It is hard to believe that this is what Jesus meant. In addition, as faithful Christian I really have no idea what it means to predicate those nouns of Jesus. What are the implications for my life, for my belief in Jesus?
There apparently is an alternate rendering which is included in Expanded Bible and I included it in bold above. "I am the one, true way to have life" says something a bit different than the traditional translation. We are not so much interested in the concepts as we are in how to follow this Jesus who will lead to life.
Although the apostles seem to have a difficult time understanding what he is talking about, it seems much clearer to us. Perhaps this is because we do not have a centuries old tradition about what the Messiah would do for Israel. We experience Jesus as the incarnate Divine One who bids us to see the world and all in it in the way that the Divine One does, with eyes and heats filled with love.
As Cynthia Bourgeault has written, our role in this divine relationship is not to love the Divine One but to let the Divine One love us as fully and deeply as the Divine One desires. By accepting this infinite love and not clinging to the things of this world, we allow the Divine One (Father) to enter us just as the Father did with Jesus. This sets the stage for the Holy Spirit to enter as well and thus we participate in the interior life of the triune Divine One. This is the one, true path to life. No amount of rule keeping, prayers, alms, good works can take its place even though all those will follow as we allow the divine love to animate us and flow through us to all creation.