Jesus—His Life and Message: The “I Am” Sayings
May 15, 2018
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: The “I Am” Sayings
The Way, the Truth, and the Life
The next “I Am” statement from Jesus that we will look at was made during His last supper with His disciples. This is recorded in John chapter 14, and the context surrounding this statement is provided in the preceding chapter. In John chapter 13, we read how the night before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, Jesus and His disciples were eating together in what the Gospels of Mark and Luke describe as a large upper room. Unbeknownst to His disciples, this was to be their last meal with Jesus.
During the meal, Judas left to betray Jesus to the authorities. Once he was gone, Jesus spoke to His disciples about being glorified and also said:
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, “Where I am going you cannot come.”
When the apostle Peter asked Jesus where He was going, He responded:
“Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
It’s easy to imagine the surprise this news must have been to the disciples. They had left their homes, families, and livelihoods to follow Jesus for years, and now He was telling them that He was leaving and they weren’t going with Him. Peter wasn’t the only one who questioned Jesus. Thomas, Philip, and Judas (not Iscariot) all had something to say. In the preceding chapter, Peter stated, “I will lay down my life for you,” to which Jesus replied, Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. It must have been bewildering and terribly sad for them to hear that Jesus was leaving, especially after having just heard that one of their best friends was going to betray Him. It was in this context that Jesus made His next “I Am” statement.
Jesus comforted His disciples by saying:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
After telling them of His departure, He explained that things were going to work out, that His leaving wasn’t the disaster they thought it would be. Rather, He was going to His Father’s house to prepare a place so they would be together again. Most likely the reference to His coming back in this case referred to His return at the end of the age, at the time of His second coming, known as the parousia.
He also made the point that they knew the way to where He was going. They knew how to follow Him, as that was what He’d been teaching them to do for as long as they had been His disciples. As they continued to follow the way He had been leading them, they would come to where He would be. However Thomas, like Peter earlier, was perplexed and asked for clarity.
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
He was likely thinking of “the way” as a road leading to a specific destination, rather than as a way of being. His question led to Jesus giving more clarity.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“The Way” was the primary theme. Jesus, however, wasn’t giving directions; rather He was saying that the way was a person—Himself, and the destination was also a person—His Father. As the way, Jesus is the link between the lost and His Father, and without Him no one can come to the Father.
Jesus was saying that He is the one and only means for someone to enter into a relationship with the Father and to have eternal life. That message is echoed in many verses throughout the New Testament.
God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Jesus entered our world and gave His life in order to make salvation possible. He is the way to salvation.
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.
There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
As the way, Jesus is the means for people to enter into a relationship with the Father.
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
God loves the world and all who are in it, and therefore made a way for salvation through the gift of His Son, who died in our place so that we would be able to come into the presence of God—to be part of His family, to be able to call Him Father. The “Way” to God is through Jesus.
Jesus also said that He is “the Truth.” Within the Old Testament we hear of God being called “the God of truth.”
You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.
He who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth.
We normally think of truth as opposed to falsehood, or reality as opposed to mere appearance. However, the Hebrew word ‘emeth, which is translated in the Old Testament as truth, can also mean faithfulness, reliability, stability, firmness. When referring to God, this word conveys not only His truthfulness and veracity, but also His complete reliability and integrity. The Father is the God of truth in both senses.
We read in the New Testament that Jesus is full of grace and truth.
We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
The truth is in Jesus.
As He said to Pilate right before His crucifixion:
For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.
As the Father is truth, so too is the Son.
Along with stating that He was the way and the truth, Jesus added that He is “the life.” Life, in this context, focuses on eternal life:
This we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Over and over the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus is the means to eternal life, and that belief in Him results in everlasting life.
As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Jesus, the one we love and serve, is the Way—the link—to eternal life with the Father. He is the Truth, both in the sense of complete veracity as well as in faithfulness and reliability. He is also the Life, the giver of life; and through giving His life for our sakes, He has made it possible for us to live forever with Him.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.
Biven, David. New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. Holland: En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.
Bock, Darrell L. Jesus According to Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.
Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994.
Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51–24:53. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996.
Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. New York: Doubleday, 1993.
Brown, Raymond E. The Death of the Messiah. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1994.
Carson, D. A. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987.
Charlesworth, James H., ed. Jesus’ Jewishness, Exploring the Place of Jesus Within Early Judaism. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997.
Chilton, Bruce, and Craig A. Evans, eds. Authenticating the Activities of Jesus. Boston: Koninklijke Brill, 1999.
Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.
Elwell, Walter A., ed. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.
Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
Evans, Craig A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27–16:20. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.
Evans, Craig A., and N. T. Wright. Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.
Flusser, David. Jesus. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1998.
Flusser, David, and R. Steven Notely. The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.
Gnilka, Joachim. Jesus of Nazareth: Message and History. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.
Green, Joel B., and Scot McKnight, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
Guelich, Robert A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 1–8:26. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.
Jeremias, Joachim. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990.
Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996.
Jeremias, Joachim. Jesus and the Message of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.
Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.
Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Norwich: SCM Press, 1977.
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.
Lewis, Gordon R., and Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.
Manson, T. W. The Sayings of Jesus. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957.
Manson, T. W. The Teaching of Jesus. Cambridge: University Press, 1967.
McKnight, Scot. Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
Michaels, J. Ramsey. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.
Milne, Bruce. The Message of John. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.
Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1960.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Words & Works of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.
Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.
Sheen, Fulton J. Life of Christ. New York: Doubleday, 1958.
Spangler, Ann, and Lois Tverberg. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
Stassen, Glen H., and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003.
Stein, Robert H. Jesus the Messiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Stein, Robert H. Mark. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.
Stein, Robert H. The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.
Stott, John R. W. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978.
Talbert, Charles H. Reading the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.
Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
Witherington, Ben, III. The Christology of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.
Witherington, Ben, III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.
Wood, D. R. W., I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman, eds. New Bible Dictionary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Wright, N. T. After You Believe. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.
Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.
Wright, N. T. Matthew for Everyone, Part 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.
Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.
Young, Brad H. Jesus the Jewish Theologian. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995.
 Luke 22:12, Mark 14:15.
 John 13:33.
 John 13:36.
 John 14:5.
 John 14:8.
 John 14:22.
 John 13:37.
 John 13:38.
 John 13:11, 21–26.
 John 14:1–4.
 John 14:5.
 John 14:6.
 John 3:16–18.
 John 3:36.
 John 10:9.
 John 6:51.
 1 Timothy 2:5.
 Romans 10:9.
 Acts 4:12.
 Psalm 31:5 NKJV.
 Isaiah 65:16.
 Morris, The Gospel According to John, 259.
 John 1:14.
 1 John 5:20.
 Ephesians 4:21.
 John 18:37.
 1 John 1:1–2 NIV.
 John 1:4.
 John 5:26.
 John 5:21.
 John 11:25–26.
 Romans 6:23.
 Romans 6:4.
 1 John 5:11–12.
 John 17:1–3.
 John 20:31.