“I am the way”

“I am the way and the truth and the life.”[1] It is Jesus’ life and what he modeled for us that interests me in this declaration from the Gospel of John.  I am thinking in terms of lifestyle, a more modern way of looking at it, but we have to go back to the early church to see vital Christianity lived out in his adherents, before Constantine make Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in 321 AD and before the newly official church adopted the Nicene Creed in 325 AD, when beliefs took precedence over practices.

 

As I researched this topic on the Internet, I found an article by Philip Schaff, a 19th C. German-born professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary quoting the early 2nd C. A.D. paper “Epistola ad Diognetum” by an unknown author.  As reported Christians looked like every other citizen, they dressed like them, they were citizens of their nation, they married like everyone else. They did what all other citizens did and yet they “present a wonderful and confessedly paradoxical conduct.” “They are in the flesh, but do not live after the flesh. They live upon the earth, but are citizens of heaven.” They are punished and persecuted and yet they love and “glory in their reproaches.”  “They are poor and make many rich. They lack all things, and in all things abound.” “Their piety is invisible.” “The world hates the Christians with no reason, but that they resist its pleasures.”[2]

 

Early Christians lived in this world, but not of it. They are poor/yet rich. They are persecuted/ yet they love. They are not outwardly pious. What else did Jesus model for us, early and late Christians? A deep relationship with the Father through prayer, a care for the poor and marginalized, healing the sick, blind and lame, speaking out about what he knew to be true, and standing up to the powers that be when he disagreed with them, always pointing to the Father as the Source of all. These early Christians lived in this way, following Jesus. We can, too.

 

Jesus says, “Follow me” eighteen times throughout the four Gospels.[3] Sometimes he says it like this, “take up his cross and follow me,”[4] but often it is the simple “Come, follow me”[5] or just “follow me.”[6] Is he saying to do exactly what he did? I don’t think so. Jesus already lived his life and his destiny. We each have our own life to live out, too. To me he is calling us to have the kind of relationship with the Father that he modeled and then to go wherever God takes us and to do what God calls us to do to bring in the kingdom.

 

The major stumbling block to our following Jesus is, in the poet, William Wordswoth’s words:

         “THE world is too much with us; late and soon,           
         Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:           
         Little we see in Nature that is ours;           
         We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”[7] 
We follow the world’s lead, are captive to the world’s mores and transient 
pleasures. We need to dig deeper into our own hearts and souls to find 
solace in the lasting joys, the guiding principles Jesus taught and our own 
true created selves. God meets us there in our true selves and leads us 
where he needs us most. 

“Follow me,” Jesus said; he might have added: “only me.” I am the 
source of all that is true and life-fulfilling and life-affirming: “I am the 
way.”

[1] John 14:6 NIV, Biblica, 2011

[2] History of the Christian Church, Vol. II: Ante-Nicene Christiaity. AD 100-325, by Philip Schaff, pp. 11-2, Union Theological Seminary, 1883

[3] Edward W. Goodrick & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 2nd Edition, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI, 1999, p. 409

[4] Matthew 16:24

[5] Mark 1:17

[6] John 21:19

[7] William Wordsworth, “The World Is Too Much With Us, 1806

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