When I was in college, I would make the 11 hour trek between the east coast and Indiana at least twice a year. Back then we didn’t have fancy navigation systems or apps like Waze and Google Maps, just good old fashioned paper maps. I had an atlas that was smaller in size and while that meant most of the states I drove through each fit on one page, that was never the case with Pennsylvania. The Keystone State took up two full pages. When I crossed the centerfold of the map it was a huge relief—after all, this state took more than five hours to cross from east to west. Once over that halfway point in PA, it felt like smooth sailing.
Until it wasn’t.
Because these maps are only as current as their most recent print date, an exit could be closed, or part of the highway shutdown and I wouldn’t know it until I got to that point in the journey. The map couldn’t tell me in advance. The route didn’t turn red and warn me of traffic ahead. A little voice didn’t suggest a new route to avoid the congestion or ensure I didn’t lose time on the journey. No, I just had to hope that my maps were up to date and accurate.
You Know the Way
In John chapter 14, Jesus begins his farewell discourse to the disciples. He has just told them that he is going to leave and where he is going they cannot yet come. He continues this conversation telling them that he is going to his father’s house to prepare a room for them and will come back to get them and take them there.
Thomas says, “But if we don’t know where you are going how can we know the way?”
Jesus answers Thomas with, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus makes it clear with this statement that the way to the Father and therefore Heaven—which is where He is going—isn’t a specific route, it is not the law, not works, not other philosophies or gods—He alone is the way. The way is a person. And they know this person–they know Jesus. Therefore, they know the way.
But remember, friends, when Jesus said, “I am the way,” it was the beginning of his farewell discourse. He continues in John to tell them, I am leaving, and it is going to be hard. There are going to be difficult times, you will face persecution, you’re going to be attacked, you’re going to scatter, and all these awful things will happen.
Nothing with Jesus is coincidental. I believe his timing in sharing this message was purposeful—not only to encourage the disciples about eternity, but also for the disciples to be encouraged with what they already knew to bring them comfort in the next season when He was no longer physically present.
His Way Is Perfect
This brings me back to my car ride with an atlas as my guide for my journey. You see, even if there was a detour or an exit closure, I knew the route well enough after a few times to know that as long as I kept an eye out for the signs for the interstate, I would be okay. The route may need to change a bit, but I knew the direction I was headed and could be confident that I would get there, eventually. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have to refer back to my atlas, but it did mean I didn’t need to get overly worried about where a detour might take me.
Similarly, in life we often don’t know what is coming. Sometimes God warns us, like Jesus did with the disciples—we get those nudges that tell us something is coming. Most often, we do not know what the next struggle or hardship might be. But we do know the One who walks with us in it and through it, and into eternity.
The way to the Father for the disciples didn’t begin after Jesus departed. No, the way to the Father began three years prior when Jesus called them to follow him. They had been “on the way,” to the Father, for years.
John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” For us, though we may not have the Son physically walking with us, we have the Word. We too can know the way and walk in the way. But we won’t know the way if we don’t allow the Word to be our guide—not people, philosophies, or trends.
Psalm 18:30 says, “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.”
He is saying to us TODAY—I am the way I am the truth I am the life, I was there in the beginning, I have always been, and I always will be. We can be encouraged that unlike the atlas’s I used to make those routine drives, the Word is alive and active. Just as we are confident in Jesus Christ as the way to our Heavenly Father, we can be confident that through His Word He is leading us to the Father even now.