Knowing the Father – John 14 The Father’s House P2 - The Way to the Father vs 4-7
In the previous message we used the simple title Going Home for our consideration of vs 1-3; the Lord Jesus was Going Home to the Father. This message continues with the theme of the Father’s House, which is the focus in vs 1-7. In vs 2-3 the Lord emphasised the Father’s house as the place where He is going, now in vs 4-7 the emphasis is upon the person and the way to Him. So in vs 4-7 we are thinking of the Way to the Father and then in the next section of the discourse, vs 8-14, the discussion focuses on the Father’s Visibility with the emphasis being upon the works of the Father which are the means of the Father’s manifestation through the Son.
Perhaps before looking at the detail of vs 4-7 it might be helpful to plot the course through the chapter by way of a basic outline. The title divisions are in keeping with the overall theme of the chapter – Knowing the Father. Remember, no outline is absolute.
The Father’s House vs 1-7 >His Return to the Father vs 1-3 >The Way to the Father vs 4-7 The Father’s Visibility vs 8-14 >Clearer Vision vs 8-11 >Greater Works vs 12-14 The Father’s Gift vs 15-26 [“I will pray the Father He will give you another comforter” v 16] The Father’s Primacy vs 27-31 [“If ye loved me ye would rejoice, because I said, ‘I go unto my Father’, for My Father is greater than I’’ v 28]
The Way to the Father vs 4-7
A Known Way vs 4-5 The Lord Jesus now has clearly stated what He indicated at v 33 of chapter 13, He is going to His Father’s house. He is Going Home. One day soon, His Church will join Him in the Father’s House at His coming. Having promised that He “will come again” (v 3), He reminds the disciples in light of what He has just said, “And where I go you know, and the way you know” (v 4 NKJV). The ‘where’ is the Father’s house and ‘the way’ to it is indeed Himself as He will confirm in response to Thomas (v 6). And yet, there perhaps is a hint in these words that while ‘the way’ is most certainly Himself, it involves not only His person, but the reality of the Cross. He is the way by virtue of who He is and He is the way because of what He is about to accomplish in His death and resurrection. The way home for Christ was via the Cross and the way to the Father for us is through Him. It is also the case that the Lord in this statement is pointing out that whether the disciples understood what He was saying or not they certainly possessed the knowledge of ‘the way’ for they knew Him. Other translations bring out this sense: “And you know the way where I am going” (NASB) or “And you know the way to where I am going” (ESV).
The disciples, had they really been listening and learning from the Lord throughout their time with Him, would have known to whom He was referring and what He meant by this statement, but they didn’t and Thomas opens his mouth to show that they didn’t know.
These men were disciples learning from their Master and we cannot help but be impressed by His patience and grace toward them. He of course loved them, but they were slow learners. It was not until they were looking back after the Cross and resurrection with the Holy Spirit having come that they finally understood the mission of Christ and the things He taught them. We have learnt in life that ‘hindsight is an exact science’ to borrow a phrase from Thomas Jefferson. It is often only when looking back that we get a proper perspective and understanding of things. Still, the dullness of the disciples was inexcusable. The Lord rebuked the two on the way to Emmaus strongly enough for their unbelief: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26-27).
The problem with the disciples mirrors what often is our own problem when it comes to scripture, they weren’t the best of students despite having the best teacher.
So Thomas says in response to the Lord: “Lord, we know not where Thou goest, and how can we know the way?” (Darby Trans.). The few glimpses we get of Thomas indicate that he was somewhat like Peter in that he was willing to speak out and say it as he saw it! Often we remain silent when we don’t know something rather than speak out for fear of embarrassing ourselves, but that was not Peter or Thomas. John, who identifies Thomas as Didymus (11:16; 20:24; 21:2) three times, ‘a twin’, whoever’s twin he was, also mentions what he says three times. At John 11 v 16 we witness Thomas’ courage; here at v 5 we see his confusion and in chapter 20 v 28 we hear his confession, the background to which we know well and which earned him the reputation of ‘doubting Thomas’.
The Only Way vs 6-7 His question here, however, opened the door for the Lord Jesus to make one of the seven great “I am” statements found in the Gospel of John by which the Lord affirms what He is because of who He is (– John 6:35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5). The LORD, as in Jehovah, revealed the ‘dynamic’ meaning of His name to Moses at the burning bush as, “I am” (Ex 3:13-15). Jehovah is His personal name of self-revelation. He is LORD of eternity and history. The important point to understand concerning the Lord Jesus’ self-identification as “I am” is that not only is He ‘God the Son’, but just as the LORD revealed His glory and power in history by the Exodus so the glory and power of Jehovah was again revealed in history by the incarnation. The man called Jesus – was none other than Jehovah the Saviour in time and in flesh. Thus as John begins his gospel he writes: ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).
The Lord Jesus responds to Thomas by stating: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”. The Lord utters a threefold statement. We come to the Father through Him as the way because He is the truth and in Him is life. It is interesting to notice that in the book of Acts believers were known as people of the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14). John MacArthur points out that ‘this description of Christianity, derived from Jesus’ description of Himself (John 14:6), appears several times in the book of Acts’ (MacArthur Study Bible).
He is the life as John in his gospel and first epistle states again and again – John 1 v 4; 3:16; 5:24, 26, 6:35; 11:25 and so on. Powerful are the opening words of John’s first epistle:
'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)' (1 John 1:1-2).
But what did the Lord mean when He said He is the truth? In the context it is evident to us that as the one who came from the Father, went to the Father and is Himself the only way to the Father, He is therefore, as the truth, the full, absolute and only revelation of the Father. John opens his gospel declaring why Jesus is the truth:
'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made' (John 1:1-3).
Christ is the authentic, authoritative and absolute one and only revelation of the Father. This was His testimony and this is what the record of John is about:
'And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name' (John 20:30-31).
The Jews rejected His testimony of truth because they were of their ‘father the devil’ (John 8:44) and the Lord warned them: “I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). During His trial they cried for Barabbas instead of Christ (John 18:40) and ultimately they will, as the Lord warned, receive a false Messiah, who will be none other than the coming antichrist.
Truth is everything. The rejection of God is the rejection of truth. When men turn from truth they embrace falsehood and fall for deception at every level. Paul’s commentary in Romans 1 on the Gentile peoples demonstrates this reality. The Lord Jesus reminded Pilate:
"To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice" (John 18:37).
Pilate responded with a question, the answer to which he did not wait to hear. “What is truth?” He asked. In his world of political intrigue and pagan gods his question is not a surprise. Truth was lost in such a culture as it is in ours today. Paul wrote:
'For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness' (Rom 1:18 NASB).
If only Pilate had listened to the Lord Jesus. If only men would listen to Him today.
Truth is what determines reality. The foolishness of our time says, “True for you, but not for me” as if there is no universal truth and it’s possible to determine or create one’s own reality. This is the nonsense of what is called relativism.
God determines and defines reality. This is obvious to us for God is the Creator and has given everything existence, identity and meaning. As we have just quoted concerning the Lord Jesus, the eternal Word: ‘All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made’ (John 1:3). Creation is by design, with purpose, governed by laws that God established. This universe holds together in Christ (Col 1:17) and because of the power of His word (Heb 1:3).
In the book of Revelation God the Father and the Lord Jesus both self-identify as ‘Alpha and Omega’ (Rev 1:8, 11; 22:13) which, along with the other corresponding statements, ‘the beginning and the end, the first and the last’ tell us that divine persons exist before creation, are its cause and will bring it to its ultimate goal according to the purpose of God. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The letters that comprise an alphabet are the ‘building blocks’ of words which themselves are the ‘vehicles’ of communication by which truth and knowledge are imparted and explained. The first thing we read of God after His creation of the universe and the moving of the Spirit (Gen 1:1-2), is that He spoke – ‘And God said, “Let there be light”: and there was light’ (Gen 1:3). Again, as we have observed, the Lord Jesus is the eternal Word who reveals and communicates the Father. What we learn from Him who is the ‘Alpha and Omega’ is that not only do divine persons possess all knowledge, they are the source of it. This was evident to man at Creation who himself was the very product of God’s infinite wisdom and power along with everything else. But, God also established for His creature the reality of His infinite knowledge and absolute truth in the moral realm. That’s why there was ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’ from which man was barred. I hope this might give us a sense of the magnitude and significance of Him who is ‘the truth’ both in the context in which He spoke these words and in the wider context of created order. The LORD said through His prophet Isaiah:
'Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being His counsellor hath taught him? With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and shewed to Him the way of understanding?' (Isa 40:13-14).
The great issues of our times is well described by the poet James Russel Lowell (1819-1891) in his poem, The Present Crisis written in 1844 about the crisis over slavery in America. Below are two of its eighteen verses:
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side; Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight, Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right, And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.
Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but record One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word; Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,— Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
The issue of course in what the Lord is saying is that coming to the Father is not just about location, it is all about relationship, about knowing the Father through the Son. Without such relationship no one will ever be in the Father’s house. Thus the Lord says to His disciples:
"If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also: and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him" (v 7).
The statement is straightforward and yet based on the tenses of the verbs used, the Lord is saying something distinctive. If they had fully known Him they would, prior to this conversation, have fully known the Father also. But based upon the Lord’s words to them they would from this point continue to know the Father because they have had their minds enlightened to see Him in the Son.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the King James Version.