Psalm 113; Matthew 7:13–23; John 14:1–7 (read online ⧉)
“I am the way, the truth, and the life…” is often presented in the same vein as “…the narrow gate.” Yet, “the way” isn’t the same. The Greek ὁδός (hodos) is a relatively generic term that is used to mean a wide road to a narrow road. The real gist is that it is well-used and that it connects places (often other “ways”).
When Jesus speaks of being “…the way, the truth, and the life…” we really need to use its larger context to explain it. This is more of a “pastoral” comfort statement than a rigid “follow me or else” statement. The surrounding verses seek to soothe the anxieties of the disciples regarding their choice to follow Jesus. They needed to know they had made the right choice. In the same passage regarding being the way, Jesus tells them not to be troubled, and that the Father’s house has many rooms. Jesus reassures them that they know the way.
It’s sad, yet understandable, how this passage became interpreted the way of exclusivity instead of compassion, mercy, and love. Often used to show that any way other than Jesus is destined for Hell, this passage is intended to show that God has grace for everyone as they do their best to accompany and follow Jesus through life.
Rupertus Meldenius once wrote, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” This would seem to be the heart of Jesus’ words to his disciples when he talked about being the way, the truth, and the life. Oddly, enough, this leads us to Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:13–14.
The narrowness of the gate and the difficulty of the road comes into play here. It is this passage that likely transformed a passage of grace into a passage of exclusion. However, that doesn’t mean we get to ignore this passage.It is this passage, however, that provides the boundaries of grace. Too much openness blinds us to the truth of God. This is the narrow gate. The difficult road is the urgings of the world pushing and pulling us toward “easier”, “more loving”, “more accepting” ways of living. This kind of thinking is along the lines of “if it doesn’t hurt others, then it’s fine.” The narrow gate and difficult road do not allow that.
Jesus, you lived the life of a human. Give us the holy wisdom not to follow the world that does not know you. Guide us through the narrow gate and along the difficult road. We thank you for the Holy Sprit, which acts as the compass, guide, and counselor. Help, Holy Spirit, to be filled with you so that we walk in the way of life. Gracious Father, we thank you for you loving kindness that shared of yourself through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. May we honor that in our lives. Amen.
1) What do you think of Rupertus Meldenius’ words? Do you think that they are right, or wrong? Why or why not?
2) Why is the openness of the “way” of John 14:1–7 important when we talk about the “narrow gate” of Matthew 7:13? Which do you think is more important? Why?
3) How can people (especially the church) be united, yet provide liberty and charity?