Saturday, June 27, 2020

Jesus: The Three in One

Have you ever been in a bind with someone where you felt they were forcing you to choose between experience and truth, or between love and truth, or between spirit and truth, and the whole while you wondered why it couldn’t be all of the above?

I love the fact that Jesus describes himself as, “the way, and the truth, and the life”, and then clarifies that, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Sounds like another 3-in-1 to me.[1]

Let’s take a look at what Jesus said leading up to this declaration and get a sense of why it is as important for us who already believe in Jesus as those who are learning these wonderful truths for the first time. You will find this in John 14:1-6. And so he begins:

“Let not your hearts be troubled.”

Jesus expected that, even though he was telling his disciples what was about to happen to him in his arrest, suffering and death, that they had the option of not letting their hearts be troubled. Even though one of them would betray him into the hands of sinners, he wanted them to know that they had the option of not letting their hearts be troubled. Even though Peter would deny him three times before the coming morning, he wanted them to know that they had the option of not letting their hearts be troubled.

What could there be in our lives that needs this same encouragement today?

“Believe in God; believe also in me.”

This means that the source of what our hearts pump through our souls is our faith.[2] Jesus is worthy of the same faith-relationship as people of old expressed in their attachment to Yahweh-God, and it would be the presence or absence of faith in Jesus that would condition everything those men were facing then, and everything Jesus’ disciples are facing now.

“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?”

This is how personal everything is. Father’s house has rooms for all the adopted children. Jesus would never have told us that if he had no intention of preparing us room. No child of God will arrive in the divine presence we think of as heaven and find that there is no room for them in the inn, so to speak.[3] The “many” rooms will match the “many brothers” of the new covenant, simple as that.[4]

“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.”

It is ringing in my heart that Jude wrote, “To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ”.[5] Jesus will no doubt prepare a place that includes room for every adopted child of God because every adopted child of God was called to this. Jesus will not leave out one adopted child of God because every child of God is “beloved in God the Father”. And, Jesus will most certainly come and take us to himself so that we may be with him because we are kept for him for exactly that reason.

“And you know the way to where I am going.”

While the words that follow are absolutely settling in our understanding of Jesus and his work, Jesus first emphasized that the disciples already “knew” the way to where he was going. Even though Thomas responds by saying, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”, the fact was that they knew Jesus and so they did know the way.

Think about that. If we know Jesus, we know the one who opens the seven seals of the scroll and fulfills all the Father’s will regarding all the rest of history.[6] We don’t need to know how he does that, how each seal applies to world events, or when the seven trumpets of warning turn into the seven bowls of wrath. The point is, WE… KNOW… JESUS!!!

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Here we have the “threefold cord” that “is not quickly broken.”[7] It is imperative to know this threefold cord in each of its three strands, and in the triune wonders of their cohesive whole.

First, all the emphasis is on, “I am”. When Moses was called to deliver Israel out of Egypt, he had to know that “I AM” was with him.[8] So it is that we must know how Jesus expresses his own personal “I am-ness” into our lives, and how it is our knowing of him that brings our hearts to rest in his presence.

Second, with all the attention on Jesus, we have three realities of his identity that must be received as one. There is no favoritism where we can pick one reality as our focus, exaggerating it to a pendulum extreme because it is removed from the threefold cord of the plumbline. We cannot know Jesus as “the way” without saturating our experience of him in his truth and life. We cannot know Jesus as “the truth” without entering that narrow way that leads to life. We cannot know Jesus as “the life” without following his way of truth in a real and personal walk with him. Jesus did not hand us three different qualities of life that could be enjoyed independently but revealed himself in three distinct realities of life that would be enjoyed in constant unity.

Third, Jesus is “the way” and so he is the way to the Father, the way to the Father’s house, the way to the many rooms in Father’s house, the way to being with him where he was going. The way to be with our Creator as the people he created in his own image and likeness is Jesus himself. We simply need to know him and then we are in the way.[9]

Fourth, Jesus is “the truth” that makes us real. He is not only right, but he is truth. He cannot be other than right since his essence is truth itself. To know him is to walk in the truth. To keep in step with his Spirit is to walk in the truth. To be in Christ is to live in truth. We trust what he says is true because of who he is as the truth.

Fifth, Jesus is “the life”. In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of men.[10] He is the way that brings us to life. He is the truth that leads us to life. He is the Word of God that speaks us to life. He is the breath of heaven that fills us with life. He came to give us life, and because he is the way and the truth, he will give us life that is abundantly full.[11]

I came through Bible college and institutional church life with a focus on believing what is true. I was able to pass tests (barely) simply by giving the right answers. I did not know that Jesus wanted me to see him as “truth” personified, a reality of truth that could only be experienced in person. I did not know that there was a “way” that could only be experienced as a walk with Jesus until I was about 34 years old. I did not know there was a “life” that needed to be lived instead of an institution that needed to be maintained until God began leading me by his word and his Spirit to live whatever I was learning from him.

However, as Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life the whole time I knew him, no matter how poorly that knowingness was, he continually led me to know him until I could hold on to all three things about him as one relationship with our Father in heaven.

Knowing Jesus as the way, the truth and the life is like looking into a triangular prism. When we look into the “way” side, the light that shines into our hearts comes through the truth and the life. When we look into the “truth” side of Jesus, we see the light of the way and the light of life. When we look into the “life” side of Jesus, we see the way and the truth making us fully alive in the Son.

My only aim in sharing this is to encourage us to hold on to everything true about Jesus at the same time. Live the plumbline of the Christ-knowing life without letting anyone push us into extremes that exaggerate or neglect certain realities of God.

And spend much time in the word and prayer, seeking to know God more than you have ever known him before, asking him to help you comprehend and know Jesus as the way that leads your way, the truth that makes you real, and the life that makes you fully alive in Christ. Do not settle for less than what knowing the perfect Christ offers. Receive everything God promises in his word by faith.

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] No, I’m not saying that “the way, the truth and the life” is the trinity. I just love that the three things Jesus said about himself are only found in one person: HIM!
[2] Proverbs 4:23 describes the heart as the source of “the springs of life” for the soul in a way parallel to the physical heart that pumps lifeblood through our bodies.
[3] Yes, our entrance into our eternal home will have none of the negative experiences Jesus endured entering our temporal home.
[4] Romans 8:29
[5] Jude 1:1
[6] The scroll with its seven seals is introduced in Revelation 5 and Revelation 6 begins showing the things that each seal represents.
[7] Ecclesiastes 4:12. This does not suggest that Jesus’ threefold identity as the way, the truth and the life can somehow fail if tested beyond some imagined capacity, but that the imagery of the threefold cord that is not easily broken puts in our minds a picture of how these three realities of Jesus’ identity give us the chain of hope that anchors in the most Holy Place. What could fail in the limits of the material world still illustrates the threefold realities of Christ that ensure he will never lose even one for whom he has died.
[8] Exodus 3:14 in context of Exodus 3:1-
[9] Think of all the expressions of “in Christ”, “in him”, expressed in the letters to the churches to keep us always attentive to this fact that our experience of God is “in” our Savior. Read Ephesians 1-3 and count how many times Paul expresses a statement of believers being “in” our Savior and you will see very clearly that Jesus is not primarily a way to follow, but a person to be in, and when we are in Christ, we are in “the way”.
[10] See John 1:4 in context of John 1:1-18
[11] John 10:10

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