Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
Meaning of John 14:6
John 14:6 is one of the important verses from the Gospel of John in the New Testament and is frequently quoted scripture in all denominations of Christianity. Jesus, here, is preparing His disciples and offering reassurance before his arrest and death (you can find the related verses in John 14:1–4). The words “i am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” means that Jesus declares Himself as the means to reach the Heavenly Father. The verse also encourages the readers and listeners to preserve faith in the face of hardship while believing in Jesus. Each section of this statement is given a definite article; both Greek and English refer to “the way, the truth, and the life. There is no chance of translating this comment as Jesus being “one way,” “a truth,” or “just life.” He basically doubles down on the idea by emphasizing that nobody comes to God “except through Jesus Christ.”
Interpretations of John 14:6
The verse John 14:6 comes as a relief and revelation to Christian readers in times of doubt and fear. It is not uncommon for this verse to be misinterpreted at times. This verse is also quoted very frequently during worship and mass.
Interpretation #1 Jesus is our only access to God
As it is Jesus speaking here, in this interpretation of John 14:6, the stress on the “I AM” is more pronounced. By including these words in this chapter, the author is trying to make it clear to Christians that if they want to reach out to God, they should look no further than Jesus. It is a reminder, call and encouragement that Jesus is not one of the ways but the only way to access God. There are a few references in the New Testament that call Jesus a mediator between humans and God and a messenger on this Earth. So, here the verse is interpreted that Jesus as the main source because God cannot be approached directly.
Interpretation #2 Fear is the key to reaching God
In this explanation of the verse, there is an underlying declaration. Jesus here strongly says that no matter what the reader thinks he or she knows, they are not capable of choosing. While the author emphasizes that God is the truth, way, and life, it also carries a warning to the readers that they must fear in order to reach Him through Jesus Christ. While the direct meaning is that Jesus is the only path a person needs to take to come closer to God, the second part emphasizes humans lack the confidence to achieve anything on their own. The author also believes that human nature is so deep-rooted in a person that it is difficult, if not hard, for them to be pure like God, and that is why Jesus was sent on Earth. Thus John 14:6, in this interpretation, means humanity is required to fear God to enter heaven.
Interpretation #3 Jesus is greater than God, his father
The verse John 14: 6 is also interpreted as Jesus as the only authority, and undervalues God as a creator and ruler. Here, the readers believe that Jesus is greater than His father and possesses more power than God. Why emphasizing ‘I am’ in repetition, the declaration does establish Jesus as the in charge of everything. Thus in a few denominations of Christianity, only Jesus is given total obedience and worship, and God, the Heavenly Father, is absent, despite being mentioned in the New Testament. It is even interpreted as God existing but powerless. Hence, to declare himself to be the truth, way and life rather than giving these attributes to God, Jesus is putting himself above His father.
Interpretation #4 You are the I AM
Christians use ‘I am’ statements to attribute God as well as Jesus. However, here Jesus declares that he is ‘I am’. In western culture, the ‘I am’ statements are taken from John 14:6 and borrowed by non-Christians too. It is believed to be empowering and enlightening. The readers use these statements to motivate themselves and often feel powerful by declaring that they, not God or Jesus, are the way, life, and truth. This verse means reducing God to a human level and getting access to His words and path.
Interpretation #5 Jesus’ invitation to His believers to believe in His Father
The verse can also be interpreted as Jesus’ invitation to His followers to believe in Him and also assurance that through Him, God or Heavenly Father will be more favorable to them. By declaring, I am the way, the truth, and the life… Jesus shows His authority as the Son of God and shows the meek side of God, the Father, who was usually assumed as an angry and harsh God. Thus, Jesus here invites the followers to listen to him and represents Himself as a door. He also acts as a mediator to get his followers justice by standing between man and His father, God.
Historical Background of John 14:6
The Gospel of John is set in the Roman province of Judea between the years 28 and 33 CE. It is believed that John reached the final form of the Gospel around AD 90–110, although it contains signs of origins dating back to AD 70 and perhaps even earlier. In John 14, Jesus continues his discussions with His disciples while waiting for His death and tells them about the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus speaks separately with Thomas, Philip, and Judas (not the Judas Iscariot). All through this chapter, Jesus’ persistence is to strengthen the apostles’ faith. The author of the book having this chapter is anonymous, but early Christian tradition majorly believed that John had composed this Gospel. The Gospel of John, like the other three gospels, is anonymous, but the writer/author is called a “disciple whom Jesus loved.” The phrase “The Way” is also seen in Acts 9:2 and 19:23 to describe the early church.
Literary Devices in John 14:6
As mentioned, the book of John is a teaching moment by Jesus to His disciples. Hence the verse is a dialogue or a statement spoken by Jesus, unlike the epistles that were addressed to churches or a congregation.
Metaphor – Here, Jesus uses metaphor (describes Himself) to compare Himself to a way or path, truth or authority, and life or a life source. Also, ‘the way’ is a metaphor for a person’s choices, thoughts, and feelings.
Personification – By declaring ‘I’m the truth’ truth is personified by Jesus. Similarly, ‘the way’ is also personified as Jesus being the source.
Polysyndeton – In a New Internation Version, the verse ‘and’ is repeated in quick succession. For example, ‘Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’