Today’s reflection comes from my brother in Christ, Mark Morrell, who reads the Ripple from Nashville, TN. Though we’ve only spent a few hours together in person, we have the bond of our Lord Jesus.
“Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).
Way. Truth. Life. WTL.
Today’s Chapter, John 14, describes a conversation between Jesus and his disciples after eating the Last Supper. They are reclined and relaxed. The food is settling in their bellies. The wine is probably giving a familiar lightheadedness. And there is Jesus, his death only hours ahead, trying to explain what is about to happen, to a group who isn’t getting it.
Chapter 14 follows Jesus’ prediction about two betrayals – denial by Peter and betrayal to death by Judas Iscariot. Jesus changes tone with a message of comfort: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1). Jesus knows what’s coming. They don’t. And he wants them to endure, to keep the faith.
So Jesus gives the most recognized message of John 14, the WTL verse. But what does “Way, Truth, Life (WTL)” really mean?
Many self-identifying Christians interpret WTL as a disqualifier for anyone who doesn’t know about Jesus, or for anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus specifically. Many view WTL as the litmus test for Christianity. The verse generates logical questions – What about children who haven’t reached an age of accountability? What about the foreigner in a remote place who has never heard? What about babies? What about good people, not exactly Christians, who have an inner peace reflecting truth but who would not qualify under the WTL standard? If Jesus is the only way, then aren’t they excluded?
I don’t think Jesus was answering all the “What If” questions here. He was making a going away speech to his friends, who didn’t understand he was about to go away. He didn’t say that any particular mindset, doctrine, or denomination was the way, the truth, and the life. He wasn’t talking about destination. He was pointing the disciples, his followers, back to himself, as a way to know God, in times of trouble. He was trying to reassure them, hours before his death. And right after the WTL verses, he immediately previews the Holy Spirit, another comfort to the disciples in Jesus’ absence.
If we are disciples of Jesus, then let’s keep the WTL for what was intended – to comfort us. Not to disqualify, but to help us face difficult times ahead. There are moments for all of us when God seems distant. When we betray Jesus. When we deny Jesus. And when God is a far off, vague thing, do you know how God wants to comfort us? Jesus. WTL. Know him, and then God is known. And we have the Holy Spirit to help us make that connection.
Jesus is WTL.