Admission time: Needles terrify me. As a rule, I’m okay with dental needles, but I live in dread of regular injections. I recognise that it is a highly irrational fear, because injections never actually hurt very much and, unlike many others I know, I’ve never known the difficulty of doctors or nurses battling to find a vein while drawing blood or setting up a drip. Still, the thought of a needle piercing my skin fills me with mortal dread.
Jesus’ disciples experienced similar emotion in John 14. Having spent a wonderful evening of fellowship around the Passover meal, Jesus, at the most inopportune time, began telling them that he would soon leave and they could not follow where he was going. The thought troubled them deeply, prompting Jesus to comfort them with his next “I am” statement (John 14:1–7ff).
By stating that he was (and is) “the way, and the truth, and the life” (v. 6), Jesus made the most exclusive of claims. He openly rejected every other claim to divine favour and stated that he alone could provide what is necessary to enter relationship with God. In a world that promises many ways to God, Jesus claimed to be the only way. In a world that encourages people to pursue their own truth, Jesus claimed to be exclusive and absolute truth. In a world seeking to prolong life and evade death, Jesus claimed to be the only source of eternal life. Every other religious and philosophical system is in error. They are all lies. Faith in Christ is absolute and exclusive truth.
This is not a popular message in the pluralistic age in which we live. Such certainty is considered arrogant and bigoted, but Jesus unashamedly embraced it as truth and presented it as an antidote to fear. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (v. 1). The word translated “troubled” describes someone who quivers with tangible dread. It is the dread that the disciples experienced at the thought of Jesus leaving them. It is the dread that many Christians experience at the thought of death.
Jesus’ exclusive claim in v. 6 offers fear-assuaging hope for at least two reasons.
First, Jesus’ words promise his followers that, while he is not physically present with them, he is preparing a place for them: “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?” (v. 2).
King Solomon, writing of life “under the sun” (i.e. life in a world in which God does not exist), spoke of the grave as man’s “eternal home” (Ecclesiastes 12:5). We are all headed for the grave and, apart from divine intervention, that is our final and everlasting destination. But those who embrace Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life have hope of a destination beyond the grave because Christ has gone ahead to prepare a place for them.
We do not live life “under the sun.” God exists and there is, therefore, more to life than what we see and know. While we have a certain appointment with death, we also have a certain appointment with post-mortem judgement (Hebrews 9:27), which will result either in life or destruction. Those who recognise Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life can rest assured that their fate is eternal life because Jesus has gone to prepare a place for them.
Second, Jesus’ words promise his followers that, while he is not physically present with them, he is coming back for them: “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” (v. 3).
Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for his disciples, but he has not left it to them to find their own way to that place. Instead, he promised that he would be back one day to receive his disciples into the eternal home that he is preparing for them.
If you have embraced Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life, rest assured that he will return to receive you to himself. You will spend eternity in unbroken fellowship with your Father because Jesus is the way. This is truth on which to rest your confidence for life—now and in the age to come.
We all face death with varying degrees of dread. Jesus understands that. But that is why he gave the promise of John 14:6. Death is certain, but there is equally certain hope of eternal life in a place Christ is preparing. This hope is held out only to those who will receive him as the way, the truth, and the life.
Christian, in the face of your fears, rest in the promise that Jesus is preparing a place for you and will return to receive you to your eternal home. Non-Christian, there is only one hope to be delivered from the fear of death. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Believe him and join the ranks of those for whom he is preparing an eternal home.