The cemetery in my hometown is located next to the high school. My grandparents’ house was on the other side of the cemetery, so I walked or drove by that cemetery almost every day of my life growing up and thought nothing of it. I recognized some of the last names on the graves, but I did not know any of the people who were buried there.
I started teaching at my old high school last year, so now I drive by that same cemetery every day, but now that I’m in my forties, the headstones bear the names of people I knew. In the years since I was a child, death has become much more real to me. People that I can remember in the prime of their lives grew sick and weak, then died. We truly live our lives in the shadow of death.
When we consider our lives in light of the reality of death, Jesus’s declaration that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” becomes extremely precious to us (John 14:6). The context for His words is important—it was the night before His death. As He prepared His disciples for His departure, Jesus spoke to them of both the trouble they would face and the hope that He held out for them.
Jesus told them that He would go to prepare a place for them and would return again to bring them back to Himself. The disciples did not understand His teaching and pressed Him for details. How could they know the way He was going? He answered by telling them not where He would be going, but how they would join Him, telling them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (v.6).
Jesus’s words hold out a beautiful hope for us too. Because He died and rose from the dead, anyone who wants to know the Father can now come to Him through the Son. Jesus destroyed the hostility between us and the Father through His death, and was raised from the dead because death has now been conquered. Our greatest enemies, sin and death, have experienced their ultimate defeat, so we no longer have to cower when we think about appearing before God. Because of Jesus—and only through Him—we can know the Father and His love.
Many people recoil at the gospel message, that people can only come to the Father through Jesus, and that there is salvation in no other name but Christ (Acts 4:12). They see these words as intolerant toward people of other religions, and an unnecessarily narrow road to an eternity in heaven.
But when we consider the heavy shadow of death hanging over us all, Jesus’s words become exceptionally beautiful. He did what no one else could: He destroyed our greatest enemy so that we could have the greatest hope. Instead of being narrow or hateful, Jesus’s insistence that salvation is found only in Him is a great invitation offered to every person. Salvation may only be through Him, but it is open to any and all who will come.
Written by Scott Slayton