Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:5-7)
As I am often wont to do, I was thinking about how the sacramental life of the Christian plays out in some of these iconic sayings from Christ, and hit upon this neat thought yesterday morning: Jesus as the way and the truth and life has a great parallel with the three main sacramental rites by which we receive Him into our lives.
In Baptism, we are started out on the Christian journey. Christ is the way that we begin to follow at this point.
In Confirmation we proclaim our personal allegiance to God. Christianity is no longer an arbitrary set of rules, but the truth of God tangibly expressed in the Christian way of life.
In Eucharist we come (and return) into direct communion with Christ. We’re not just following his way, nor just proclaiming and living his truth, but also participating in (and receiving) his life.
So there’s a sense in which Christ as the Way and Truth and Life is a progression of growth and maturity. We strive to follow & live like Christ, we aim to proclaim & embody his truth, and we participate in his life. His way, his truth, and his life are eternal. Every other way of life, every other truth claim, and every other source of life will ultimately fail and fade. Only Christ’s way, truth, and life will endure to eternity.
Hence Jesus’ following words, “nobody comes to the Father but by me.” It’s interesting to note here that, in Greek, “intercession” is often the same word as “approach” or “come to,” showing that Jesus is the go-between for God and humanity. In other words, Jesus is the perfect intercessor; nobody else can provide a way to God or define God’s truth or share God’s life with us. Jesus is the way, truth, and life.
The Sacraments, then, are vehicles by which we enter into Jesus’ way and embody his truth and receive his life. By both his words and his examples, Jesus prepared for us tangible points of connection between our present earthly life and his perfected spiritual life in the heavenly realms. In Christian worship, and especially the sacraments Jesus instituted, the link between heaven and earth is strengthened, and we become closer to Christ, and in turn, closer to the Father, the Spirit, and everyone who is in Christ.