by Bob Wheeler


Thomas had asked Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5; NKJV), and Jesus responded by saying “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” (v. 6).  But then Jesus goes on to elaborate.  Just exactly who is Jesus?  And what exactly is His relationship with the Father?  He tells Thomas, and the disciples as a group, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (v. 7).

Philip, however, still does not grasp what Jesus is saying, and he says, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (v. 8).  The disciples’ bewilderment at this point is understandable.  The relationship of Jesus to the Father is difficult to grasp.  The question takes us right into the mystery of the Trinity.

Jesus responded by mildly rebuking Philip: “Have I been with you so long, an yet you have not known Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (v. 9).  As the 19th Century Scottish preacher Charles Ross pointed out, “The expression can only be understood on the supposition that he is a partaker of the same nature and essence with the Father” (The Inner Sanctuary, p. 81).  Jesus, the Son, is a different Person from the Father; He prays to the Father as a Person different from Himself.  But as Jesus goes on to explain to Philip, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” (v. 10a).  As the Nicene Creed puts it, Jesus Christ is “the Son of God, begotten of the Father as only begotten, that is, from the essence of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not created, of the same essence as he Father . . .”  The Father and the Son are two different Persons, an yet He could say that “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.”

Jesus then goes on to cite the evidence for this.  First of all, “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority (v. 10b – the translation has supplied the word “authority”; NASV has “initiative). The content, the manifest wisdom of Jesus’ spoken words points to a superhuman source.  Likewise Jesus points out that “the Father who dwells in Me does the works . . . believe Me for the sake of the works themselves’ (vv.  10c,11b).  His miracles demonstrated His supernatural powers, and they attested to His essential Deity.

Why is this important?  Because it establishes the basis for Jesus’ role as “the way, the truth, and the life.”  He could not be any of these things if were anything less than God Himself.  Only the divine Christ can atone for our sin; only the divine Christ can reveal truth to us.  Christ can do both of these things because He was not a mere human being, a Buddha or Mohammed; but because He was the very Son of God Himself – fully God and fully man at the same time.

As Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh pointed out, the whole system of Christian truth, and the whole fabric of human hope, rests on the deity of Christ.  And if we had a proper appreciation of it, “How much holier, how much happier, should we be, if we habitually lived under its power!” (Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord, Vol. 3, p. 64).  The gospel would be a delight; the atonement would be a resting place for our conscience; authority would clothe all of Christ’s commands.  But all too often, in actual practice, we are like Philip.  “None of us know him [i.e., Christ] as we ought to do – as we might do . . . Let those who know him follow on to know him – to know him as the expiator of guilt – the great teacher – the efficacious purifier – the supreme governor – their Saviour – their Lord – their God” (Ibid.).

“Jesus, thou Joy of loving hearts,

Thou Fount of life, thou Light of men,

From the best bliss that earth imparts

We turn unfilled to thee again.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux