Read John 14:5–14.
If you look up as you enter the headquarters of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, North Carolina, you’ll see the words of Jesus from John 14:6 writ large on the wall: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The verse is such a prominent feature in the entryway, it’s difficult to miss—and for good reason. Billy Graham’s life was spent sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people across the globe. Over the decades, billions of men, women, and children heard Graham declare the unchanging truth that Jesus is the only way to be saved, the only way to heaven.*
The funny thing is, heaven isn’t really the focus of John 14. Sure, heaven is alluded to. Jesus will return to the Father, who dwells in heaven, and He’s promised to come back for His followers in order to bring them there.** But Jesus’ point is not really about heaven; it’s about the Father.
The joy of the Christian life—and the Christian afterlife—is God. Church folks like to talk about streets of gold and mansions in glory, but it would all be trash without the presence of the Lord. God Himself is the joy of heaven. However, disciples of Jesus need not wait for heaven to experience the Father. Jesus says, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7). As Jesus has already proclaimed, He and the Father are one (10:30). To see Jesus, then, is to see the Father (14:9).
This revelation of the Father and His good heart are core to Jesus’ mission on earth. In the introduction to his gospel, John puts it this way: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (1:18). Along those same lines, the apostle Paul writes, “The Son is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). And the author of the book of Hebrews says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).
As pastor Bill Johnson is fond of saying, “Jesus Christ is perfect theology.” If we want to know what God is like, all we need to do is look to Jesus. You might think that, in this, Jesus is totally unique—that only He can reflect the Father because He is the Son. If so, you’d be right, but it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Back in the garden, God created human beings “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). We were given the tremendous privilege and responsibility of reflecting His goodness, truth, and beauty to all of creation and to each other. We were designed to be “the image of the invisible God” and “the radiance of God’s glory.” But because of our sin, we do not reflect God as we should. Like a cracked and broken, dusty, fogged up mirror, we do our job poorly.
Jesus lives His life as a walking, talking reflection of the Father not simply to model what should have been, but also to invite us back into the image-bearing family business. This is why Jesus tells Philip, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). God wants the world to know Him. That’s why He sent His Son, and it’s why He sends us to continue the Son’s mission. It’s all “so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (v. 13).
Jesus stands and proclaims, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (v. 6). He is the way to the Father here and now (and for all eternity). He is the truth about God’s good heart and His love for His wayward children. And in Him is the abundant life of purpose we were always meant to experience.
* Jesus has already alluded to the fact that love is essential if His friends are going to follow Him (see John 13:34–35), but here Jesus appears to flip the script somewhat, telling His disciples He is the key they seek. We tend to think of love as a feeling or even as an action—and love is both of those things—yet true love, deeper than any fleeting emotion or act of kindness, is a Person: Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus can tell Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Yes, love is the path back home, but it’s love given to us by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, love that lives in us through faith by virtue of His resurrection, love that heals us and cleanses us so that we can stand before God.
** The book of Revelation tells us that, in the end, heaven comes to earth. The two realms will overlap as they once did in Eden, so “there” will be “here”; see Revelation 21.