In the post titled “Jesus & Co,” I explained (albeit, inadequately) what Jesus meant by the following passage found in the 14th chapter of John’s gospel:
“If you guys really knew me you would have known my Father also. So look here guys. You now know Him, and have seen Him.” (v.7)
I interpreted that verse to mean Jesus’ appearance, his behavior, and his work perfectly revealed God’s presence, character, and will toward humanity. Jesus assured his followers they would do likewise. Jesus based his expectations on their abiding love of God, which would perpetually motivate them to live a kingdom lifestyle. This lifestyle is characterized by behavior exemplifying the commandments of God.
In this final post on John subject, I will attempt to explain what Jesus meant by the verse prior to the one above, which is:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”
Jesus’ bold statement has been a point of contention between theologians generally and between other religious faiths in particular. Most interpret it to mean Jesus is the one and only way to an afterlife in heaven with God. As such, most seem to regard it as both exclusivist and arrogant. This position of the offended seems to originate with the idea that Christianity claims that only believers in the gospel of Jesus can know God, can be accepted by God, and thus have eternal life with God.
The Christian view affirms the exclusiveness of Jesus’ statement. They have been guilty of implying that only believers in Jesus could possibly have any relationship whatsoever with God, and consequently, non-believers can not know God. This can not be true because the founders of most of the major world religions were visited by God, and the founders obviously responded positively to God. However, this does not necessarily mean those founders or their followers were or are redeemed by God. I will deal with this more later. Based on the exclusive claim of Christ, Christianity rightly claims that only those who put their faith in Jesus Christ can be assured of a place in heaven hereafter.
The basis of this audacious claim of Jesus, his apostles, and Christianity is that good works cannot and does not negate the dessert of justice for crimes (sins) committed against the laws of God.
In previous posts, it was shown that the human form resembles God’s appearance. Beyond physical appearance, we also have the capacity to imitate the moral, intellectual and creative characteristics of God. God’s issue with humanity is not appearances but with behavior. It is the our tendency practice behaviors unlike God. It is human immorality that offends God. More specifically, it is our moral crimes against the laws that is the problem.
Just as our legal system of justice–an imperfect reflection of divine justice–does not forgive people for murder, rape, abuse, oppress, steal, lie under oath, and similar criminal behaviors, neither does God. Our courts are supposed to punish crimes. That is because the rest of society must be protected from the potential harm of same criminals. So it is with the justice of God.
God is neither tolerant nor forgiving towards moral crime. The punishment for moral crime is death. As the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel wrote, “The soul that sins shall die” (Eze. 18:4). Writing to believers in Rome, Jesus’ apostle reaffirmed this truth when he stated, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). From Adam to moderns, moral crimes results in separation of mutually beneficial and productive relationships. The ultimate alienation and divorce is our separation from our Creator and benefactor, God. Therefore, no one in any religion or in no religion can be acquitted of that sentence against their sins no matter how many good works they may practice. Because committing one sin is the same as violating all moral laws, any sin results in the same way–death.
Here is a clarifying example: Joe Smoozolli brutally murders John Gonn. It was a momentary act of rage brought on my John’s harassment. Joe moves out of state and changed his to Mark de Seet. Yes, Joe was ethnically French. All of this took place twenty years ago. Since then, Joe (aka Mark) has lived a exemplary life of good charitable citizenship and business success. However, Jane Austom and her husband Eddy runs into Joe while on vacation. They remember that the police believed Joe had killed John Gonn; so they call the police. Joe is arrested the next day. A month later, he stands trial for John’s murder. The evidence against Joe is overwhelming. No jury could possibly find him not guilty. Nevertheless, a number people believe Joe should be forgiven because of his good behavior, good deeds, charitable giving, and business success. Still, Joe is guilty of murdering John. The judge cannot forgive Joe, and the jury cannot be merciful towards him because of his exemplary life. All evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Joe murdered John. The only possible verdict is guilty. Because the crime took place in Texas, the penalty is death.
Something very usual occurs during Joe’s sentencing. A business associate who also has a reputation for an exemplary life of kindness and charity and for good social works asks the court to allow himself to be executed instead of Joe. This man justifies his request on grounds that Joe has lived a humble and repentant live and because of his 4 children and wife need him. On the other hand, this man has no family needing his care and provision. His business will be sold to another. He is ready to face eternity because he is certain that he is in good standing with God. Joe, however, is not.
The only way God will accept Joe’s repentance; the only reason Joe will make it to heaven is if Joe finds out how his business associate stands accepted before God.
The answer is the sinless man Jesus was punish for the moral crimes committed by Joe, and Joe represents every human that has lived or will ever live. Because neither good works nor the death of animals in place of guilty humans are sufficient to fully satisfy divine justice, only a sinless man willing to suffer the penalty for the moral crimes of others could possibly do so. Jesus is the only person to have accomplish it. That is the claim of Jesus above: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”
By Daniel Downs