This Friday, May 1st, is the feast day of St Philip and St James, and the Gospel reading for the day is John 14:1-14, which includes the words of Jesus, in verse 6, “I am the Way.” Jesus doesn’t say he will show us the way, but that he is the way. “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
There is an interesting incident in St Paul’s ministry when he was in Philippi:
“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future… This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned round and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.” Acts 16:16-18.
We might ask why Paul was so troubled when she was apparently proclaiming the truth. The answer may be that most of our Bible translations get it wrong! There is no word “the” in the original Greek at this point. The New English Bible, however, translates more literally “declaring to you a way of salvation”.
Is Paul concerned because she is watering down his message? Jesus is not a way to be saved, but the way, the only way. If there were more than one way to God, there would have been no need for the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Stuart Townend’s words: “In Christ alone my hope is found.”
The Gospel for last Sunday was the story of the road to Emmaus (Luke 24, 13 – 35). It is more than the story of an event, it is also a parable about discovering Jesus as the Way. Once Jesus joins the two disciples, their journey begins to change from sorrow to hope, and finally to understanding and joy.
But one point in the story always challenges me.
“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us.’ Luke 24:28-29
Jesus stays with them, but I always wonder what would have happened if they had said “Oh, we were going to stop here, but if you’re going on further, we’ll come with you.” It’s always tempting to stay where we are, but what may Jesus be calling us to? Maybe he is saying to us “I am the Way. Come further on with me.”
Almighty Father, whom truly to know is eternal life:
teach us to know your Son Jesus Christ
as the way, the truth, and the life;
that we may follow the steps
of your holy apostles Philip and James,
and walk steadfastly in the way that leads to your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Revd David Newman