Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.– New Testament, John 14:6
I saw an article by Carl McColman where he talks about this quote.
Very simplified, he makes the point that if we understand this literally, we can take it to mean that only Christians can find the kingdom of heaven. And if we understand it more broadly and symbolically, we can take it as: No one comes to the Father except through love.
I wanted to explore this a bit further.
WHY THIS PHRASING?
Why do we see this phrasing in the New Testament when it so easily can be misunderstood and taken too literally?
If this is what a historical Jesus said, he may have seen himself as a symbol of love or awakening, or he knew that some of his disciples did and would understand.
If the phrasing is mainly from whoever wrote it, they may have misunderstood, or they saw Jesus as a symbol and knew that some who later read it would get it.
It’s also possible, as Tim Freke and Peter Gandy point out in the Jesus Mysteries, that there was no historical Jesus and that he from the onset was a symbol for love and awakening. To me, this is what makes the most sense considering the unusual phrasing in this verse from the New Testament. If the original author and readers knew that Jesus was a symbol more than a man of flesh and blood, there is no reason why they would phrase it in any other way. It’s the most clear and direct way of saying it.
(5) Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
(6) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (7) If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
(8) Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
(9) Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (10) Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (11a) Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; (11b) or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.– New Testament, John 14:5-11
(5) Thomas doesn’t know what Jesus knows or realizes, or speaks on behalf of others who don’t.
(6) Jesus speaks about himself as a symbol – of love, capacity for the world, oneness. Of what we all are whether we notice or not.
(7) In that sense, if you know Christ you know the Father. It seems that Jesus knows that Thomas gets it.
(8) Philip does not get it. He still differentiates between Jesus and the Father. He ses Jesus as a man, and the Father as Spirit.
(9) Jesus uses a bit of tough love with Philip. After such a long time, Philip still doesn’t get what it is about, or he doesn’t get it sufficiently to recognize Christ as a symbol of awakening and what we all are, and that this is what Jesus refers to.
(10) When we find what we are, we find that as a human being, we are within the kingdom of heaven (Big Mind). To others, looking at us as a human being, the kingdom of heaven appears to be within us. Also, as love and capacity for the world, we can say that the kingdom of heaven is within us.
(11a) Again, as a human being, Jesus is within love, oneness, and capacity for the world. For others, the kingdom of heaven appears to be within him since he recognizes it and lives from it. And to himself, as love, oneness, and capacity for the world, the kingdom of heaven is within him.
(11b) If you haven’t found this for yourself, you can at least get a sense of what’s going on by looking at how Jesus is when he lives from this recognition.
I chose to use the term “kingdom of heaven” here instead of “Father” since it seems a bit more neutral and they both refer to the same. At the same time, I like “Father” since it refers to our true nature as the “ground” of all our experiences and the awakeness it happens within and as.
I usually see Jesus as referring to the man and Christ as pointing to what we are – love, oneness, capacity for the world. In these verses of the New Testament, it seems that the two may be combined.
Each of us can find what we are: Capacity for the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as.
When we do, many of the quotes from the great spiritual traditions of the world make immediate sense. We get it immediately and recognize it from our own noticing and experience.
And if we don’t notice what we are, or don’t have a memory of noticing in the past, then we may try to figure these quotes out mainly through thinking. And even if people discuss these quotes from a more direct noticing, it will tend to look like philosophizing.
How can we find what we are? The simplest and most direct way is through some guided noticing or inquiry, for instance the Headless experiments or the Big Mind process. Living from this is another matter, and often requires a lot more work and support from other approaches like more in-depth inquiry, heart-centered practices, body-centered practices, ethical pointers and guidelines, and emotional healing work.