1, 2. Why would approach to Jehovah be impossible on our own, and what has Jesus Christ done for us in this regard?
HAVE you ever been lost? You may recall an occasion when you were traveling to visit a friend or a relative and could not find the way. As you proceeded along an unfamiliar road, did you stop and ask someone for directions? Imagine how you would feel if, instead of just telling you which way to go, a benevolent individual said: “Just follow me. I will lead you there.” How relieved you would be!
2 In a sense, Jesus Christ does something like that for us. On our own, approach to God would be impossible. Because of inherited sin and imperfection, the world of mankind is lost, “alienated from the life that belongs to God.” (Ephesians 4:17, 18) We need help to find our way. Jesus, our benevolent Exemplar, does not just offer advice and directions; he does more. As we saw in Chapter 1, Jesus invites us, saying: “Come be my follower.” (Mark 10:21) However, he also gives us compelling reason to accept that invitation. On one occasion, Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Let us discuss some reasons why approach to the Father is possible only through the Son. Then with those reasons in mind, we will consider how Jesus is, indeed, “the way and the truth and the life.”
A Vital Place in Jehovah’s Purpose
3. Why is approach to God through Jesus?
3 First and foremost, approach to God is through Jesus because Jehovah has seen fit to give his Son the most important role.* The Father has made him the central, or key, figure in the outworking of all of His purposes. (2 Corinthians 1:20; Colossians 1:18-20) To understand the vital role of the Son, we need to consider what happened in the garden of Eden, where the first human couple joined Satan in rebelling against Jehovah.—Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:1-6.
4. The rebellion in Eden raised what issue, and what did Jehovah determine to do in order to settle the issue?
4 The rebellion in Eden raised an issue of universal importance: Does Jehovah God properly exercise his rulership over his creatures? To settle this vital issue, Jehovah determined that a perfect spirit son would have to go to earth. The mission that this son would carry out could not have been weightier—giving his life to vindicate Jehovah’s sovereignty and to serve as a ransom to save humankind. By remaining faithful to death, the son chosen would make it possible to solve all the problems raised by Satan’s rebellion. (Hebrews 2:14, 15; 1 John 3:8) But Jehovah had millions upon millions of perfect spirit sons. (Daniel 7:9, 10) Which one did he select to carry out this most important assignment? Jehovah chose his “only-begotten Son,” the one who later came to be known as Jesus Christ.—John 3:16.
5, 6. How did Jehovah demonstrate that he had confidence in his Son, and upon what was this confidence based?
5 Should we be surprised at Jehovah’s choice? By no means! The Father had the utmost confidence in his only-begotten Son. Centuries in advance of the arrival of his Son on earth, Jehovah foretold that this Son would remain loyal despite undergoing all manner of suffering. (Isaiah 53:3-7, 10-12; Acts 8:32-35) Consider the implications of that. The Son, like all other intelligent creatures, was a free moral agent, able to choose his own course. Yet, Jehovah had such confidence that he foretold the faithfulness of his Son. Upon what was this confidence based? In a word, knowledge. Jehovah knows his Son intimately and knows how much his Son wants to please Him. (John 8:29; 14:31) The Son loves his Father, and in turn, Jehovah loves His Son. (John 3:35) The love that Father and Son have for each other forges between them a bond of unity and trust that is unbreakable.—Colossians 3:14.
6 In view of the important role of the Son, the confidence that the Father has in him, and the love that binds the Father and the Son together, is it any wonder that approach to God is possible only through Jesus? Yet, there is another reason why the Son alone can lead us to the Father.
Only the Son Fully Knows the Father
7, 8. Why could Jesus correctly say that no one fully knows the Father “but the Son”?
7 There are requirements to be met if we are to gain access to Jehovah. (Psalm 15:1-5) Who knows better than the Son what it takes to meet God’s standards and to have His approval? Jesus said: “All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one fully knows the Son but the Father, neither does anyone fully know the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27) Let us see why Jesus could say, correctly and without exaggerating, that no one fully knows the Father “but the Son.”
8 As “the firstborn of all creation,” the Son has unique intimacy with Jehovah. (Colossians 1:15) Imagine the closeness of the Father-Son relationship that developed during the untold ages when it was just the two of them—from the dawn of creation until other spirit creatures were brought into existence. (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16, 17) Just think about the precious opportunity the Son had alongside his Father, absorbing the Father’s thoughts on matters and learning His will, standards, and ways. Truly, it is by no means an overstatement to say that Jesus knows his Father better than anyone else does. This closeness surely enabled Jesus to reveal his Father in ways that no one else could.
9, 10. (a) In what ways did Jesus reveal his Father? (b) To have Jehovah’s approval, what must we do?
9 The teachings of Jesus reflected his keen awareness of how Jehovah thinks and feels and of what He requires of His worshippers.* Jesus revealed his Father in yet another profound way. Jesus said: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) Jesus perfectly imitated his Father in everything he said and did. So when we read in the Bible about Jesus—the powerful and winsome words that he used in his teaching, the compassion that moved him to heal others, and the empathy that caused him to give way to tears—we might well picture Jehovah saying and doing those very things. (Matthew 7:28, 29; Mark 1:40-42; John 11:32-36) The ways and will of the Father are perfectly revealed in the words and actions of the Son. (John 5:19; 8:28; 12:49, 50) Thus, to have Jehovah’s approval, we need to heed the teachings of Jesus and follow his example.—John 14:23.
10 Since Jesus knows Jehovah intimately and imitates him perfectly, it is not surprising that Jehovah has determined that the Son is the means for approaching the Father. With this foundation for understanding why we can come to Jehovah only through Jesus, let us now discuss the meaning of Jesus’ words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6.
“I Am the Way”
11. (a) Why can we enter into an approved relationship with God only through Jesus? (b) How do the words recorded at John 14:6 stress the uniqueness of Jesus’ position? (See footnote.)
11 We have already learned that there is no approach to God without going through Jesus. Consider, more specifically, what this means for us. Jesus is “the way” in that only through him can we enter into an approved relationship with God. Why is that so? By proving faithful to death, Jesus gave his life as a ransom sacrifice. (Matthew 20:28) Without this ransom provision, it would be impossible for us to have access to God. Sin creates a barrier between humans and God, for Jehovah is holy and therefore can never approve of sin. (Isaiah 6:3; 59:2) But the sacrifice of Jesus removed the barrier; it provided the necessary covering, or atonement, for sin. (Hebrews 10:12; 1 John 1:7) If we accept God’s provision through Christ and put faith in it, we can enter into Jehovah’s favor. There is simply no other way for us to become “reconciled to God.”*—Romans 5:6-11.
12. Jesus is “the way” in what senses?
12 Jesus is “the way” when it comes to prayer. Only through Jesus can we go to Jehovah in prayer with the assurance that our heartfelt petitions will be favorably heard. (1 John 5:13, 14) Jesus himself said: “If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name. . . . Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.” (John 16:23, 24) Appropriately, in the name of Jesus, we can approach Jehovah in prayer and call Him “our Father.” (Matthew 6:9) Jesus is “the way” in yet another sense—by his example. As noted earlier, Jesus perfectly imitated his Father. Jesus’ example thus shows us how to live so as to please Jehovah. To approach Jehovah, then, we must walk in the footsteps of Jesus.—1 Peter 2:21.
“I Am . . . the Truth”
13, 14. (a) How was Jesus truthful in his speech? (b) For Jesus to be “the truth,” what did he have to do, and why?
13 Jesus always spoke the truth about his Father’s prophetic word. (John 8:40, 45, 46) No deception was ever found in Jesus’ mouth. (1 Peter 2:22) Even his opposers acknowledged that he taught “the way of God in line with truth.” (Mark 12:13, 14) However, when Jesus said “I am . . . the truth,” he was not simply referring to the fact that he made truth known in his speaking, preaching, and teaching. More—much more—than talking was involved.
14 Recall that centuries in advance, Jehovah had inspired Bible writers to record scores of prophecies about the Messiah, or Christ. These prophecies foretold details about his life, ministry, and death. In addition, the Mosaic Law contained shadows, or prophetic patterns, that pointed to the Messiah. (Hebrews 10:1) Would Jesus prove faithful to death, thereby fulfilling all the things prophesied about him? Only then would Jehovah be vindicated as the God of true prophecy. That tremendous weight rested upon the shoulders of Jesus. By the way he lived—every word he spoke and every deed he performed—Jesus brought the prophetic patterns into the realm of actual truth. (2 Corinthians 1:20) Thus, Jesus was “the truth.” It was as if the truth of Jehovah’s prophetic word arrived in the person of Jesus.—John 1:17; Colossians 2:16, 17.
“I Am . . . the Life”
15. What does it mean to exercise faith in the Son, and to what can doing so lead?
15 Jesus is “the life,” for it is only through him that we can receive life—that is, “the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:19) The Bible says: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” (John 3:36) What does it mean to exercise faith in the Son of God? It means that we have the conviction that we cannot gain life without him. More than that, it means that we demonstrate our faith by works, continue to learn from Jesus, and do our best to follow his teachings and example. (James 2:26) Thus, exercising faith in the Son of God leads to everlasting life—immortal spirit life in heaven for a “little flock” of spirit-anointed Christians and perfect human life in an earthly paradise for “a great crowd” of “other sheep.”—Luke 12:32; 23:43; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:16.
16, 17. (a) How will Jesus prove to be “the life” even for those who have died? (b) What confidence can we have?
16 What about those who have already died? Jesus is “the life” for them as well. Shortly before he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, Jesus told Martha, the sister of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.” (John 11:25) Jehovah has entrusted his Son with “the keys of death and of Hades,” granting him the power to resurrect. (Revelation 1:17, 18) With those keys, the glorified Jesus will unlock the gates of Hades and thus release all those being held in mankind’s common grave.—John 5:28, 29.
17 “I am the way and the truth and the life”—with this simple statement, Jesus summarized the objective of his life and ministry on earth. Those words are filled with meaning for us today. Recall that Jesus followed up this statement by saying: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Jesus’ words are as relevant today as they were when he uttered them. We can therefore have full confidence that if we follow Jesus, we will never become lost. He, and he alone, will show us the way “to the Father.”
How Will You Respond?
18. What does being true followers of Jesus involve?
18 In view of Jesus’ vital role and his intimate knowledge of the Father, we have good reason to follow the Son. As we saw in the preceding chapter, being true followers of Jesus involves actions, not just words or feelings. Following Christ involves patterning our life after his teachings and example. (John 13:15) The study aid that you are now reading can help you in this endeavor.
19, 20. What does this study aid contain that can help you in your endeavor to follow Christ?
19 In the chapters that follow, we will make a careful study of the life and ministry of Jesus. These chapters are divided into three sections. First, we will get an overview of his qualities and ways. Second, we will examine his zealous example in preaching and teaching. Third, we will consider how he manifested love. Starting with Chapter 3, there is a teaching box entitled “How Can You Follow Jesus?” The scriptures and questions therein are designed to help us meditate on how we can imitate Jesus in word and deed.
20 Thanks to Jehovah God, you do not have to be lost, alienated from him because of inherited sin. At great cost to himself, Jehovah lovingly sent forth his Son to show us the way to come into an approved relationship with God. (1 John 4:9, 10) May you be moved, yes, impelled, to respond to that great love by accepting and acting upon Jesus’ invitation: “Be my follower.”—John 1:43.
So important is the role of the Son that the Bible gives him a number of prophetic names and titles.—See the box on page 23.
At John 14:6, the use of the personal pronoun “I” along with the definite article, “the,” stresses that Jesus’ position is unique, that he is the way, the only one through whom we can approach the Father.