Here’s an interesting game to play. Someone shout out a word… what’s the first Bible passage that springs to mind?
Perhaps someday I’ll study enough Hebrew and Greek to attempt an original language word study. But for now, here is a word study in English. Stick with me here, this is cool.
When I think of “The” the first passage that springs to mind is John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” Every third word is “the!” Is this repetition important? Probably.
Jesus is claiming that He is not just one way to know God. Jesus is claiming He is the way. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus said. And then He continued, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Definitive, declarative statements.
This was not the only time Jesus refered to Himself in such definitive terms. Earlier, before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:27). And before that, when Jesus was travelling with his disciples into Caesarea-Philippi after performing many miracles in the surrounding countryside, He asked his disciples, “Who do you say I that am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 15:15-16).
Did you catch that? The Christ, the Son of the living God.
Peter’s proclamation is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). And it is at this point in the story that an important narrative turn occurs. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21). Jesus repeats this lesson several times (e.g, Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-20). But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him (Mark 9:32).
Throughout the rest of the story, the disciples struggle to understand what Jesus told them. When He was captured in the Garden of Gethsemene, they scattered. When He was put to death, they feared for their own lives. Even after the tomb was reported empty, they hid behind locked doors. They knew He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. He was the way, the truth, and the life. He was the death and the resurrection. More than anyone else, His disciples should have understood. But they did not.
Until Jesus appeared to them again.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).
My Bible then says the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. I can’t help but think “glad” is a bit of an understatement, but regardless, they were finally beginning to understand what it meant that Jesus was the Christ. All except for poor Thomas, who had missed the visit. The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe (John 20:25).
Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:26). Jesus showed Thomas His hands and His side and Thomas no longer disbelieved. “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Here is the most fascinating part of this word study. The disciples knew long before Jesus’ death and resurrection that He was the Christ. But simply knowing that He was the Christ was not enough. It took a personal encounter for them to truly understand. And it took a personal encounter for that tiny definite article “the” to transform into an even more powerful little word. Did you catch that transition?
Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But like the disciples, we can know all that and still not really know Christ. The transition happens when we declare not only that Jesus is the Lord and the God, but that He is my Lord and my God.
Jesus will not be coming to each of us in the same manner that He came to Thomas. After 40 days of teaching His disciples, He ascended into heaven and the Bible suggests He will come again only at the end of this world. But Jesus also promised that when He went, He would send the Holy Spirit to abide with each one of us and draw us into a personal understanding of Him. And in this way, Jesus does appear to each one of us. To each one of us He says, “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27b).
Jesus does not want us to respond with a definite article. He wants us to respond with a personal one. Because Jesus is not simply the way, the truth, and the life. He is my way, my truth, and my life.
Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)