Immediately following the Last Supper and washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus told His friends that He was about to go away—meaning that He was going to die, resurrect, and ascend to heaven. And then this conversation took place:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. -John 14:1-11
Jesus tells His disciples that He will get them home to heaven—a place where their hearts and souls will finally be at rest. And when His disciples question His claim, Jesus reminds them that He is the physical encounter with God; His works validate His claims. (Of course, He will eventually put the exclamation point on all of this by rising from the dead) In this little section of scripture alone, Jesus uses the word “believe” five times. Jesus says to His disciples, “I will handle everything. I will prepare a place for you. I will get you home. You just need to see to it that you are with me. Believe—entrust yourself to me—and I will get you home.”
Men like Peter and Paul took what Jesus said and they continued to teach it. (1 Timothy 2:5; Acts 4:11-20) This teaching was in direct contradiction to the Roman Empire’s pluralistic belief system of many gods and many ways to the gods. Many Followers of Christ were actually killed because they would not say that Jesus was one of many gods, but instead, even under severe persecution, continued to proclaim that Jesus was Lord.
So how do we today, deal with questions and criticisms against Jesus’ claim that He is the only way to God?
1. Isn’t it dangerous to claim that Jesus is the only way to God
Doesn’t religious fundamentalism cause all sorts of problems and therefore shouldn’t we be done with it?
Generally speaking, religious fundamentalism can certainly be dangerous. It all depends on what the fundamental is. At the center of our faith is a man dying for his enemies. If you met a true Christian extremist fundamentalist, he wouldn’t kill those he disagreed with; he would die for them.
Calling people to follow a man who died for his enemies won’t make people dangerous. It will make them beautiful.
2. Isn’t it arrogant to claim that Jesus is the only way to God? Isn’t it arrogant to say that we have the truth and everyone else is wrong?
“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been reversed. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table” –GK Chesterton
Truth is not about pride or humility; it’s about fact.
Claiming that Jesus is God who rose from the dead and that He alone can get us to heaven is not about pride or humility. Now we could be right or wrong, but Jesus says that we should believe on account of His works. We believe He is right because He validated himself. We are not saying that we have the truth. We are saying that Jesus knows the truth. He’s the one who said it. Not us.
Now, sometimes people accuse Christians of being arrogant because Christians are being arrogant. If Christians ridicule other religions, are harsh or rude or self-righteous towards people of other backgrounds, or afraid of any sort of dialogue, then they are fairly criticized as being arrogant. It is possible to hold to the truth in a way that undermines the truth to which we hold. But the arrogance is not because we hold that Jesus rose from the grave.
3. Isn’t it more inclusive to claim that all good people go to heaven, no matter what they believe? Aren’t we being unnecessarily exclusive? Can’t we just say that all good people go to heaven?
By saying “all good people go to heaven” we are excluding bad people: people who don’t measure up, those who fall short and are inadequate. That is far more divisive and exclusive and self-righteous than Jesus is. To reject Christianity because it is exclusive but then say, “all good people go to heaven” is actually being more exclusive than Jesus. Jesus invites us to simply “believe” and be accepted by Him.
Jesus is exclusive but He’s not exclusive because of who He lets in; He’s exclusive because He’s the only way to get in.
There is room for everyone at the foot of the cross.
For those of us who know Jesus, it’s not just that He’s the only way home; He is home. Heaven isn’t heaven without Jesus. Heaven is heaven because Jesus is there. The presence of God is our home. For those of us who belong to Him, we’ve found Him to be all He says He is and more…including the way, the truth, the life.