In Encountering God Diana Eck talks about the oft-invoked line from the Gospel of John attributed to Jesus saying "I am the Way..." She points out that Jesus is answering a question.
However, "I am the Way" is not the answer to any question one might wish to ask. It is the pastoral response to an anxious question. It was poor uncertain Thomas who asked the question that night, as John tells it. It was the last night Jesus spent with his disciples. After having washed their feet, he spoke to them in words of farewell: "I am going where you cannot follow, not just now. I am going to God's house of many rooms to prepare a place for you, and you know the way where I am going." And what did Thomas ask him? [...] on that night of uncomrephending uncertainty he asked, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" And Christ answered, "I am the Way, . . ." It was a pastoral answer, not a polemical one. It was an expression of comfort, not condemnation.Echoing things I read in Borg last week, she goes on to say:
The language of faith is the language of affection, of affirmation and commitment. [...] It is, as Bishop Krister Stendahl puts it, "love language," analogous to the language we use when we say to someone we love, "You're the only one in the world for me." It does not mean, "I have systematically surveyed everyone in the world and have chosen you." It means, simply and powerfully, "I love you." Faith requires the cherishing and deepening of commitment that is fundamental to any relationship. And the language of faith is the language of love, not of judgment.In between these two passages she also points out that John's is a cosmic Christology:
who is this "I" in the Gospel of John? "I" is not simply I, Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate. John's nativity story is cosmic and makes no mention of Bethlehem. It is a very "high" Christology. "In the beginning was the Word, the Logos, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God---through whom everything was made; without whom nothing was made." It is a world-spanning Christ who speaks this "I." To see the Logos, the Word, is to see God. The disciples did not yet understand. Phillip asked, "Show us God and we shall be satisfied." Christ answered, "Have I been with you so long and yet you do not know me, Phillip?" Christ is the Logos, the Word, the divine intention to speak, to disclose, to reveal. There is no "way" to God: God is the Way, the Truth, the Life.And:
Far from insisting on the importance his continued personal presence, Christ said to his disciples, "It is good for you that I go." And Christ has gone. He is far up the road, out ahead of us.