John 14:6 records Jesus’ famous words, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” What did He mean when He said, “I am the truth?” An answer to this question that begins, “What it means to me is …” does not constitute a valid answer. Why not? The original question, once again, is, “What did Jesus mean when He said, ‘I am the truth?’” Being that we’re not Jesus, how would we know that?
You and I interpret other people’s meaning all the time. The better we know the person—the more time that we spend listening to and conversing with that person—the more likely we are to be able to say with certainty, “She meant such and such.” The same can be said of interpreting Jesus’ intended meaning. The more time we spend studying the words and works of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible, the more likely we are to be able to answer correctly, “This is what He meant.”
What Is Truth?
To interpret Jesus’ claim that He is the truth requires that we correctly understand the meaning of the word “truth,” and that is becoming a complicated task in mainstream culture today. We’ve all heard people say, “That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” You may have heard somebody say, “Everybody has their own truth,” or “We’re not looking for truth here; we’re looking for facts.” So which—if any—of those statements is correct?
“Truth is a belief, a proposition, or a description that corresponds to reality.”[i]
If I’m to understand “truth,” then I have to be able to answer the question, “What is reality?” Merriam-Webster.com defines “reality” as “something that is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily.” I would beg to differ with that definition. Here’s why. I, personally, do not exist of necessity. It is possible that I would never have existed. But the fact is, I do exist. I am a contingent being, not a necessary being, but I am real. Somebody or something had to make me exist, but I am real. A figment of your imagination did not type this blog article.
In other words, reality is “that which is”—not “that which we wish would be,” and not even “that which I think is.” Reality exists apart from whatever we may think about it. Tokyo is Tokyo whether you’ve been there or not. Whatever image comes to your mind when you think of Tokyo doesn’t change what Tokyo is. A statement you may make about Tokyo either is agreement with what Tokyo is, or it is contrary to what Tokyo is. Your impressions of the reality of Tokyo may partially correspond correctly to what Tokyo is. But Tokyo is what Tokyo is regardless of our thoughts or impressions about it.
So, reality is something that exists independently of ideas concerning it. Truth, once again, is a belief, a proposition, or a description that corresponds to reality. If the belief is in agreement with the reality, then it is a true belief. If a four-wheeled vehicle drives by, and I say, “That vehicle goes around on four wheels,” then my statement is true. It corresponds with reality.
Okay, I Got It, So What About Jesus?
So when Jesus said, “I am the truth,” he was making the claim that He is the ultimate reality. Here, I will go along with Merriam-Webster.com when it defines “reality” as “something that is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily.” Am I being inconsistent or selective in making my argument? No, because what Merriam-Webster.com has defined is not simple reality, but rather ultimate reality.
There is only one uncaused Being, only one Being who exists “necessarily,” only one ultimate reality. Pardon the double negative, but God cannot not exist. If it were possible for God not to exist, then God would not be perfect, and therefore, He would not be the Supreme Being. He would not be God. But you or I or even the universe could have not existed at all—ever.
So when Jesus said, “I am the truth,” His claim was to be the ultimate reality, the necessarily existing One. His claim was that He is God.
Was Jesus correct when He made this claim? To answer that, we have to pass through the question, “Does Jesus’ belief, proposition, or description correspond to that which really is?” Is Jesus Christ the exact representation of all that God is? Hebrews 1:3 says that He is. Here’s what it says.
“The Son is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the representation of His essence, and He sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when He had accomplished cleansing for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
A Being with the same essence as God the Father, who does work that only God can do (sustaining the existence of whole universe and taking away sin), and who has a divine relationship with God the Father (sharing the position of honor with God at God’s right hand) must of necessity be God.
That gives us a lot to think about doesn’t it?
[i] Paul Copan, True for You, But Not for Me: Overcoming Objections to the Christian Faith, Bethany House, 2009.