The Gotcha Question
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” –Jesus (John 14:6,7)
If you are like me you have probably seen Christian leaders interviewed on television by such people as Larry King, Piers Morgan, Matt Lauer, Oprah, and the like. Without fail, somewhere in the interview the question is going to come up about this verse, John 14:6. “Preacher, do you believe that Jesus is the only way to God?” It’s one of those “gotcha questions.” If he says no, then the reporter/interviewer will simply quote John 14:6 and criticize the Christian leader for diluting God’s Word, or at very best, misrepresenting it. If he says yes to the question, the interviewer simply follows up with a question such as “so are you saying that all other religions are not valid? Are you being intolerant?” “Gotcha, now let’s watch you squirm!”
Have you ever thought how you would answer that question? I’ve asked myself a thousand times. If I were being interviewed on television (or if someone just asked me in everyday life), what would I say? No pressure here, right? I think I would answer it this way. I would start by validating the fact that this is difficult truth to process and that regardless of what I say I will isolate people with my (biblical) response. That’s what truth does. I would then use the following illustration to try and put it into practical terms. I know all illustrations break down at some point, but just like Jesus used parables (an earthly story with a heavenly meaning) I would attempt to illustrate this truth as follows (just for fun, we’ll pretend its Oprah. It’s still OK to pretend, right?):
“Oprah, if I’m not careful I could fall into a trap because this is one of those “gotcha” questions. In an attempt to accurately explain what Jesus is saying in John 14:6 while at the same time being sensitive to your audience that I’m sure is made up of diverse religious backgrounds, I offer this illustration.
Let’s say that I am hired onto the staff at the Oprah studio. I am approached and greeted by a person that says ‘welcome aboard,” Ms. Winfrey has asked that you do the following (insert task here).’ After hearing about the task that I have been asked to do, I simply respond by saying, ‘no. you tell Ms. Winfrey that I refuse to do that.’ Upon hearing that I refused to do what I’ve been asked, if I haven’t already been shown the door, let’s say that you summon me up to your office to address this issue. And when addressed about my refusal to do what I’ve been asked to do, my response to you is ‘What gives you the right to ask me to do something that I simply don’t want to do?’ How would you respond Oprah? First you don’t owe me a response do you? But if you did, I would imagine that you would say something like ‘because I’m the boss! I’m the creator of the show, I own it, I’ve made it what it is today, and what I say goes around here.’ Is that a fair response? Of course it is. Why? Because you’re right, you own the show! It’s yours. And if I realize that truth; that you own it, I have a choice. Reject it and do my own thing or submit to it; which is really the deeper issue, isn’t it? We don’t want to accept it because it changes everything (more on this later).
Okay. I’m done role playing now, but I’m just beginning with my point. Keep reading.
God owns it all (Psalm 24:1, 1 Corinthians 10:26). The world is His creation. It all belongs to him. He made it and what he says goes, right? Many religions believe the same way about God, so the question really becomes what gives Jesus the right to claim it and not the other religious leaders? Because Scripture teaches that Jesus is God; not a prophet or a good teacher, He is God.
Chuck Swindoll says that the four Gospels are “like 35mm snap shots of the life of Christ.” The audience that John was writing to was a general audience and his writing had one purpose; to communicate the Deity of Christ. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31). John doesn’t start his Gospel with an account of Jesus’ birth, he begins by saying “In the beginning,” and that “the Word became flesh.” This refers to the eternal nature of Jesus . There are 7 miracles in the Gospel of John, including raising Lazarus from the death; something a human or a good teacher is incapable and many references to “I Am”. Again, John is pointing out that Jesus is more than a human.
Additionally, understanding that Jesus is in fact God and Lord of our lives changes the position of man. It doesn’t take much effort for us to be self-centered. And in so doing, we become the object of our attention rather than God. Simply put, we expect God to do for us. That, in my opinion, is why some folks would rather argue that Jesus is not God than admit it. If they recognize and accept the truth of John 14:6,7, they must adjust their lives. If they argue it, they remain in control. I’ll close with this rather lengthy explanation by Dr. Jay Adams in his book “The Grand Demonstration” that describes our “position” as it relates to God. Before I do, let me just say how thankful I am that Jesus is the Son of God that has taken away my sin and the sins of the world. He took my place and yours when were guilty before a Holy God and because of his grace, we have new life and access to God.
“It is difficult for many to come to the place of accepting this fact (he is referring to the sovereignty of God). But all Paul is saying, in essence, is that God is God and man is man. Because of the corruption of the sinful natures with which we are born, we come into the world as self centered creatures who think the world revolves around us. It is not until the Copernican revolution of the new birth demolishes our self-centeredness that we are able to understand our true place as planets, not suns.
When you see that you are dependent, not self-determined,- then- and then alone- can you appreciate Who God is and who you are. God is the Creator of all things Who made you for His pleasure; He does not exist to please you. That He has chosen to save you, Christian, should not merely please you; it should astonish you. It is utterly important to learn your proper relationship to the sovereign Creator and Lord of the universe.
God owes man nothing whatsoever except the wages of sin – eternal death, hell. All goodness from His hand, showered down upon you is purely out of grace. Only as you see Him as the divine Potter, Who holds absolute rights over the clay to do with what he pleases can you truly look upon the Grand Spectacle with interest, appreciation, and profit. Only then can you cry out with the angels:
You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power because You created all things and by Your will they exist and were created: (Revelation 4:11).”