by Jacob Roberts
Just after celebrating the Passover and washing His disciple’s feet, Jesus makes His last two I AM statements right before His arrest and trial: “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and “I AM the true vine” (John 15:1). These two declarations of His identity center around a common theme explored throughout the Gospel of John, the concept of “remaining” or “abiding.”
More than any other New Testament writer, John repeatedly uses the word meno, which means (among other things) to live or reside in a permanent location, to remain or abide.This concept of remaining or abiding comes to a symbolic climax through Jesus’ declaration to be “the way” and “the vine.”
Right before Jesus asserts “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life,” He tells his disciples, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14: 2). The word John uses for “dwelling places” is monai, a word very closely related to the word he uses for remaining or abiding. Through this word association, we can infer that Jesus intends this dwelling place to be a place of permanent residence with God, a home where one lives and flourishes in the presence of the Father.
When Thomas states that the disciples do not know the way to the Father’s house, Jesus then declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” After this astounding statement, Jesus then asserts his divinity: “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me” (John 14:11). By having these two ideas back to back, Jesus demonstrates that He is both the wayand the destination. He is the path to God and the true source of life. Thus, the permanent “dwelling place” that the disciples need is Christ himself, for the only way they will reach the Father is by abiding in Him.
Jesus Amplifies this teaching just a few versus later when he declares, “I AM the true vine:”
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit…I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-2,5)
The image that Jesus uses here is a thick grape vine with smaller branches coming off of it. If the branches become separated or are cut off from the vine, then they wither and die from a lack of nutrients. Thus, to have life and to bear fruit, a branch must permanently abide within the vine.
By being both “the way” and “the vine,” Jesus demonstrates His supremacy, asserting that He is everything we need and that without Him we will never find God, nor bear fruit in our life. In this way, the Father has subordinated everything to Christ so that all creation must find itself in Him to truly live (Ephesians 1:22).
Given that these two I AM statements demonstrate the extreme importance of abiding in Christ, we must ask, what does it mean to actually abide in Him? Although the answer to this question could literally fill volumes, I will suggest that much of this has to do simply with our focus.
If Jesus is “the way,” then we are travelers along that way. Travelers typically head in the direction they face, so we must fix our gaze on Jesus. It is the only way, the only path to the Father, the only route to life. Yet we often instead focus our eyes on other seemingly spiritual tasks. For instance, we often fixate on eliminating all of the sin from our life, becoming so consumed with “becoming holy” that we forget that Jesus is the only way to holiness.
This truth is the very reason that the mission of Living Hope Ministries is to “journey with those who are seeking sexual and relational wholeness through a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.” The only way that we find wholeness is through pursuing “the way,” through abiding in “the vine.” We must take our eyes off of the sin that so easily entangles us and instead fix our gaze on the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ.
Are you pursuing “the way”? Do you have your eyes fixed on Him or are you consumed by “dealing with your sin”? Are you abiding in “the vine” or are you trying to bear fruit apart from Him?
Only by abiding in Him, by truly and permanently living with Christ, do we understand who we are. When we abide with I AM, His light shines on the darkest part of ourselves, revealing our identity and restoring us to what we were originally created to be before sin. If you truly seek I AM, if you abide in Him as you travel the way, then you will assuredly discover who you are.
Liddell and Scott Greek English Lexicon