AMBASSADORS SUBSTITUTING FOR CHRIST
The Significance of Substituting for Christ
‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:5-6
These famous words in the gospel according to John are frequently quoted by Christians of all denominations. But what was Jesus really saying? Was he merely telling his apostles to follow him? Or was there a deeper meaning? Let’s look at the context of the scripture. Jesus began by saying:
“‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me. In the house of my Father there are many abodes. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going my way to prepare a place for you. Also, if I go my way and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you home to myself, that where I am you also may be. And where I am going you know the way.’
“Thomas said to him: ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way?’
“Jesus said to him: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
– John 14:1-4
We see that Jesus was using the word “way” in two different contexts. He first used the word “way” to mean a journey to a location – “I am going my way and prepare a place for you.” He then used the word “way” to describe a methodology – “Where I am going, you know the way.” We know Jesus meant a methodology because he said “I am the way.” He did not mean he was the literal pathway. He meant that if they followed his example, they would gain entrance to the heavenly abodes. They would gain access to the Father by being the type of person that Jesus was. It was not a matter of ‘turning left at Main Street.’ It was a matter of turning away from selfish desires and pursuing the kingdom first, as Jesus did.
This is significant because, unfortunately for many, the Christian faith has become a religion about Jesus. While it is very important to know who Jesus was and is, it is even more important to know what Jesus believed. Though many have made Jesus into a religion, the scriptures reveal that Jesus himself had a religion! We must practice the faith and religion of Jesus – the way he worshiped the Father, the way he dealt with mankind. His life was an example for us, not an idol for us.
In all that he did, Jesus always worshiped the Father and he always directed his followers to worship to the Father. The discussion in the gospel of John continues as Jesus says:
“‘If you men had known me, you would have known my Father also; from this moment on you know him and have seen him.’
“Philip said to him: ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’
“Jesus said to him: ‘Have I been with you men so long a time, and yet, Philip, you have not come to know me? He that has seen me has seen the Father [also]. How is it you say, “Show us the Father?” Do you not believe that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me? The things I say to you men I do not speak of my own originality; but the Father who remains in union with me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me; otherwise, believe on account of the works themselves.”
– John 14:7-11
Jesus made it clear that he always does the will of the Father in both his actions and in his speech. And he taught that the Christian congregation – as members of his own body – should likewise worship only the Father:
“Then Jesus said to him: ‘Go away, Satan! For it is written, “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”’”
– Matthew 4:10
So then, all worship goes to the Father. To no one else do we render sacred service. Yes, Jesus is a worshiper of the Father. Jesus does not accept worship! Understanding this about Jesus makes it easier to follow his example, for though he was the Son of God, he was also the Son of Man.
We note, however, that petitions can be made directly to the Son and he will answer all such requests:
“Most truly I say to you, He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these, because I am going my way to the Father. Also, whatever it is that you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
– John 14:12-14
What is the significance of this as we serve as ambassadors substituting for Christ? It means that we conduct ourselves the way Jesus conducted himself in his worship of the Father. We are to act as ambassadors in the same manner as Jesus. And we can ask Jesus for support and guidance in carrying out this work.
It further means that we are not a “Moses Class” or an “Elijah Class” calling down fire from heaven on Jehovah’s ‘enemies.” Neither are we a “Jehu Class” assigned to strike down false worship; or a “John Class” being released as locusts or scorpions with stinging messages. We are not to follow the example of any prophet or king or priest of Israel by pronouncing judgment against anyone. We follow the One Lord, Jesus Christ as we endeavor to reconcile with the One Father of all.
This was a new concept to the apostles. They expected a fiery deliverer who would denounce the Roman rule and establish the earthly kingdom of Israel. Even after Jesus’ death, the apostles asked Jesus: “Are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6) They were trying to build Jesus’ new teaching about the heavenly kingdom on top of their old concepts of an earthly kingdom. They were trying to put ‘new wine into old wineskins.’ (Matthew 9:17)
Jesus was giving mankind a whole new and fresh beginning. He had set them free of the old ways, not by destroying them, but by fulfilling them. (Matthew 5:17) This way, they could start over as ‘little children’ upon the new and better life. (Matthew 18:3) They needed to be ‘born again’ in order to see the kingdom Jesus was declaring. (John 3:3)
Yes, we have the faithful examples of men and women throughout the ages. (Hebrews 11:1-12:1) They all served in the best way they knew how as fine examples for their time. We even have the fine examples of the apostles and the multitude of disciples of Jesus. But whereas their faith and conduct is instructive, the foremost, and only, example for Christians is Jesus, the “Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) We are substituting for Jesus, not for any other man.
Thus, in order to properly and rightly step into his shoes as substitute ambassadors, it is imperative that we gain a full and complete understanding of the faith and religion of Jesus. Let’s continue to Letter No. 3.