It is to Thomas that we owe Jesus’s supreme affirmation about who he is, which combines in one sentence the most fundamental ideas of the Gospel.
Thomas asks, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, therefore how can we know the way ?” It is a question touching in its naivete. At various times Jesus has spoken of going away and returning to his Father, and again, of coming back and taking his disciples along with him. However his disciples don’t really understand what is said.
“I am the way,” says Jesus. At various times Jesus has spoken of his Father as the source of all that he, Jesus is. He has often reiterated that he has not come to do his own will, but that of the One who sent him. With Jesus therefore, a deep and eternal bond exists with his Father, and his mission is to lead all humankind back to him. In this he is unique. He says “no one comes to the Father except through me.”
“I am the truth,” adds Jesus. The Hebrew sense of truth connotes fidelity, the reliability of God to fulfill all that he has promised, his steadfastness . “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”, says John in the prologue to his Gospel. The word ‘truth’ comes 25 times in his Gospel, and it connotes God’s revelation of himself through Jesus. It is through Jesus, “God’s only Son, he who is nearest to the Father’s heart” that we understand what God is really like.
“I am the life,” declares Jesus. But this is not the life we share on earth with fellow human beings, which itself is subject to decay and death. No, it is “eternal life”, the life shared with God himself, or what we call “the life of grace”. Or even better, the “life of the Spirit” whose twin characteristics are communion and energy.
To know Jesus in this way – “as way, truth and life”– is to know the Father too, and to experience him even while on earth.