“The only way to God is through Jesus!” seriously is a misapprehension. And I say that as a devoted follower in the way of Jesus from Nazareth. This misquote puts off millions of well-intentioned people from discovering the depth way of life that he was teaching. It is taken out of context from a long passage all about love.

In a culture where legalism, pride, power, and simmering resentment of foreign occupation were the norm, this teacher and miracle worker from Nazareth was saying something shockingly new. It was not about himself! It was about the healing renewal of life that potentially can emerge from within each one of us. Jesus had been explaining to his close followers that his loving relationship with the Personal Creator of Life could be shared by each one of those listening if they chose to relate in the loving way that was on offer. One of them chose not to. The quality of loving relatedness was as with a perfect Father, who is unlike most human fathers.

Try summarising that passage like this: “If you want to have a life-enhancing relationship with a loving personal Creator, as with a perfect Father, you cannot avoid welcoming Jesus as your older brother.”


There are plenty of other ways to know God – as a punishing ruler, as a distant authority, as a power demanding perfection before daring to approach… But if in a moment you try to know God as a loving Father, who heals you and others by grace even before you have the energy to change, then you will have to accept at some point that Jesus of Nazareth is also there, able to guide you like an older brother. He treated the people around him in just that same way that his Father was showing him. So Jesus went on to explain how his guidance would emerge in your heart and mine even now.

The miracle-working teacher was saying to his followers that they could learn to allow the Holy Spirit to move in their inner hearts after he, Jesus, had left them. That spirit of truth would guide them like a counsellor or an advocate, and remind them that they are not on their own in any situation. In addition to all their human skills and capacities, they would have an inner peace and the words emerging from within that speak life into situations. They would just need to learn how to love this teacher, Jesus, as an older brother, and each other in like manner. That’s the tricky bit.

We are told about this conversational teaching by John the apostle. He walked with Jesus for three years and, of all the followers, he most noticed the love in the works that Jesus was bringing in that troubled culture. John also noticed the important status of women that Jesus declared, in the way of life his loving Father God led him to show.  

All this is written John’s gospel. It is a long passage, best read out loud as if reading it as a story you are telling someone else. Chapters 14-17 are world-changing. That misunderstood verse, taken out of context and so often badly misused, is right near the beginning of that awesome teaching of truth with loving grace.