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The Way

The sign was in Greek, but I could read it. It said “exodus.” It was on a green road sign with an arrow pointing off to the right; in other words, a highway exit sign. Then I saw it again in the subway station. I have taught that “exodus” means the “road out,” but I never thought of it as just an exit sign.

Exit
Exit to what? We may know the thing we need to leave. In the original Exodus it was slavery in Egypt. This has become a principle metaphor for all our problems. We need an exit from sin, from addictions, from selfishness.

The Way
The first designation for Christianity was “the Way.” In Acts 9:2 Paul seeks to persecute followers of “the Way.” This is the same Greek word “odus,” as in “exodus.” In Acts Luke refers to this “Way” as a narrator or through the words of Paul in 19:9, 19:22, 22:4, 24:14 and 24:22. It is never fully explained. Elsewhere in Acts a possessed female slave in Ephesus qualifies it as “the way of salvation” (16:17). Apollos taught “the way of the Lord” before his instruction by Priscilla and Aquila in “the way of God” (18:25-26). Still these references do not add much to understanding the designation. Nowhere else in the New Testament is the title used.

This designation is not unique to Christianity. The community of Qumran, which we know through the Dead Sea Scrolls, referred to itself as “the Way,” but there is no clear connection between this and Luke’s usage. Qumran may have taken this designation from the call in Isaiah 40:3, “In the wilderness prepare the way (odos) for the Lord.” “Tao” means “way” in Chinese thought.

The Jesus Way
Christian uniqueness is expressed in John 14:6 when Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” This is a culminating “I am” statement from Jesus. The meaning of these powerful metaphors is not always clear. Does Jesus mean that he is the true way of life? Does he mean he is the way because he reveals the true God and that gives life? Does he mean that he is truth and life? Yes to all. In John the emphasis is on the centrality of Jesus as the way to know God and have true life.

Exodus
Maybe a good way to picture this way is to return to the story of Exodus. We do need a way to exit Egypt. We are on the way to a Promised Land, a new creation, but we are not there yet. We are on the way. Exodus characterizes the way as hard and dangerous, but under God’s protection and grace. It is a way of worship and community as God’s royal priestly people in covenantal relationship to both God and each other. Exodus ends with the tabernacle-presence of God leading his people.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle . . . . In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out. (Ex. 40:34-36 NIV)

On the road again
We are on the road again, but it is a new road. There are two songs with the title “On the Road Again.” The one by Canned Heat is the old road.
Well, I’m so tired of crying
But I’m out on the road again
I’m on the road again
Well, I’m so tired of crying . . .
I didn’t have no payroll
Not even no place to go . . .

It is a song of abandonment, loneliness, struggle and pain. This is the road to exit.

The other, fortunately more popular, song is by Willie Nelson and Ray Price.
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again,
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.

This is the new way of love, joy, friendship and adventure led by Christ.

  • Rev. Tom Wolthuis is a minister in the Christian Reformed Church and the Director of Geneva Campus Ministry at the University of Iowa.

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