What did Jesus mean by, “I”?

In shallow men the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle.”

       –Sri Yukteswar, Autobiography of a Yogi

When the great ones speak, they speak from an oceanic mind, a level of perception far deeper than that of the ordinary person. We who listen or read their words struggle to interpret and understand depending on our own depth of perception or level of spiritual maturity. This mismatch between the perception of the great ones and we followers is a major cause of confusion and disagreement in religion. Ideally, our level of perception deepens and enlarges as we grow spiritually, and we grow to love and appreciate the great ones more and more.

Consider this oft-quoted verse of the Bible:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

This verse can be interpreted in at least three different ways: literal, allegorical, and mystical. In my early years, I held the literal interpretation. Later, the allegorical, and now the mystical. Over the years I came to perceive that in all religions, one who is growing spiritually will move through these views in this same sequence. Some people, though, do not change dramatically over the years. They may remain in one view point all their lives.

Literal interpretation
Why did Jesus say, “I am the way?

Jesus is the only way to heaven. Adherents of other religions are in trouble. Jesus as the exclusive truth may offend and surprise non-believers, but it is true nonetheless.

For most Protestants, this verse means that there is no other way to salvation and heaven than through Jesus Christ. Only the Bible is the actual word of God.

For Catholics, if anyone rejects the truth of Christ and his Church—even one definitive teaching—they will be lost. “Whosoever knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by God through Jesus Christ would refuse to enter her or to remain in her could not be saved” (Lumen Gentium, no. 14). Therefore, no heaven.

No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This means, no one, regardless of reputation, character, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness, can come to God the Father except through Jesus. He is the only way. We are saved by our belief in him.

Allegorical interpretation

Why did Jesus say, “I am the way?

Jesus means that “This is the way that I have taught you and shown you.”

It was the character of Jesus to express love and wisdom. In my last blog, I wrote that most Christians are loving, but their theology seems at odds with this. The Jesus I know is consistent. He taught love and practiced love.

On the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”. (Luke 23:34). Does this not show a level of compassion and love for humanity that few of us can fathom, let alone practice? This interpretation demands more of us than belief. It sets a higher bar than the literal interpretation. We must live like him.

No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This means that if I act as Jesus did, with love, wisdom, and compassion, then I can come unto the Father.

Mystical interpretation:

Why did Jesus say, “I am the way?

We must understand the difference between Jesus the man, and Jesus the Christ. This difference is not well understood in the West. In the East, the concept of spiritual attainment is better understood and accepted. Jesus is speaking from the highest level of consciousness (referred to by mystics as Christ Consciousness, Krishna Consciousness or Kutastha Chaitanya). “I am the way” refers to this Christ Consciousness, the only way to return to the Father.

There are two trillion galaxies —billions of years old– in the physical universe. The Masters say this physical universe is teeming with life. Is there the Bible or the Church or Jesus, anywhere besides here on earth? No.

But the Masters tell us that there is an Omnipresent Christ Consciousness throughout the universe. Jesus, the son of man, became Jesus the Christ when he attained union with the Christ Consciousness. This permanent union then allowed him to attain union with God. Thus we can begin to see how Jesus’ message is one that applies on a cosmic level, not just on one tiny planet in a gigantic universe.

Joining with the Christ Consciousness is a tall order indeed! The highest bar yet as compared to the literal and allegorical interpretations. This is the challenge that Jesus gives us. It is as uncompromising as Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We must become perfectly attuned like Jesus to the Christ Consciousness.

Jesus taught and demonstrated an enlivening universal spiritual practice to achieve union with the Christ Consciousness and then union with the Everlasting Omnipresent Spirit. This royal union or kriya yoga is an integrated sacred discipline taught by Jesus, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Paramhansa Yogananda, and others, as well as contemporary Masters, to help their disciples learn how to attain this attuned state of union and awareness.

No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This means, no one (finite individual soul) cometh unto (can attain communion with) the Father (the Eternal Omnipresent Spirit) but by me (except by the Christ Consciousness).

As you can see, there are wide differences in the interpretation of this one single statement of Jesus. This is but one example of how the depth of one’s own understanding will yield dramatically different interpretation. How can we deepen our understanding? By consistent love, reflection and spiritual meditation.

Are there other Bible verses that make you wonder, “What did Jesus mean?” Write in the comments or email me at ralphcalabria@gmail.com and I will address in a future blog.

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