He stopped me in the hallway at work–my former teacher, then a colleague. He’d been studying Greek, because, he said, teachers should always remember what it’s like to learn something difficult.
He asked me where in the Bible Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
I directed him to John 14.
He was especially interested in the word way, uncertain whether the English translation came from methodos or hodos. The conversation sparked my own investigation. I’m glad the terms I looked up were easy to understand (always a plus when dealing with Greek).
Methodos means a way of searching–inquiry. That meaning is secondary, but it’s the one my colleague mentioned. Methodos also means scheming, craftiness, and deceit. Strong’s Concordance finds it twice in Ephesians (4:14 and 6:11). Scriptures that warn us first of the cunning craftiness of men, then to beware the wiles of the devil.
But Jesus did not use methodos in John 14:6. He used hodos. Like methodos, hodos has different connotations. “It can mean not only a road, a path, but also a practice.” So it is not only the way to go, the direction we take, it is also how we walk, how we encounter God and others through our lives.
Jesus is not a means of inquiry. He is the way to God. And He gives direction for our lives.
Before His followers were called Christians (Act 11:26), they were called the people of the Way. In Acts 9:2, the people “belonging to the Way”–hodos–were those Saul hoped to persecute as he made his way along the road to Damascus. Being called a follower of the Way was descriptive. Being called a Christian was an insult.
They stood out among the crowd. Some didn’t like that.
My colleague also wondered about the root of the word Methodism. Methodism’s founder John Wesley was well versed in Greek. Had Wesley intended to associate his view of the Christian life with methodos–a way of inquiry?
We were both surprised by what he discovered.
The name Methodism came in derision–just as the name Christian had in the early Church.
John and Charles Wesley’s fellow students at Oxford called them Methodists because they were methodical in their spiritual discipline and their ministry efforts.
They stood out among the crowd.
John Wesley once said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Wesley knew that to follow the Way was not the easy way.
Wesley, like Luther before him, did not set out to establish a new church. Luther wanted to reform Catholicism. Wesley wanted to reform the Church of England. In fact, Methodism did not even become its own denomination until it arrived in America.
In England and America, Methodism planted churches and encouraged moral living, literacy, and philanthropy. Wesley encouraged William Wilberforce in the fight against slavery. He advocated prison reform. He urged Christians not to simply collect and send goods to relieve the misery of the poor, but to go to the poor individually, each Christian engaging in personal ministry.
When He walked this earth, Jesus invited people to follow him. Wesley didn’t invite people to follow Methodism. He invited people to follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Life.
Strong’s Concordance renders truth (aletheia) in John 14:6 as reality. It translates life (zoe) to include both the “physical (present) and . . . spiritual (particularly future) existence.”
The Way, Truth, and Life invites us to a path that leads to reality for eternity.
And there is no other hodos.