I love the way the older writers (especially the Puritans) thought through a text from the perspective of both Testaments. Often, I fall into the trap of seeing concepts only in terms of the New Testament and not viewing a text as part of the whole of Redemptive History. Recently, I came across this nugget in a sermon by Robert Murray M’Cheyne and his handling of John 14:6 is a good example of what the older writers do so well. Usually, when we approach this familiar text we speak of the Cross, the exclusivity of salvation through Christ, or the blessings of the “Life” that we now experience as New Covenant believers. All of this is tremendous and true, but notice the richness of M’Cheyne’s exposition brought about by seeing Jesus’ words as part of the story of redemption. This quote is just the beginning of his exposition of the phrase “the way” and the entire sermon is a wonderful treasure preserved for the Church. Enjoy this walk through Jesus’ famous declaration as seen from the perspective of Adam.
“The whole Bible bears witness that by nature we have no way to the Father. We are by nature full of sin, and God is by nature infinitely holy – that is, he shrinks away from sin. Just as the sensitive plant, by its very nature, shrinks away from the touch of a human hand, so God, by his very nature, shrinks away from the touch of sin. He is everlastingly separate from sinners; he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.
This is impressively taught to Adam…
As long as Adam walked holily, God dwelt in him, and walked in him, and communed with him; but when Adam fell, ‘God drove the man out of paradise; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.’ This flaming sword between the cherubim was a magnificent emblem of God – the just and sin-hating God. In the bush, he appeared to Moses as a consuming fire – in the temple, he appeared between the cherubim in the milder glory of the Shecinah; but here he appeared between the cherubim as a sword – a just and sin-hating God. And I beseech you to remark, that this flaming sword turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life. If it had not turned every way – if it had left some foot-path unglared across – then Adam might have stolen in by that foot-path, and made his own way to the tree of life. But no; whatever avenue he tried – however secret, however narrow, however steep and difficult – however silently he crept along – still this flaming meteor met him and it seemed to say, ‘How can man be just with God? by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh living be justified.’ Well might Adam sit down, wearied with the vain search for a pathway into life; for man by nature has no way to the Father.
But Christ says, ‘I am the way.’ As he says in the sixteenth Psalm, ‘Thou wilt shew me the path of life.’ No man could find out this path of life; but Jesus says, ‘Thou wilt shew it me; in thy presence is fullness of joy – at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Jesus pitied the poor sons of Adam vainly struggling to find out a way into the paradise of God, and he left the bosom of the Father, just that he might open up a way for us into the bosom of the Father. And how did he do it? Was it by escaping the vigilance of the flaming sword? No; for it turned every way. Was it by exerting his divine authority, and commanding the glittering blade to withdraw? No; for that would have been to dishonor his Father’s law, instead of magnifying it. He therefore became a man in our stead – yea, became sin. God caused to meet on him the iniquities of us all. He advanced in our stead to meet that fiery meteor – he fell beneath its piercing blade; for he remembered the word of the Prophet, which is written, ‘Awake, O sword! against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts.’
And now, since the glittering blade is bathed in the side of the Redeemer, the guiltiest of sinners – whoever you be – whatever you be – may enter in over his bleeding body – may find access to the paradise of God, to eat of the tree of life, and live forever. Come quickly – doubt not; for he says, I am the way.”