John 14:16: Does Jesus Hate Buddhists? (Sunday Meditation 4/24/2022)

Photo by Lahiru Supunchandra on Unsplash

Jesus is a pretty chill guy… Most of the time. When he isn’t healing the blind or curing lepers, he makes a point of forgiving people for just about everything. Then every once in a while, he whips out something like John 14:16.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:16

This sounds like something that would be screamed by a raging narcissist, not a spiritual teacher. I can’t help but take a step back when I read that line. Even if we ignore how full of himself Jesus sounds, the theological implications aren’t very attractive.

Everyone that hasn’t heard of Jesus is condemned? He said this in at a time when communications were limited by the speed of a horse. Plenty of people who could have been “saved” are going to be dead before they even learn his name.

What about the Native Americans? They all get tossed into the inferno of Gehenna because they were born on the wrong continent? What gives, Jesus? Why do you hate Native Americans?

What about devout Buddhists living in peace with their neighbors? Would Jesus spit in their face and condemn them? Somehow I can’t picture that.

Jesus’ statement seems out of character compared to his usual persona of acceptance and forgiveness.

In other parts of the story, Jesus isn’t a raging narcissist at all.

Jesus insisted on being baptized by John the Baptist, despite John protesting that he was not worthy. Jesus insisted on washing the feet of his disciples as a servant would. He offered mercy and kindness to people who had never heard of him before that moment.

So why does Jesus appear to condemn people for mere ignorance?

I see two ways to charitably interpret this passage. The first is to arbitrarily decide that Jesus never said it at all. I’ll be honest with you: I doubt that he said it. I doubt that Jesus ever said he was the Son of God, at least in the way that the Gospel of John claims.

I won’t argue that point right now, because I know my interpretation falls far outside the norm. I think we can take the Gospel of John seriously without compromising Jesus’ core message.

In the Biblical story, Jesus is the living embodiment of God, and by extension all that is true and good.

The thing about “truth” and “goodness” is that they exist with or without man’s limited attempts to define them. Jesus himself was desperately trying to communicate that to a culture that was obsessed with rituals, temples and legalistic theology.

He constantly spoke against such things. Jesus was a peacemaker. The whole point of his concept of the Holy Spirit is that goodness and truth resides within all of us, if only we are willing to listen to it.

I think Jesus was a pretty sharp guy, and he was well aware of the limitations of language. He only taught in parables for that reason. He specifically says that many people who know his name and call it out have never known him or the truth he speaks.

I think just as many people are living in pursuit of that ultimate truth without using the word, “Jesus.”

Every culture has an image of ultimate truth. That image develops across time and has many different names. Christians call it God. Jews might call it Yahweh. The Buddhists speak of Brahma. Native Americans have The Great Spirit.

Was Jesus really condemning every belief system as total rubbish?

The phrase “What would Jesus do?” is a horribly overused cliché, but I want to genuinely ask that question here.

What would Jesus of the Bible do if he was confronted by the Buddha himself? Would he yell about idolatry, flip tables and accuse the Buddha of leading people astray? I seriously doubt it.

Jesus was criticizing every belief system, including that of the Jews. He made a point of criticizing his own church in advance! Jesus knew that human attempts to reveal divine truth will always fall short.

Religion is something that flawed men invent. Truth goes far beyond religion. “Truth” is universal by definition. People use different words and stories to grasp at the truth, and everyone misses the mark. The truth-seeking attempt is what matters.

I think Jesus and the Buddha would get along famously. They would probably make tea, wash each other’s feet, and have a deeper conversation than they could ever dream of having with their earthly disciples.

They probably have more in common with each other than they do with us.

Hey, thanks for reading. This interpretation can be read as secularly or religiously as you prefer. I am not formally educated in theology, or anything else for that matter. My opinions are more than likely heretical and lacking important context. Feel free to correct me in the comment section, I enjoy it. I am reading the Bible with an open mind and the aim of extracting whatever wisdom I can. This is a personal meditation and nothing more.

Consider following me for more articles like this every Sunday.

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John Joseph

John Joseph

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Poultry farmer and part-time handyman. Now I write on the internet.