Early Christians used the Greek word hodos, or “the way,” to describe the literal and figurative paths their lives followed. The wise men returned to their home country “by another road.” Jesus’ disciples spoke of what happened to them “along the way” to Emmaus.

Hodos could also refer to a way of life. Jesus points to John the Baptist as one who came “in the way (hodos) of righteousness.” By the end of the book of Acts, we find Christians referring to their whole communal life in Christ as “the Way.”

According to John’s Gospel, Jesus told his followers, “I am the way.” This expression contrasts sharply with “I am the answer,” something many Christians assume he must have said but didn’t. The difference between the two self-descriptions is huge. The former invites grand adventure and openness to all of the ambiguities and doubts that go with a journey along uncertain paths. The latter suggests a packaged arrangement—a relationship involving little risk.