Quo Vadis

“Where are you going?” is the famous phrase from the title of the novel by Polish Nobel Prize author Henryk Sienkiewicz.  Quo Vadis? was made into multiple adaptations on the big screen.  A Roman soldier, in love with a Christian woman, must come to understand why she believes as she does in the midst of Roman persecution.  Peter’s question of Jesus in John 13:36 began the discussion.  The Latin question “Quo vadis?” is a query everyone must ask and answer as one considers where they are going in life.

How we get where we’re going, what road we take, is essential.  Life as a “road” has been a popular metaphor in literature used in such famous works as The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, and The Lord of the Rings. Most recently Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men) penned an apocalyptic thriller simply titled The Road.  McCarthy’s view of life has limited hope.  McCarthy’s slight belief that someone will go ahead of us to keep the fire alive is small consolation for “the end of the road.”

Songwriters have flirted with the picture of a road.  Willie Nelson can’t wait to get back “On the Road Again.”  By “rolling down the highway” Jim Croce hopes “life won’t pass him by.”  Rascal Flatts remade the fist pumping “Life Is A Highway” for a new generation of those who want to “ride it all night long.”  Even Carrie Underwood says “Jesus, Take the Wheel” so she might be saved “from this road I’m on.”

But how to find the right road to get us where we are going?  Psalm 17:5 declares “my steps have held to your paths.”  The Lord says in Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”[1] God’s “way,” or course of living, is found in His commandments.[2] “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you” is a repetitious theme throughout Scripture.[3]

Some declare they have stayed on the path, while others ask to be shown the road.[4] Ultimately there is a choice to be made.  There is a good way, “the way of The Lord,” or the evil way which travels in the opposite direction.[5] Some follow “the way of Balaam” or heretics who walk in the “way of Cain.”[6] But Peter refers to Christianity as “the way of truth,” the right way,” and “the way of righteousness.”[7] And God knows every person’s path.[8]

Perhaps “Quo vadis? can be answered with a heavenly GPS (global positioning system).  Jesus’ sacrifice opened a “new and living way” since He is “the way.”[9] For the Roman soldier, Peter, and all of us the answer to the question is the same: Jesus.

Next to the question, “Where are you going?” demands another: “How do you get there?”  Eugene Peterson reminds us that the “how” is desperately important:

I want to counter the common reduction of “way” to a road, a route, a line on a map—a line that we can use to find our way to eternal life; such reduction means the elimination of way as a metaphor, the reduction of way to a lifeless technology.  The Way that is Jesus is . . . the way he acted, felt, talked, gestured, prayed, healed taught, and died.  And the way of his resurrection.  The Way that is Jesus cannot be reduced to information or instruction.  The Way is a person whom we believe and follow as God-with-us.[10]

Jesus’ Way is the ancient path, the road less taken, the way to life, the way of life.

Still asking questions, Dr. Mark Eckel now seeks answers with his students at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, IN.


[1] Of course, the verse ends, “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”  The opposite is also true: “My people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways and in the ancient paths.  They made them walk in bypaths and on roads not built up” (Jeremiah 18:15).

[2] 1 Kings 2:3; 8:58; Psalm 119:1, 3, 14, 27, 30, etc.

[3] Deuteronomy 5:33; 8:6; 10:12; 11:22; 19:9, etc.

[4] Job 23:11; Psalm 18:21; 44:18 with Psalm 25:4; 27:11; 86:11; 119:33; 143:8.

[5] Genesis 18:19; 1 Samuel 12:23; 1 Kings 8:36; 2 Chronicles 6:27, etc. with Genesis 6:12; Numbers 22:32; Judges 2:19; 1 Kings 13:33; 15:26, etc.

[6] 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11.

[7] 2 Peter 2:2, 15, 21.

[8] Psalm 139:3; Proverbs 5:21.

[9] Hebrews 10:20; John 14:6.

[10] Eugene H. Peterson. 2007. The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways that Jesus is The Way. (Eerdmans), pp. 39-40.

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