Thursday, September 22, 2005

Good grief, guys, I AM the way.

Read John 14:1-11

Even though I did indeed teach it yesterday to the inmates at the county jail where I teach every week, this passage is for the believer. Christ has promising and encouraging words, words meant to sustain his beloved. The disciples are the immediate first-hand receivers of the words, but they represent all disciples for all time.

Christ is about to enter into the period of betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Entering into perhaps the most intense moments any human has ever experienced, his words are profound: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” “Trust” may be used in place of “believe.” Christ’s words ring throughout the ages for all who are betrayed, persecuted, and facing death. The disciples who heard them first-hand must have relied on them in the future years of travel, persecution, and utterly painful death.

Then he speaks of a future hope – one in the Father’s house. His preparation on the cross makes way for our ability to dwell there. We will never have to worry about things we know little about, things probably necessary in the preparation for our being with the Father.

Christ simply yet profoundly describes how great this place will be: “that where I am, there you may be also.” The immediate hearers (the disciples) had seen Christ’s whole ministry on earth. They knew who he was. They desired to be like him, to know the Father like he does. They saw the satisfaction in Christ’s life, the authority that his words and ways had, and now his promise is that they too can be where he is. And he said that he has already shown them the way.

But the doubt in us (as personified by Thomas) quite often darkens the hope in Christ’s message – “Wait a second, how can we be sure we know the way? We don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” If God is ever frustrated (which I believe he only can be after millennia of dealing with us), here is one instance. Thomas asks, “How can we know the way?” to which Jesus responds, “Thomas…I AM THE WAY! And the truth and the life. You come to the Father by knowing me!” And “knowing” Christ includes knowing his life, his ways, his motives, the very essence of who he is. Jokes are often made about “knowing someone”, an allusion to the intimate connection between two people. The analogy is exactly fitting here – “knowing” Christ is to be quite intimate with who he is. And to know him is to know the father.

In Christ’s statement that he is the way, the truth, and the life is the declaration that he is everything. Everything good that there is, he is. Truth and life represent the desires of man and he is the culmination of truth and life all in one. Though popularly known, we cannot ignore the fact anywhere that this is one of the predicate nominative statements in John where Christ declares that he is the I AM God (ego eimi) that Moses met in Exodus. It is a profound statement for the Jews who heard it. The power of the statement (and others like it in John) must not be lost in today’s English or any other translated language. It is easy to get lost in the predicate nominative and miss the power of the subject and verb – Jesus is God.

Yet again, our humanity and our inadequacies step in (this time personified by Philip): “Wait a second Lord, just show us the Father, then we will be satisfied.” Here, it is easy to chastise Philip. We can say, “Come on Philip, he just said that if we know him, we know the Father.” Perhaps our judgment would be pretty hasty, however.

And Jesus’ response is tenderer than any of ours would be, though it might hint at frustration: “Are you kidding me? I’ve been with you all this time and yet you still don’t know that when you see me, you see the Father?” Contemporary parallels are numerous – we often miss God when he’s staring right at us.

The end of Jesus’ response is interesting – “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” It is easy to imagine how the first “option” is harder for disciples today to live up to than the second. The immediate disciples of Jesus who were listening to his words were there to see his signs and hear his voice’s declaration that he was indeed the Son of God. We have simply their testimony of his declaration. But, we do have evidence of his works. Anyone who has accepted the teachings of Christ and has experienced his love, forgiveness, and leadership in life can attest to the work of Christ. It is from this work in our individual lives that we are most able to believe that he is the Son of God. Either way, we are to believe that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him.

F&TC,
- J

2 comments:

  1. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz........

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  2. Wow! It is great to read that. You probably didn't know that it would when you wrote this, but God really spoke to me through you. I needed to read this. Thank you so much for being open to His message and letting the Father speak through you. May God bless you exhuberantly!

    Yours In Christ,
    Luke Schutz

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