"Have Confidence and Obey!" Jerry Goebel, One Family Outreach. "Focus on scripture from a justice perspective." Exegesis, study, and teen study and activities.
|Rubens Painting of Philip|
14“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe 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.
12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
This week we continue with Jesus' teaching of the interrelated life of the Apostolic community and the Holy Trinity. In my opinion this passage gives an understanding of the interrelated nature of God as Trinity and how that interrelated life is to be a part of the interrelated life of the community.
The very first verses are key to the creedal arguments of the second century and the statement that the Spirit proceeds from the Father became a chorus for the Greek or more Western argument.
Jesus says that the Spirit will bear witness to him. What is meant theologically is that the Holy Spirit will, in it's very person, bear witness to the unity and love between the Father and the Son, and bear witness to their love. The Spirit is the very perfect image of God's love.
It is also clear that the Spirit will provide the undergirding of the community and that those followers, the one's whom Jesus called to be with him, will be witnesses because of God's presence with them in and through the Spirit.
It is clear that the passage holds within itself and Jesus' words a sense of dread for the apostolic community that remains. Whether a forecast of things to come or reflecting the reality of the time in which the text was written, the message is clear throughout chapter 14 - as the Jesus movement continues to take shape and bear witness to a new community life they'll be segregated and separated from the religious roots from which their faith was birthed.
Religious zealots have always sought to purify religion (it is human nature it seems). I cannot help reflect on the major stories of religious upheaval, from Babel to Babylon to Pentecost to the Reformation, we see God building and rebuilding his faithful followers challenging them in ever new ways. Phyllis Tickle speaks of these moments as great shifts. The nature of the church as Family of God is deeply rooted in these emerging shifts over thousands of years. N. T. Wright's work also gives a clear understanding of the emerging deuteronomistic family of God and how it has shaped us.
The disciples are right in the midst of a great shift and Jesus tells them they will not be alone, and that the Spirit will help them to understand their witness of the Truth which is clearly meant to be the Living Word Jesus Christ. From Stephen to Polycarp the names of the earliest martyrs are eternally with us. Perpetua and her friends have been joined by a holy family of saints who have paid the cost of faith - a family of God martyred by Christians and non Christians alike. Even Thomas and Philip who ask Jesus these questions, will be a faithful healers and preachers and will die as a martyrs for thier faith.
There is martyrdom of the physical body and there is martyrdom of the conscience, too. Our zealotry has little room today for difference of opinion and conscience falls away as we wrestle with the cult of belonging. The heresies of the ancient world catch up with us once again, Donatism and its friend on the opposite sides of the spectrum Gnosticism; Nazarene to its partner Manichaeism. Each requires perfection of its followers, rather than mutual and communal discernment of the Holy Spirit's revelation, which begins not with our knowledge, but of unknowing our common search for truth and our common brokenness and sinfulness. Always beyond us and always our aim, the collect for Richard Hooker is therefore prayed in hope: help us seek unity not for the sake of compromise but for the sake of comprehension.
I guess all of this is to say that it is easier for humans to walk apart because of their zealotry than it is for us to walk together for the sake of truth. No wonder Jesus prayed for the comforter to come and for the unity of those who follow him!
The verses which come towards the end of the passage, and yet are not included in our reading, confirm the reality of Jesus' own perfect revelation in that the Spirit's work will confirm what has been taught. There will not be a new or differing revelation as time wears on. Now some will say, but don't we believe that the Holy Spirit continues to work and reveal God in the world through the mission and ministry of those who follow Jesus?
I think sometimes we get confused about what is changing. As a person who loves to think systematically and theologically, how I understand this may in fact be different than most, but what I am about to say also fits with my understanding of the Episcopate as keeper of the church's faith, handing down a living tradition of apostolic belief. The revelation of God in the unique person of Jesus Christ and the community of the Godhead as Trinity is an unchanging reality and faith. However, I remember at this point, and always at this point (humbly I must admit), the prayer for the church from our prayer book, page 816: where [the Church] is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it... All this is to say that here are the areas where I believe the church is challenged, not with new revelation but with the challenge of seeing God and God's mission more clearly.
Raymond Brown confirms this reading in today's text when he writes:
Perhaps in our time the Gospel -- the Good News-- is the promise that seeking the truth, come whence it may and cost what it will, intends to be nothing less than a pilgrimage into the heart and community of God. So I pray at the end of my life's journey, may I find I am closer to God and that such a closeness reveals and births in me a love for my real and ever expanding family of God.
"Verse 14 reinforces the impression that the Paraclete brings no new revelation because he receives from Jesus what he is to declare to the disciples..." The author records Jesus' concept that he, like the Paraclete, is an "emissary of the Father. In declaring or interpreting What belongs to Jesus, the Paraclete is really interpreting the Father to men; for the Father and Jesus possess all things in common...In Johannine thought it would have been unintelligible that the Paraclete have anything from Jesus that is not from the Father, but all that he has is from Jesus." (R.B., Anchor Bible, John, vol ii)