Sunday, May 22 , 2011
Rev. Dr. David Breeden
Focusing Scriptures: John 14:1-14
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In 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? And 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. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus 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’? Do 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. 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. Very 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. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
Liberal Christians learn the signs that telegraph the coming of the quote: that slightly angry, wholly immovable look—yes, here comes, John 14:6—“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
It is a favorite of our traditionalist sisters and brothers, ironclad and damning. It is a conversation stopper, a fence that often cannot be gotten over or around: “But it says so right there!” Yet how can such a non-negotiable saying follow a saying such as, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”? Isn’t that about variety, perhaps even variety of belief? I have tried that argument, and failed.
But, but, I go on, just before Thomas asks the question that leads to 14:6, Jesus has said, “And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Doesn’t that mean that somehow we human beings can find the way in our hearts? I have lost on that battlefield as well.
We can’t get over it, and we can’t get around it. When the Gospels are viewed as, as Brian McLaren puts it, “an evacuation plan for the next world,” right thinking rather than right action remains the orthodox answer. Yet Thomas reports another sort of answer in Saying 24 of The Gospel of Thomas:
His followers said to Jesus: Show us the place where you are, since we must get there too.
Jesus said to them:
Those with ears, let them hear.
There is light inside a person of light
that becomes light to the world.
Those who shine no light are darkness.
There, I find, the way to the place Jesus was going.