‘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.’
Translation: "Let not your heart be troubled. Trust into God, and trust into me. In the house of my Father, there are many habitations, and, if not, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, and prepare a place for you, I come again and I will take you to myself so that, where I am, I and you might be, and you have known the way where I go." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you go. How have we known the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now, you know him, and you have seen."
Background and situation: The lection is part of the Last Supper discourse in the fourth gospel. These "farewell discourses" take up chapters 13-17, or about 20% of the book. In this section, Jesus is addressing his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. The section culminates in what is called the High Priestly Prayer (17: 1-26).
Bad advice from Jesus: Sports Illustrated reports that, back in 2008, the Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the locker room of the defeated Memphis Tigers basketball team after their loss to Kansas in the NCAA basketball finals. Memphis' star player, Derrick Rose, was said to be "inconsolable." Jackson told him, "Don't look like a freshman crying. It looks pitiful. Smile through your tears and speak above your pain."
In our therapy-infused culture, this is considered horrible advice. Feelings should not be "held in," but expressed openly. Jesus must have missed that lecture. He gives his disciples a message not unlike the one that Jesse Jackson gave to Derrick Rose.
"Do not let your heart be troubled." Jesus urges his disciples to move beyond their anxiety and to "trust into God and trust into me." (The word is pisteuein, more properly translated as "trust" or "faith" than as "believe." Also, the preposition is eis, which means "into," not "in.")
He asks his disciples to put their "troubles" in the proper perspective and to see them in light of God's power. This is not a lot different from "smile through your tears and speak above your pain." See your pain, or your troubles, through the light of Christ.
Troubled heart: In the English language, as is well-known, the word "you" serves as both the second person singular and the second person plural. Most other languages, however, have a distinct word for the second person plural.
Most people don't realize that the vast majority of all uses of the word "you" in the Greek New Testament are plural. To put it another way, if we read these texts as being individually addressed to us, we are mistaken. They were not addressed to individuals, but rather to a community.
Jesus says, "Do not let your (pl.) heart be troubled." The disciples, collectively, have a "troubled heart." In fourth gospel, Jesus himself had also been "troubled" on three occasions. He was "troubled" at the reaction to his raising of Lazarus (11:33), the approach of the cross (12:26), and Judas' betrayal (13:21). Now, this emotion is ascribed also to the community itself.
"In the house of my Father, they are many habitations." The word translated as "habitations" is monai. In the popular imagination, this is often taken to mean that the Methodists will have a room--indeed, a mansion--and so will the Catholics and the Baptists.
Monai actually means a temporary resting place for a traveler. It was associated with caravans. In those days, there would be a contingent of folks who would go ahead of the caravan to "prepare a place" so that when the caravan arrived there, the camp ground had been prepared, the water supply located, and food prepared. The travelers in the caravan would have a place of comfort to spend the night.
Monai is less about getting some fancy digs in the hereafter, in a house separate from the people you can't stand, and more about welcome, hospitality, and community for people traveling on a journey.
"For I go to prepare a place for you." This sentence is reminiscent of Moses' speech in Deuteronomy 1:33 where he says that the Lord "goes before you in the way to choose a place."
Just as Moses led the people into the Promised Land, so Jesus will lead his people to the place where he himself is going. ("I come again and I will take you to myself so that, where I am, I and you might be.")
The way: "And you know the way--hodon--to the place where I am going." The concept of "the way" had been around awhile. Moses had used the phrase "in the way" in the Deuteronomy passage. Likewise, the Psalms refer to the Torah as "the way" (Ps 119: 29-34).
Moreover, according to the book of Acts, the Christian faith was first known as "the way." The word hodos, or "way," is used over 100 times in the New Testament. Its use here, however, is the only time it appears in the fourth gospel.
Thomas is taken aback. "We do not know the way," he says. When Jesus had announced, in chapter 11, that he was returning to the Jerusalem area, a place of danger, Thomas fatalistically declares that they might as well go with Jesus and "die with him" (11:16). Thomas knew "the way" that led to death well enough, but not "the way" that leads to life.
Jesus spells it out. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Earlier in the fourth gospel, we were told that Jesus is truth (1:14), and "the resurrection and the life" (11:25). Now, he is also "the way" itself.
This is another ego eimi saying, which means that the most important words in this important sentence are the first two--"I am." Ego eimi is an emphatic way of saying YHWH, God's own name, in Greek. Lest anyone miss the point, the fourth gospel has Jesus also say, "If you know me, you will know my Father also."
Thomas had asked, "How can we know the way?" Here, the fourth gospel uses the word oida for "know." Oida is the kind of knowledge that you get from first-hand, physical experience. It is the kind of knowledge that is objective and demonstrable.
Jesus responds, "If you know me, you will know my Father also." In this sentence, Jesus uses ginosko, which is the kind of knowledge one gets through intimate experience. This is a kind of "mystical knowing."
Thomas's "knowing" is of the everyday variety. Jesus' "knowing" is the kind that comes "from above" (3:3). This is consistent with an over-all theme of the fourth gospel, which is intimate relationship and mutual indwelling between Jesus and his followers.
8 Philip 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.
Translation: Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "I am with you a lengthy time and you do not know me, Philip?" The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not trust that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak from myself, but the Father abiding in me does his works. Trust me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. But if not, trust the works themselves.
"Truly, Truly, I say to you, the one trusting into me, the works which I am doing, that one will do also, and that one will do greater than these, for I am going to the Father. And whatever you might ask in my name, that I will do so that the Father might be glorified in the Son. Whatever you might ask in my name, I will do.
Community building: Philip says, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough--arkei--for us." Philip had earlier worried that they would not have "enough" (arkousin) food to feed the large crowd (6:7). In his only two utterances in the fourth gospel, Philip is portrayed as fussing that what they have is not enough. The food had not been enough, and now Jesus is not quite enough either.
Jesus responds, "I am with you through a lengthy time--chronos--and you do not know--ginosko--me, Philip?" The word chronos refers to earthly, chronological time. It is distinct from kairos, which is "special time"--the in-breaking of God. In ordinary experience, in ordinary "time," one cannot "know" Jesus in an intimate, mystical way.
Jesus tells them that his words are the same as the "Father's works." Then, he tells them that if they cannot believe his words, they should turn to his works. What's more, they will do even greater works than Jesus!
What could they possibly do that would be "greater" than what Jesus has already done in the fourth gospel? Jesus has healed the sick and raised the dead. What can they do to top that?
One thing remains: They have not yet established an on-going community centered in Jesus, which follows him, and does his works.
Jesus assures the disciples that, even though "the way" may be difficult, they can call on him and he will do "whatever you ask in my name." This is not, of course, a flinging about of Jesus' name as some kind of magic talisman in order to get what a person wants. That is mere egocentrity. It asks in our name, but not that of Jesus.
To ask in Jesus' name, as Ray Brown has said, means to be in union with Jesus. To ask in Jesus name is, as Paul put it, having the same mind that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2). What would Jesus ask? What would Jesus think? Indeed, WWJD?
Image: Mary Padgelek