30 April 2010

John 14:1-6

"Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?'" (v.5)


These are probably amongst the best known verses in John's Gospel and are part of what are known as the 'Farewell Discourses' (chapters 13-17). The words recorded are in the context of Jesus' last meal with his disciples, after he has washed their feet and spoken to them about the meaning of service. He then tries to explain to them what is about to happen which, in John's Gospel, is described in terms of him 'going to his father'.

As often happens in this Gospel the conversation between Jesus and the disciples takes place on different levels. When we read this text and hear the words about Jesus 'going to prepare a place for us' we do so knowing about the Cross and resurrection. Thomas had no such advantage and he takes what Jesus is saying very literally. He assumes Jesus is going on a physical journey and very logically asks how they can be expected to follow if they don't know where Jesus is going.

It's easy to share Thomas' frustration. Jesus asks us to follow, but it is not always totally clear what that means. Some Christians are into issues of social justice, protesting and political activism and they see this as being a significant outworking of their faith. There are other, equally committed Christians, who are uncomfortable with such activism and who want to live out their faith in different ways.

How do we determine which is the right way to follow Jesus? Is it a matter of personal choice? Do we opt for one way over another because of our personality? Working out how we follow Jesus can still be a puzzle for us and Thomas' question remains as relevant today as it was when it was first asked: "How do we know the way?"

To Ponder

How do we work out which way Jesus wants us to go and what he wants from us?

Thomas misunderstood what Jesus was saying and took him literally. How can you know that you have not misunderstood what Jesus is saying to you, and that you are really following what he wants you to do?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Christine Jones

Christine Jones, an ordained Methodist minister, is currently director of the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, a centre which emphasises the importance of bringing theology and contemporary culture together. At UTU she is responsible for preordination training, teaching on the Foundation Degree, MA and supervising MPhil PhD students.