2 May 2016

John 14:1-14

"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, 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'". (v.5-7)

Psalm: Psalm 139


This passage is set towards the end of Jesus' last supper with his disciples, after Judas has left to summon the authorities to arrest Jesus. It is the last moment of calm among friends before the chaotic events of the trial and Crucifixion begin. However, Jesus is not making much sense to his disciples with this talk of "dwelling places" and going to prepare a place for them. He is beginning to frighten them and he knows it - twice he has to tell them not to be afraid, not to "let their hearts be troubled".

In Britain, even if they are not regular churchgoers, most folks will have heard parts of this passage read at funerals. Sadly, many of us have heard it as a warning - "Sort yourself out and believe in Jesus or else!" This was just as confusing for those first disciples. Jesus was not reprimanding Thomas for being puzzled, but reassuring him.

Yes, it is a statement about the uniqueness of Jesus in history - God "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" is explained and developed in John 3:17-21.

But in today's passage Jesus comforts a frightened friend who is beginning to think about being parted by death from someone he loves. Jesus is not slapping him down nor telling him that others are not coming too. Jesus' words are about the inclusion of all who are in a relationship with him, not about the exclusion of doubters or non-believers.

His answer, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" is still as mysterious as it is thrilling. There is no simple box to tick to be 'in the club,' but there is an offer of continued friendship with Jesus in a world that can still be frightening:

"I am the way. Risk walking with me and I'll show you how to go".

To Ponder

  • Put yourself in Thomas' place. What would you ask Jesus about death and dying?
  • Early Christians were sometimes called 'People of the Way'. What might this description have to offer us today?


Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

Revd Dr Jennifer Smith is a Methodist minister, and superintendent of the Ealing Trinity Circuit in the London District. Though resident in the UK since 1993, she is a US citizen and continues to observe US political and religious culture with interest.