Sunday

22 May 2011

"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." (v. 12)

Background

Throughout John's Gospel the writer weaves themes of knowing and not knowing, understanding and not understanding, of moving from ignorance to knowledge. Today's passage is no exception. Thomas, one of Jesus' disciples, is not prepared to take what he hears at face value. When Jesus states that there is a place being prepared in 'his Father's house' (v. 2), perhaps the other disciples nod knowingly in the way that people do when they want to look as though they understand. Thomas, however, does not pretend and his question leads to Jesus making the most extraordinary statement, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (v. 6). Philip then joins in the questioning as Jesus begins to talk about being one with the Father. As Philip states "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied" (v. 8), we are reminded of Thomas's own declaration in John 20:25 that he will only believe that Jesus is risen from the dead if he sees the holes in his hands and the wounds in his side. John takes the reader beyond a simple understanding of 'seeing is believing' to a deeper sight - a way of understanding the world and our place in it in relation to God.

The insight to which Jesus is trying to lead his disciples is an understanding of the nature of Jesus' own relationship with God the Father - they are one: their actions and very existence cannot be separated. More astonishing even than this, is that the disciples - those who recognise Jesus - are also caught up in that same relationship with God. "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do."

The one who believes is able to continue the work of Jesus. This continuing of work after Jesus has gone is an important theme in this part of John's Gospel. Jesus is, through a number of conversations (often called discourses), explaining to his followers that he will not be with them much longer but that the work he has begun is not dependent on him alone. Those who have faith in him and his teaching will be able to carry on bringing people to the knowledge of God and God's love. Those who, like Thomas and Philip, ask questions have a special place in this work because their questioning allows a development of insight and knowledge.

To Ponder

Can you remember a time when asking a question about faith led you to a deeper understanding? What happened? And what impact does it have on your faith and discipleship today?

In what ways might you carry on the work of Jesus in your life and community today?

How do you feel about the idea in verse 12 that those who believe in Jesus will 'do greater works' than Jesus himself?

Bible notes author: The Revd Micky Youngson

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