Sunday

14 May 2017

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 31


Background

"In my Father's house are many mansions…" (v. 2) is one of the best-known of Bible readings and one used at many a funeral. It comes from that long passage in John's Gospel, known by scholars as the Farewell Discourses, during which Jesus, having shared in the Last Supper with his disciples, bids farewell to them and tries to prepare them for what is to follow.

At the end of the previous chapter Jesus has spoken of going on to a place where the disciples cannot yet follow (John 13:36-37), and this has caused some consternation. Hence this chapter begins with his offering some words of comfort and reassurance - "Do not let your hearts be troubled" - and then some reassurance that there is indeed a place for them - "If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (v. 2)

Typically, it is Thomas (in verse 5) who expresses the doubts shared by the other disciple: "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" This leads Jesus to make one of those great 'I am' statements which are so characteristic of John's Gospel: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (v. 6). For the rest of this passage, he seeks to explain how it is that he is the way to the Father.

The heart of his message is that to know Jesus is to know the Father, that in Jesus' words and deeds we see the work of the Father. But, as yet, this is too much for the disciples to understand. This time it's Philip, the disciple who in a previous chapter had introduced some Greeks who wished to 'see Jesus' (John 12:20-22), who now challenges Jesus to "Show us the Father" (v.8). Jesus exercises some forbearance in his reply ("Have I been with you all this time…?" (v. 9)) before reiterating that "whoever has seen me, has seen the Father" (v. 9). The words which Jesus speaks are not his own, but those of his Father at work in him; hence the disciples are to "believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me…" (v. 11).

Whether this represents the actual words Jesus used to his disciples or a deep reflection on their meaning after a lifetime's experience of faith, we cannot know. As yet, the disciples seem not to understand Jesus fully; but the evangelist is clear that they will and about what will happen as they grow into the faith of which Jesus speaks, and as he promises that "I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (v. 13).


To Ponder

  • Jesus has been described as 'the human face of God'. How helpful do you find this image? Why?
  • Some have found the claims made in this passage to be too exclusive; how do you understand Jesus' words "No one comes to the Father except through me" (v. 6)?


Bible notes author:  The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

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