GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
Pause there for just a second.
I want to break this down as we move through it.
First, what's the context?
Jesus is telling the apostles that he is going to be crucified and that they're going to betray him and that they're going to scatter and deny him.
He's just told Peter that Peter is going to deny him three times and the apostles are starting to be troubled at the fact that Jesus is going to leave.
And so he is giving them here a word of encouragement in the face of his impending death, saying “don't let your hearts be troubled because in my Father's house there are many rooms.”
Now people often translate this as many mansions — I think that is the old King James version — and get excited about having a mansion in heaven, but literally the Greek there is monē.
It's from the Greek word menó,
which means to remain.
So it's a dwelling place, a place where you stay, a place to remain; which is something that Jesus said over and over again, that he wants to remain in us and us to remain in him.
So he says “in my Father's house there are many dwelling places and I'm going to prepare a place for you, that I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am there you will also be.”
Now what is he talking about here?
Well on one level he's just talking about the fact that he's going to die, be raised and ascend into heaven; and then one day he will return in the second coming to take his people to be with him.
But on another level, in a first century Jewish setting, the imagery here is really evocative because he is also using the language that would have been associated with the Jewish bridegroom.
I go through this in my book Jesus the Bridegroom
in a lot more detail.
There what I tried to show was that one of the customs of a bridegroom is that when the bridegroom and bride in Judaism would be betrothed, they would not immediately live together.
They would be legally married but the bridegroom and bride would be separated for some time while the bridegroom would go off and do certain things to prepare.
Among other things would be to build a home, to build a house for the bride.
And the wedding ceremony was really the procession of carrying the bride into the bridegroom's home so that the marriage could be consummated.
So one of the interesting things — it is like a subtext — is that Jesus is describing himself as the bridegroom, the disciples collectively as the Church, which is his bride, and then heaven is his Father's house.
So just like a Jewish bridegroom would go, prepare a home, and bring his bride to his Father's house — because he would
live on his father’s land, he would have a home in his father's territory, the family land — so too Christ is now promising the apostles, he's telling them, he’s exhorting them I should say, not to be troubled that he's leaving, because just like a bridegroom, he is going to return and bring the Church to himself to be in the heavenly promised land, in the heavenly home with the Father in the life of the Trinity, in the life of heaven.
Now once he says this, Thomas says “well we don't know where you're going.
How can we know the way?”
So they don't quite get what he means about the Father's house and that kind of thing.
So Jesus clarifies by a statement where he says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”
Now this is one of Jesus's most famous statements in all the Gospels: “I am the way, and the truth, and life.”
And again most people, I think, understand the basic meaning of it, which is that Jesus is the only path to salvation, that he is the sole savior of the world, that he alone can give eternal life.
But I think that in this case there is a little more that we can say about this by looking at the Greek here.
When Jesus says “I am the way,” the Greek word that he uses here is hodos,
which literally means a path or road right.
And we found this imagery elsewhere in the Gospels, like in the Gospel of Matthew, when he talks about the road to heaven or the road to hell.
So in other words he says that “the path to eternal life is narrow and difficult and few are they who find it, but the path to destruction is wide and easy and many are they who find it.”
He says that in Matthew 7.
So the imagery of being the way is simply that of a road that leads you to salvation, that leads you to heaven.
But in this case, notice here, heaven is not just like a kind of invisible Disneyland in the sky.
Sometimes people think of heaven that way.
It is just like this perfect place with lots of clouds and maybe a dry ice machine — kind of like the Hollywood version of heaven.
But Jesus’ vision of heaven here is what?
It is the life of the Trinity.
That's why he says “I am the way and no one comes to the Father but by me.”
So what road is he describing?
He is talking about the road to heaven, meaning the road to the Trinity, the road to the Father, the road to life with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
That is the essence of heaven for him.
And he says “I am the truth.”
In other words, I have the fullness of the truth.
If you look around in our own day, there are so many different religions, so many different cultures and context, and lots of them have little parts of the truth.
There are lots of truth and goodness and beauty in the various major religions of the world.
But Jesus isn't just a piece of the truth, he doesn’t just have some of the truth, he has all of the truth, because he is the truth.
He is the truth come in person.
So he is not just the path to heavenly life and life with God, he is also the fullness of the truth made flesh.
And then finally he says “I am the life.”
Well what is the life he is talking about here?
It is not natural life.
It is not just biological life.
It is not bios
here — which would be the Greek word for what we call natural life.
This is zóé
It is supernatural life, it is eternal life, the life of the Trinity, the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So if you want to have natural life there are all kinds of things you can do.
You can eat good food, you can drink good drink, you could stay healthy and exercise and keep yourself in shape; but if you want zóé,
if you want the life of the world to come, if you want the life of the Trinity, there is only one place you can go, and that is Jesus of Nazareth.
You have to become his disciple.
You have to walk on the path with him, learn the fullness of truth from him and live the life that he lived in order to enter into the life of the Trinity.
And he says that here to Thomas in response to his statement, “how do we know the path.”
Now you can see that he is talking about the Trinity because in the next verses — if we keep going — how does Philip, another one of the apostles, responsd?
I love this.
This is one of my favorite passages:
Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.”
It is almost like “alright, alright, I get all this stuff about the way, could you just show us the unveiled face of God?
That is all we really need; we will be happy then.”
A small request right!?
Now Jesus responds:
Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father'?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
So what's going on here?
Well basically Phillip is asking Jesus to give him what we would call the beatific vision, the vision of the unveiled face of God.
And if you recall in the Old Testament, over and over again — and thew Jews would have known this — you will have someone like Moses say “Lord, show me your glory.”
And what does God say in response?
Man cannot see me and live.
So, for example, in Exodus 34 he shows Moses his backside, but he can't show him his face.
The same thing with Elijah, he goes up on the mountain and hears all these phenomena, all these wonders: thunder, lightening, and an earthquake.
But when he comes out to meet God, God speaks in a still, small voice.
But even in the still, small voice, Elijah has to cover his face.
So you can't see the unveiled face of God.
Phillip is getting a little impatient here and says “just show us the face of God,” and Jesus responds by saying “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father, because the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
So once again, notice here the great mystery of the Trinity, that Jesus and the Father are one.
And that to see Jesus is, in a sense, to behold the face of the invisible God, because as son he bears the “image of his Father.”
You will see this elsewhere in the New Testament, like in Colossians 1:15.
Paul says that “Christ is the image of the invisible God” because the Father never becomes incarnate, but the son does become incarnate.
And just like if you look at my son you can see he looks like me.
Just like in the natural order the son bears the image of the father, all the more Jesus, as the eternal son of eternal Father in the Trinity, he reveals to us the face of God the Father.
So if you've seen him, you have seen God.
That's what he's trying to get Philip to understand, the great mystery of the Trinity.