Today, I am reading and commenting on John 14-16.
This passage begins with Jesus teaching His disciples, and through them, us, that He is the only way to God. I will expand on that by saying that I do believe that there are many paths to God…but they all lead to Christ. Jesus said that those who seek will find. A necessary corollary to that is that one must be willing to follow that search wherever it leads. Those who genuinely search for God will eventually be led to Jesus. One does not need to take the path which goes through the Church (although I do believe that the path will eventually lead them back to the Church in some form, because the Church is the Body of Christ). Unfortunately, some will refuse to follow their search through Jesus and turn away looking for a path which does not exist.
There is another piece to this story which we should find challenging. Jesus tells His disciples that they should believe in Him, and His connection to the Father, because of the works He has done. Then He tells them that anyone who believes in Him will do the same works He has done. Not only that, Jesus says that we will do even greater works. So, when did you last give sight to the blind? Or cause the lame to walk? Raise someone from the dead? Or, even feed 5,000 people? When I started writing this paragraph, my thought was that the works Jesus was talking about were miraculous ones, and in part they are. However, as I wrote those questions I remembered that Jesus said, just before telling us that anyone who believed in Him would do similar works, that God worked through Him. So, while I still think we should expect God to do miraculous things through us, we are doing the same works as Jesus when we work together to teach subsistence farmers how to better feed themselves, set up programs to give out micro-loans so that the impoverished can work their way out of poverty, send well diggers to dig wells to provide clean drinking water in areas of the world that have not had it in recent memory, rebuild homes devastated by natural disasters. When we help those who are sick or suffering we are doing the works which Jesus did. When Jesus fed the 5,000 He took the small amount of food and started passing it out, having faith that God would make it be sufficient, and not only was it, there was more left over than what they started with.
There is so much I want to write about from this passage, but I do not think I am going to have time. When Jesus promised the disciples the Holy Spirit, He told them that He would reveal Himself to those who love Him. He told us that we can know if we love Him, because those who love Him will follow His commands. When He said this, Judas clearly did not understand. I think that Judas’ response here reveals why he betrayed Jesus. Judas wanted to know why Jesus was not going to reveal Himself to the world at large. Judas was looking for the power which would come from being one of the twelve men closest to what he expected to be the next Alexander the Great. Part of Judas’ misunderstanding stemmed from a false dichotomy he held: the choice was either limiting His revelation to just those present or to the world at large. It never occurred to Judas that others might become part of Jesus’ inner circle. He wanted to be in the position of translating Jesus’ teachings to those on the outside. We can easily fall into the same mistake when we fail to recognize that others have as much to teach us as we do them.
There is so much more here which could use expounding upon. There is a whole blog post in going over the meaning of Jesus’ vine metaphor and allowing God to prune us so that we can be more fruitful. Then Jesus reminds us that because the world hated and persecuted Him, it will hate and persecute us. Here Jesus also tells us that if He had physically stayed with us the Holy Spirit could not have come to live within us. Finally Jesus tells them that they will soon experience great grief, but that grief will be turned into even greater joy. We see how that indeed happened with His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. As I read that today, I saw a link between what Jesus is saying here and the shooting in Texas this last Sunday morning. I do not have the time to make the connection, but perhaps you can see it for yourself by reading this article which talks about how Christians see that experience differently than the world.