By Dr Simon Wilkinson
Reflections on John 14: 1-14.
Hello, I am Simon Wilkinson, lay chair of Chester le Street and Houghton Deanery with my reflections on today’s Gospel reading which is from John 14. The reading is part of Jesus’s farewell to his followers at the last Supper. Jesus has explained the importance of his washing the disciples feet, and has dropped a number of bombshells – that one of them will betray him, that Peter will soon deny that he knew Jesus, and, perhaps most troubling of all to the disciples, that he will be with them only a short time longer. And that where is going, they cannot follow. The disciples can sense something terrible is to befall Jesus (and them). Which among us, in the disciples’ position, would not be afraid?
Jesus immediately offers reassurance “do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me”. In doing so, Jesus reminds his followers that God has kept his promises in the past; God has not abandoned them in their troubles (far from it) and Jesus is not abandoning them now. Jesus also tells them that he is going to prepare a place for his followers in his father’s house. This will have had a particular resonance for the disciples – to “prepare a place” would have suggested that Jesus was not simply “booking a room” for them, but doing everything to make the disciples welcome and valued in their intimate relationship with God is his house. It is a direct continuation of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, being a servant, preparing a place for them.
Both Philip and Thomas are refreshingly honest about their uncertainty, asking “how can we follow you when we don’t know the way” and “show us the father”. Jesus gently rebukes them – Thomas wants a map, but Jesus offers something better – someone who will walk with them (and us) to the destination: “I am the way, the truth and the life”. To Philip, he says “Don’t you know me Philip, even after I have been with you for such a long time? Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father”. Here Jesus tells his followers what all of his ministry has been about – to reveal the Father. If we want to know who God is, look for the answer in Jesus.
Finally, Jesus gives his followers a foretaste of Pentecost, a promise: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing; he will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And this promise was fulfilled. Jesus followers reached even more people with the message than Jesus did himself. And this message rings out to us – if we believe in him, we can do even greater things, things we are doing now, by reaching out to each other during this time of physical isolation. Despite not being able to “be together”, we are still “being together” and more people are hearing the message.