Summary: Year C "The Day of Pentecost" June 3rd, 2001 John 14:8-17, 25-27
Heavenly Father thank you for your Holy Spirit that empowers us with courage and inspiration to be witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Title: “Spirit of Support”
Chapter fourteen begins Jesus’ long “farewell” discourse found only in John, spanning chapters 14-17. Jesus begins by assuring his disciples that his physical absence, caused by his death, will not be a permanent condition. He will return to them in two ways. He will return at the (unspecified) end- the end of the world and the end of their own time in the world, their own death- and he will return to them soon (also unspecified, but soon to be experienced on the evening of the resurrection) in the form of his Spirit. If he does not cease to be present with and to and in them, neither do his works, the works he was originally sent to do by his Father, cease. They will continue through his disciples because he will continue through them. The key to this “continuing,” what John calls “remaining” or “abiding” or “indwelling” is faith, insight, not physical vision.
In verse six, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” the grammar here is important. The “and” following “way” is epexegetical (explanatory). This means that the word that follows the “and” explains the word that preceded. Both “the truth” and “the life” explain “the way.” Jesus is the (earthly) way to the heavenly realities of truth and life. Jesus is the channel through which the Father’s life and truth come to humans, the sacrament of God, much as He is the “gate” (10:9), the means of access and progress into God. Jesus is not only a moral guide (the way to truth) but the only avenue to salvation (the way to life). The disciples follow Jesus by repeating his example of obedience even to death, which leads beyond death to true life, eternal life.
Verses seven to eleven: These verses are a commentary on verse six. They return to the notion of the Father as the goal of life and Jesus as the means to that goal.
In verse seven, “If you know me, then you will also know my Father,” This parallel runs throughout the Last Supper discourse. It shows up in “As the Father loves me, so I love you” (15:9) and “As the Father sent me, so I send you” (20:21). Jesus parallels his union with his Father with his union with his followers. Thus, to “know” Jesus, know him personally as opposed to merely knowing about him, is to also know God. Jesus did not study Greek metaphysics, nor did his disciples (although those ideas were “in the air”). He is being neither philosophical nor mystical in describing his union with his Father, valid as those approaches may be. He relates the union to his mission. Jesus is as Jesus does. He does his Father’s works. He is God’s agent, representative of the one who sent him. He is also God’s Son, and that deepens the legal relationship of agent and representative to a relationship of likeness of nature. That is as far as Jesus will go in explaining his union with the Father. He will leave it to later philosophers and theologians to spell out the metaphysical and mystical implications of that union.
Verse eight, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us, Philip, speaking on level one, the earthly level and with earthly vision, expresses an understandable wish- to physically see God. When Jesus’ opponents asked for this, “Show us a sign,” Jesus got angry at them. Such physical seeing does not produce faith. It only produces the need for more miracles, more proof. Here Jesus is not angry, but somewhat frustrated that he has been with his disciples so long and they do not yet (and the time is getting short) understand. The disciples have not failed completely to know Jesus, yet their questions indicate that they have a “way” to go. Jesus knows that physical vision of God will not be “enough” for them.
Verse nine, “whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” in religious language “sight” is a metaphor for “full knowledge,” personal knowledge, not merely intellectual. Not all who “see” the physical Jesus “see” into him and “see” the Father. Only faith provides that vision. Those who do, who see Jesus, see God. The whole life of Jesus- his words and his works- have been the revelation of the Father, the expression of the Father presence, power, activity and will for the world and the humans in it.
In verse ten, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” Jesus expresses this union from both perspectives because he will use it to express his personal and moral union with his disciples in the same way. He, then, is the vital link between a human and a divine uniting and indwelling and abiding and remaining. The Father on his side “does his works” in and through Jesus. Jesus on his side reveals the Father by those works (and words).