Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me (NRSV) John 14:1, that’s is how today’s reading starts.
This is a tough reading to get to grips with, it’s often a reading that is read at funerals, as I guess it seems to offer comfort to people that Jesus is saying that he has prepared a place for us. However it contains much more than comfort, and is as powerful for the now as it is for comforting for the future. I think to fully understand what is happening here one needs to look at what has happening. Chapter 14 is part of the four chapters long farewell discourse by Jesus at the last supper. For John the last supper is a key event in Jesus’ life, otherwise why would we get as much as four chapters.
So, we are at the last supper; Jesus has just washed everyone’s feet, showing them that they were to emulate a style of leadership and living that was at odds with the world around them. Indeed, Jesus’ actions and message echoes that given in Matthew Ch 20 when after James and John request special status and cause a rumpus amongst the rest of the twelve, Jesus has to call them all together to tell them that their view of leading is totally at odds with his. They are not to follow the example of the gentile (Roman) leaders who lord it over their people by bully tactics. Rather whoever wants to be great among them would need to become like a slave.
Perhaps this was the last straw for Judas as it’s after the footwashing in John’s Gospel that Jesus announces that one of them will betray him while also then informing Peter that he won’t do too well on the loyalty front either. Talking of Judas, just how is it that no-one realised what he was up to other than Jesus? John has Jesus clearly earmarking Judas as the person he is giving the bread to, and yet the others somehow still think he is taking money for the poor. Perhaps it is an indication of the mood and the nature of the evening. Perhaps no one was thinking straight. It is no wonder then that their hearts might be troubled. Jesus had told them that their leader was in danger, that there was no turning back at this point, but never mind Jesus says just trust in me.
Is it any surprise that Thomas and Philip press Jesus with questions trying to pin him down. What do you mean you are going somewhere? Where? How can we now the way? At least they are asking questions, I wonder what the others are up to. We know about Judas, was Peter nursing his hurt pride? Early manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel paint a picture of everyone talking at once. This is a moment of crisis. Either way, it seems to me that people weren’t listening too well.
Jesus is not of course talking about physical mansions or dwelling places for his apostles or for us. He is talking more about being with him. He means being joined with him in some way and therefore also joined to the Father. Jesus is the way, because Jesus and the Father are somehow sides of the same coin. This explains why Jesus responds in the way he does to Philip when Philip wants to see the Father. Philip, Jesus reminds him, does not have to see the Father physically because he has already seen Jesus. To know Jesus therefore, to experience Jesus in to know, to become part of, that relationship that exists at the very heart of the Trinity. John actually develops this train of thought further with his representation of Jesus prayer for others in Ch 17.
So it is a this point with the darkness of chaos looming and the disciples facing the decimation of their movement, their lives to which that had given everything; Jesus turns and says to them something like this. “Look it’s all going to go wrong in the next few hours. But keep on trusting in me even when it looks as thought all hope is gone because what you are about to see as failure is actually the coronation of God as King of this world. It’s the beginning of a new age.”
When, therefore, Jesus goes on to say that he will do anything we ask in his name, it is really important that we don’t forget the context within which this is being said. It doesn’t mean that Jesus will provide the much needed money for a new Church Roof or a failing church; that might happen of course, who knows, but it isn’t what this is about. Rather Jesus is saying that he will grant us life, true life, that is relationship with him, the Father and the Holy Spirit. If we are in the Godhead, and the Godhead is in us then what else really matters.
I’m sure that many people here have experienced dark and challenging times; and chances are that you will again. It is not my place to make the world sound like a Disneyland fantasy. All I will say is to listen to Jesus’ own words in the midst of the imminent destruction of his own life and potentially that of his group. “Keep trusting in God and keep trusting in me.”
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit