This Sundays’ Gospel reading is a popular one at funerals and with good reason since in this reading we hear Jesus’ words of comfort to the disciples as he prepares his disciples to say goodbye to him.
It comes after Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and has instructed them that they also should wash other’s feet. “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you”. He has told them that he is going to be betrayed by Judas, and Judas has left into the night. He had told his disciples that he will be with them only a little while longer, and that where he is going, they cannot come. And had just finished foretelling of Peter’s impending denial.
To say the disciples were feeling troubled is likely an understatement and hence Jesus’ words of comfort “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.“.
What did Jesus mean by believe in God and in him? Belief, in this context is not a matter of being able to recite doctrine or creeds. It is not primarily about what we know about God and Jesus but about trusting in God and Jesus. Trust is built by being in relationship with anothers. So this is about being in a relationship of trust.
Jesus is saying trust in God and in me. In other words, hold on to the relationship we had because my leaving does not change what was. For the disciples, remembering what was, is important because Jesus is promising this past for their future. He is promising that they can continue to abiding with him, with God. They can continue to live with Jesus even when the world does not see him, even when he is not living flesh and blood beside them.
Jesus says goodbye with tenderness and truthfulness. He does not provide answers to everything that the disciples will face. He doesn’t explain away what will happen. He doesn’t suggest that any of this will be easy. He doesn’t rationalise what is to come. And, he does
not reprimand Thomas when he asks the question, “How can we know the way?” Jesus understands the question is born out of pain and confusion and gives voice to the unsettledness of the heart. He reassures him that he does know the way because Jesus is the way; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Not only that but “if you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Then Philip pipes up “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” It we were to make this scene into a musical we could then have Jesus break into song and sing the Simply Red song
“If you don’t know me by now
You will never never never know me
All the things that we’ve been through
You should understand me like I understand you…
Just trust in me like I trust in you…
If you don’t know me by now (if you don’t know me)
You will never never never know me (no you won’t)
If you don’t know me by now (you will never never never know me)
You will never never never know me (ooh)”
This is the whole of Jesus’ mission, to make known the Father, to reveal who God is. If we want to know who God is, we need look no further than Jesus. All the words that Jesus has spoken, all the works that he has done, come from God and show us who God is. Jesus has made known to us the heart of God, and he has entrusted this mission of “making known” to us. Where might we see Jesus’ work and presence in our midst? How might we show others the very heart of God?
Rev Tammy Hollands