Commentary on John 14:1-6
We begin today the long discourse, covering four chapters (14-17) of John, in which Jesus at the Last Supper says farewell and gives his final instructions to his disciples. Although it is, on the face of it, spoken in anticipation of what is going to happen, it clearly reflects some of the fears and anxieties of the post-resurrection community coping without the direct leadership of Jesus and often harassed by both Jews and Gentiles alike.
So it begins by Jesus telling his disciples “not to be troubled”. The immediate reason is the great threat that hangs over Jesus and his warnings to them of what is going to happen to him. The disciples are disturbed by the predictions of betrayal, of Jesus’ leaving them and betrayal by Peter.
But it is also directed to all those who, because of their following of Jesus, fall under threat of persecution or harassment. It is a time for faith, in the sense of a deep trust in Jesus’ desire to take care of us.
In face of this Jesus tells them to have faith in him and in his Father. Faith here means a deep trust that Jesus will take care of them and give them the strength to face any difficulties.
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places [i.e. places in which to stay permanently]… I am indeed going to prepare a place for you… I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be.” Jesus is about to leave his disciples but he will be back soon and taken them to the place which has been specially prepared for them. He will return very soon after his resurrection, although in a very different way, and he will come at the end to take them to himself forever. And, not to worry, there is plenty of room for everyone. In the end, we will be where he is and that is the only goal of our lives that matters.
And then he says, “You know the way that leads to where I go.” They – and we – certainly ought to know the way but we are glad that Thomas, characterised in the Gospel by his blunt speaking, asked his question which drew forth a famous answer.
“Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” To which Jesus replied: “I AM the Way. I AM Truth and Life.” Jesus does not only tell us where to go. He is himself the Way (Greek, hodos, ‘odos).
And Jesus is not a way but the Way. This is not to be understood in a narrow sectarian sense. The way of life that Jesus proposes is not just for a particular group of people; it is a way of life for every single person to follow. The heart of that Way is an unconditional love which sees every other person as a brother or sister and a love which gives itself unceasingly in service.
If we want to know where our lives, where any life, should be going, all we need to do is to identify ourselves totally with the attitudes, the values and the goals of life that Jesus lays down for us.
And, as the Way, he is Truth and Life. Jesus is Truth not just because the things he says are true. His whole life, everything he says and does, all his relationships, have the ring of truth and integrity.
And, of course, he is Life. When we unconditionally decide to walk his Way, we, here and now, begin to live in the fullest manner possible.
Thank you, Thomas, for asking that question. All we need now is to make the answer the centre of our living.