Lesson Focus: We know who God is because we have seen Jesus. Jesus has shown us the way to go forward in life and faith.
Catching up on the story: Jesus is stuck in perpetual conflict with the Jewish religious leadership over his identity. Jesus, over and over again, proclaims that he and the Father are one. To know Jesus is to know who the Father is. Jesus is also constantly doing things, saying things so that those who are around him will believe. The call to believe that Jesus is one with the Father is rather strong in this section.
Jesus, in our passage, has just returned to Jerusalem to begin preparations for the Passover celebration. He has made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and he has washed the disciples’ feet as an example of the new commandment that Jesus has given them to love and serve one another. Jesus has also been preparing his disciples for his departure but promises that they will someday join him. Peter wants to join him now, but Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of him.
The Text: Jesus has just begun his farewell discourse. Jesus and his disciples have entered Jerusalem to much fanfare. They have gathered together for a meal in which Jesus practices his love and service for his followers by washing their feet. Jesus then gives his disciples a new commandment to love one another as he has loved and served them. He then declares, once again, that he is going away and that where he is going they cannot follow.
This is disturbing for the disciples. Peter, who is very zealous, wants to reassure Jesus that wherever Jesus will go so will Peter. Jesus responds by predicting that Peter will not only not follow (immediately anyway), but in the face of opposition, he will deny Jesus three times. All of this causes the disciples to fear and wonder about the future. The disciples have every reason to be afraid. This man has rocked their world. They have followed him everywhere, witnessed all his great teachings and works and have changed their lives because of him. They cannot go back to who they were before. Now Jesus wants to reassure his followers that things will all end up well for them and this new way. The very first words of the passage are words of comfort and assurance: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1) Jesus urges the disciples to not be troubled but to trust in God and also in himself.
The NRSV translates πιστεύετε as “believe” while the NIV translates the same word as “trust.” Trust is probably a better translation because it carries a less dogmatic sense. In our time belief is often merely a cognitive assent to a proposition. Trust, on the other hand, alludes to a more intimate connection between the one doing the trusting and the one being trusted in. Jesus is urging the disciples to trust him that even in the midst of all the uncertainty of the day, God is working things for His good and glory. The disciples are called to trust in God and in Jesus. John has stressed the oneness of Jesus and the Father throughout his Gospel. Once again we are told to trust in Jesus because God and Jesus are one.
Jesus then explains where he is going and what he will do there. He is going to be with the Father to prepare a place for those who believe. Where God is there is more than enough room for all of creation to dwell. “Jesus’ departure should not be a cause for sorrow, but for comfort and trust (v. 1). He is going away to prepare for them the universal and permanent possibility of an abiding communion with the Father (v. 2).” If Jesus is going to prepare a place for the disciples he will not leave them for good. Rather, he will come again to gather his children to himself so that they can dwell in permanent abiding communion with the Father.
At the same time, however, Jesus says that he will come and bring his followers on the way; he also states that they themselves already know the way. Thomas speaks up in confusion, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus responds with an “I am” saying. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
The Jesus of John answers with this saying that is itself a little hard to understand. It is a declaration of who Jesus is as well as what Jesus does. The disciples know the way that Jesus is going because Jesus himself is the way. They will know what the truth is because Jesus is the truth. And they will know what life is because Jesus is the life. All the disciples need to do to know the way is to abide in or belong to Jesus (see chapter 15). Acting and being like Christ follows from being in him. Jesus says to the disciples that they will know the way to the Father because they have seen Jesus, and Jesus and the Father are one.
Phillip and the disciples are still a little confused. “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” (John 14:8). Jesus, with a little frustration, restates what he has been saying all along. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus wants to know how they have been with him all this time and have seen him do all these things but yet say they have not seen the Father. Jesus then questions them. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and he is in me?” He then encourages them to trust that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. The disciples are then encouraged to at least believe the works that Jesus has done if his words were not enough.
The passage then shifts a little bit. Jesus states that the ones who trust and believe that Jesus and the Father are one will do the works that Jesus has done. Not only that but they will do greater works than what Jesus has done. Some commentators state that this “greater works” refers to the volume and depth of the work that believers will do in conjunction with the church. In fact, for those who trust in Jesus, Jesus will do whatever they ask for in his name.
So What? Everyone needs a guide of some kind. The path for our life is seldom easy or easily known. There are lots of twists, bends, and unexpected companions. We don’t always have the black and white answers to life’s persistent questions. Often, when we do find a guide to lead us down life’s road they only do a partial job. Sometimes they drive too fast; sometimes they themselves don’t know the way. If you have ever followed someone in a car you know how frustrating this can be.
Jesus comes to us, now, as he had to the disciples, and proclaims to us that all we need to do to stay on the path is to follow Jesus. If we want to get to our final destination, that is, a full and restored relationship with God, then we need to look no further then Jesus. Jesus shows us the way to the Father because Jesus and the Father are one. In fact, if we seek the Father through the Son with the power of the Holy Spirit we will get to engage in the work that the Father has sent the Son to do. We need only ask to know the Son and the Son will reveal himself to us so that we might be able to follow him.
Ways to Follow Jesus…
Admit to yourself that you do not have all the answers to life’s questions.
Pray and confess to God, each day this week, about your ignorance about life and your inability to know how to live apart from the guidance of Jesus. Pray something like this, “Lord Jesus Christ, you are God and I am not. Show me the way.”
As you begin to read your bible this week, pray that Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, might illuminate your reading.
As you observe the world around you constantly ask yourself this question, “How is God at work in this situation?” May your faith be strengthened by witnessing your God at work in new ways.
Specific Discussion Questions: Read the text aloud. Then, read the text to yourself quietly. Read it slowly, as if you were very unfamiliar with the story.
In verse 2 Jesus speaks about his “Father’s House.” To what do you think he is referring?
Why do you think the disciples were confused by what Jesus was saying to them?
Read Exodus 33:12-23. Then read John 14:7 again. How did Moses get to see God? How do the disciples see God?
In this passage, Jesus talks a lot about the disciples’ need to believe in Jesus. If they do so, they will do greater things than Jesus has done. What does it mean to “believe in Jesus?” What are the “works” that Jesus does that we will do if we believe? What are the works that Jesus does that we will not do?
In verse 13 Jesus says, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Does Jesus really mean that he will do “whatever” we ask? What kind of connection is there between the “whatever” we ask for and the second part of the verse, “so that the Father may be glorified in the Son?”
Going on… 1. What does God look like in this text? God looks like Jesus. Or, rather, Jesus looks like God. If you want to know who God is, you must study and trust Jesus.
2. What does holiness look like in this text? Holiness looks like being like Jesus. The disciples are told they already know the way because they know who Jesus is. Now they must be like Jesus.
3. How does an encounter with this story shape who we are and who we will become? What is the path that we are following? Are you trying to get somewhere (heaven, a good life, a relationship with God) by following another path than Jesus?
WORK CITED: Francis J Moloney and Daniel J Harrington, The Gospel of John (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2005).