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John 14:23-29

John 14:23-29 For four years I was in multi-vocational ministry. Needing to pay off student loans, I successfully neglected the gospel to wait tables.While working in this field I had a particularly vocal atheist manager. In one of our last conversations he said: “Here’s the issue I have with Jesus. If he was so brilliant and if he were God. why didn’t he appear at a time when we could have all heard him on the television? I mean he could have convinced so many more people that he was the savior if he had come when we had the internet. Or at least write something down? I mean you Christians read four different accounts of his life with contradictory timelines and different facts. Then you have letters written to churches which answer questions Jesus didn’t give guidance on. And the book ends with cryptic language about the rapture and the torture of the earth. I just do not believe fairy tales.“ This manager may have benefitted from hearing this week’s gospel passage. It is an answer to Judas’ question in verse 22, “How is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” This is a type of question that gets asked often in John’s gospel. In Chapter 10 the Jews ask Jesus “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly!” Jesus answer then was ,“You did not believe because you did not belong,” but Jesus’ answer to Judas’ question is not as clear. Indirect answers to questions are incredibly common in John’s Gospel. Earlier Peter asks Jesus, “Where are you going?” Jesus’ response is, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now.” So Peter asks a second question, “Why can I not follow you now?” Jesus’ response is “Will you lay down your life for me?”[1] Neither of these are direct answers to Peter’s question. We should not be surprised that Jesus does not give Judas a straight answer. Instead what we read is essentially a summary of the previous passages.

Jesus takes Judas’ question as opportunity to reiterate to the disciples what it really means to see him.[2] Sight has been a major component of John’s Gospel. In chapter 9 Jesus meets a man blind from birth. Jesus makes mud and puts it on the man’s eyes. Then he tells the man to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man follows Jesus commands and can see. The blind man’s sight is not merely restored to see the world around him, but he rightly sees that Jesus has been sent from God. He even says, “Lord, I believe.”[3] This combination of belief and keeping Jesus commands is an excellent example of what it means to love Jesus. As he says in verse fifteen “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Truly seeing Jesus should result in a command keeping love. In this chapter John has added to what it means to see Jesus. For whoever has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father.[4] Jesus reminds Judas of this by saying, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” It is through the indwelling of the Father and the Son that Jesus’ disciples will be able to see him. And the reason that the world will not be able to see Jesus any longer is because they do not love nor do they keep Jesus’ words. How can those who do not love or keep Jesus word possibly see Jesus? Jesus further goes on to explain how it is that he and the Father will dwell with the disciples. For he tells of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in his name. “The Spirit is the mediator of the presence of Jesus and God to believers.”[5] The Advocate will work as a teacher reminding the disciples what Jesus has said to them. This indwelling should result in peace, but peace unlike any the world knows. Perhaps this week is a good week to teach our congregations about realized (or inaugurated) eschatology. Many in the church will know that Jesus says, “In my father’s house there are many dwelling places,”[6] but few know “this permanent residence can be experienced now as the Father and Jesus take up residence with them.”[7] The hope of heaven and the afterlife sustain many in their faith, but most Christians have poor understanding of eschatology. Many have been taught more about end times by A Thief in the Night and the Left Behind series than their pastors. They expect a rapture followed by a time of tribulation. In fact many hope for the rapture. Few fail to see how rapture theology is often a blend of gnostic and docetic escapism. This is not to say that people who believe in the rapture do not believe in Jesus’ humanity, but that the eschatological implications of their soteriology make the goal escape. In this eschatology God is not going to reconcile all things, instead righteous human beings will get to escape to heaven.

John’s corrective to this is a reminder that we do not have to wait until after death to be united with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the Spirit is present in our lives we have access to the Son and to the Father. This access allows us to experience peace that the world will never understand, and it enables us to love Jesus and keep his word. Love of God must be manifested in love of neighbor. And if we can read this passage intertextually, then the love we have for Jesus must show itself by taking care of “the least of these.” We know that “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”[8] We also know that love of neighbor is a proleptic anticipation of the coming reign of God.

Going back to my atheist manager, I wish that he would have been able see the church at work. I wish that he would have been open to my many invitations. Perhaps if he kept Jesus’ words, loved Jesus by loving the least he might have been able to see Jesus. Maybe he could have crossed over Jordan to Canaan’s fair land, and that would be like heaven to him. [1] John 13:36-38[2] Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966. (647)[3] John 9:38[4] John 14:9[5] Andrew T. Lincoln, “The Gospel According to John, Black’s New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005. 396.[6] John 14:2[7] Lincoln, 396.[8] Matthew 25:40