We are taught to read literature as though it is newspaper. Time is sequential and reality is flat. It’s one–dimensional, in which the words on the page are an assemblage of letters to communicate information in real time. What you see on the surface is what really is in black and white. This is not the case when we read the Gospel and especially John’s.
David Steindl-Rast writes: “to understand these (John’s) images in the way they were meant we must develop a sense for poetic language. These images speak to our intellect through our poetic sensibilities…Tuning in to this language means both taking them seriously and not taking them literally.” Marcus Borg goes on to say “it invites his hearers to see in a radically different new way. The appeal is to the imagination, to that place within us in which reside our images of reality and our images of life itself.”
So when John begins the first chapter of his Gospel with In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God (verse 1)…And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us, he announces the incarnation of God in his fullest humanity as the Word became flesh in Jesus, and he also signifies that the Word becomes flesh in us. “The Word speaks to us in that place which reside our personal images of reality and our images of life itself.”
So back to John’s Gospel for today (John 14:1-14). Jesus comforts his apostles and says: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me, says Jesus. Trust me. Trust God— you have seen God in me. I am enough. Trust that you will find me in the community as we come to see God in one another.
Andrew Prior writes: “I do not think we can overstate the love and the intimacy of the household of God and our place in it. What we can miss, however, is that it is not a geographical place at a certain time. It is a relationship in eternity into which we can enter; in which we can place our trust. We will not be left alone, or orphaned.”
We know that Jesus was killed for political reasons: he violated the “status quo” of the prevailing Jewish law that caused the Judeans, not all Jews, to want him removed. The Judeans were those who aligned themselves with Rome to maintain “control” of their “religion” and maintain their “status quo.” As such, their religious leaders collaborated with Imperial Rome to have Jesus “removed.”
Throughout his life, Jesus made it clear that he resisted the man-made rules of “organized religion” as it existed. I wonder what he would think about the religions of today. How different are some of its members from the Pharisees who resisted change. History reminds us that Jesus was not the last to be persecuted for bucking the “status quo.” Leave things alone I’m comfortable with the way things are; hey, I read the scripture and preach the Gospel; isn’t that enough? But where is the Love that Jesus was?
Wills tells us that “Jesus opposed any religion that is proud of its virtue, like the boastful Pharisee. Any that is self-righteous, quick to judge and condemn. Any that wallows in gossip that destroys and divides the community in order to serve its own purpose and not God’s.” And how do we relate to hear Jesus’s words in our Gospel: Do not let your hearts be troubled…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.