- Acts 7:55-60
- 1 Peter 2:1-10
- John 14:1-14
5 Easter, Year A
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Preparations are underway. There is a making ready that is occurring. Jesus is getting ready for you. He is preparing a place just for you. You count. He has counted you and he is where you are going. And where are you going? To the next Life in this lifetime. You are heading to that which is always and ever True and does not deceive or lie. You are on the way of Jesus to Jesus.
But like Thomas, even with Jesus sitting before us, we do not know the way. We keep thinking that it should be this way or that way when all the while it (He) is right in front of our face.
Jesus has complicated his relationship with the Father in the Fourth Gospel. Or so it may seem. If indeed, you insist on reading the Fourth Gospel through the lens of metaphysics, then it is inevitable that the ontology expressed will be complicated. Anyone who has read in the early church fathers is well aware of this phenomenon. The problem is that metaphysics explores intangibles such as ‘nature’, ‘essence’, ‘persona’, while never really taking into account character or behavior, that is, action, activity, and narrative. This is precisely how the Fourth Gospel discusses the relationship between Jesus and the Father. At stake is not some metaphysical discussion of some magical mystical equality of Jesus with God in super hyper speculation, what is at stake is precisely the character of Jesus, how Jesus acts and how his actions, his relationships, his teachings are justified by God.
The Johannine self-perception of Jesus is that he knows that he is called and empowered and sent by God, but this awareness is also captured in the Synoptic Gospels, particularly in the juxtaposition of the Son of Man and Suffering Servant figures.
This apparent ‘exclusivity’ has bothered many. It would seem Jesus is staking out territory for himself, as though he alone among humans had done something special, unique. He alone does the Father’s will. How is Jesus distinct from other religious figures? Is not his distinction seen precisely in his loving-kindness, his ‘hesed’, his mercy to sinners and strangers, in his healing touch and word? Is it not found in his miracles, this self-giving, this fear assuaging character? And when unjustly accused and executed, does he not forgive? Can it be said that the One whom Jesus worships as Truth and Light is truly forgiving of all sin?
Does this mean God is liberal? Well, yes it does, for “you shall know the truth and the truth shall liberate you.” Liberal means not measuring out forgiveness. It is aware that ‘with the measure you measure you will be measured.’ It is liberating when others do not measure out forgiveness to us, we are truly freed, liberated. And when we act in like kind, we are liberals who in their generosity liberate others. Is this not how we say God is toward us? If, God’s mercy removes sin ‘as far as east is from west’ then shall we retain it any closer? Yes, God is liberal in mercy and grace and this is the heart of the Gospel seen in the character and behavior of Jesus in the Gospels.
For those who, like us, wish to retain some of what the older categories of ‘nature’, ‘essence’, and ‘persona’ suggest, it becomes important to co-ordinate this discussion with God’s actions. Barth achieved this by juxtaposing the discussion of the two natures of Jesus (early church: human/divine) with that of the two states (Reformation: humiliation/exaltation). When this particular juxtaposition occurs then it is possible to speak of the narrative of Jesus’ life, his story contexted in the stories of the people of God, Israel. Story creates ontology (or language is socially constructed). This is the Johannine perspective. The true and living Logos is enfleshed in a person, whose person reflects God’s person.
But there is more. Our relationship to this Jesus exhibits the same qualities as his does with his Abba. It is full of power and answered prayer. Jesus is ‘in the Abba’ and the Abba is in him, he is in us and we are in him. This was called ‘perichoresis’ in the early church and referred to the mutual indwelling of each of the members of the Trinity. The good news is that we humans are caught up in this perichoretic dance with God. We are included even though we have sinned. The trees didn’t sin, nor did the animals, nor rocks, nor wind. Humans did. That in the midst of this life, which is death, we should be given Life in Love and be invited to dance at Messiah’s wedding feast is the greatest miracle of all.
“Lord, (we haven’t figured you out), we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way?”
“Yes you do.”
(Hint: it leads to [the Abba by way of] a cross)
Note: The critical discussion of narrative hermeneutics in the light of mimetic theory is Raymund Schwager, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation.
This is Johannine eschatology at its best. The ‘palin erkomai’ of vs 3 may reflect the notion of a ‘second advent’ but the emphasis is on Jesus’ return by Spirit. All that is spoken of in 12-14 is the eschatological reality/horizon/new creation of the Spirit. It is the stuff of ‘then’ now.
Rather than speaking about Jesus in terms of his uniqueness, which carries with it mimetic overtones (Jesus is better than this or that religious figure), we prefer to speak of Jesus’ distinctiveness. What is distinctive is the way his love of God played itself out in his love of people. What is distinctive is that a truly positive mimesis is revealed; the power of self-giving, the power of self-emptying, the power of love. When we miss this we miss Jesus and when we miss Jesus, we miss….God!