FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
April 20, 2008
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (5)
1 Peter 2:2-10
1a. CONTEXT: JOHN 14:1-14
The lessons for the Easter season model and recreate the experience of
discovering the Risen Jesus. We move from finding the empty tomb (Easter
Vigil, and Easter Sunday), to seeing Jesus among us (2 & 3 Easter), to a
basic appreciation of the continuing presence of the Risen Lord (4 & 5
Easter), to the reality that Jesus lives in and through a community that
draws all people to God (6, 7 Easter and Ascension). Far from observing
the resurrection of Our Lord from afar, in the Easter season, we
participate in it. (See also Adrian Nocent, OSB, The Liturgical Year, Vol. 3:
The Easter Season, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1977. Pp. 146-150
and p. 205 ff. )
The Gospel for today is part of this unfolding reality of resurrected life.
Although it may sound disjointed on first hearing some phrases will
undoubtedly catch the attention of both hearer and preacher: verse 6 "I am
the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me."
Many of us can recite this by heart, and we can easily count the times this
phrase appears in tracts and billboards.
A further 'hook' for both hearer and preacher is the fact that part (v. 1-12)
of this lesson is a proper for the funeral liturgies in both BCP and LBW
with the reference (v. 2-3) concerning 'rooms' in the Father's house. For
many this paints a picture of a heavenly home waiting for the deceased.
Though rooted in our tradition in the doctrine of Christian hope, the
popular picture may avert our attention from the presence of Christ now to
a picture that does dirt to both tradition and doctrine.
A third issue for hearer and preacher arises out of vv. 13-14: whatever we
ask in Jesus' name we will get. Sounds easy and, perhaps, magical? The
truth of this pericope lies at the heart of John's high Christology-- with
its equally high calling to all believers. These pictures expose the
preacher to the possibility of distraction from the evangelists intent and
the congregations needs. The struggle between the easy, familiar
interpretations of scripture and a true meeting of Jesus as the Christ is at
the heart of the Gospel of John.
1b. TEXT: JOHN 14:1-14
ESV Bible: http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/
I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life
14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;  believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”  5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me  anything in my name, I will do it.
 14:1 Or You believe in God
 14:2 Or In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so,
I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you
 14:4 Some manuscripts Where I am going you know, and the way you know
 14:7 Or If you know me, you will know my Father also, or If you have known me, you will know my Father also
 14:14 Some manuscripts omit me
1μη ταρασσεσθω υμων η καρδια: πιστευετε εις τον θεον, και εις εμε πιστευετε. 2εν τη οικια του πατρος μου μοναι πολλαι εισιν: ει δε μη, ειπον αν υμιν οτι πορευομαι ετοιμασαι τοπον υμιν; 3και εαν πορευθω και ετοιμασω τοπον υμιν, παλιν ερχομαι και παραλημψομαι υμας προς εμαυτον, ινα οπου ειμι εγω και υμεις ητε. 4και οπου [εγω] υπαγω οιδατε την οδον. 5λεγει αυτω θωμας, κυριε, ουκ οιδαμεν που υπαγεις: πως δυναμεθα την οδον ειδεναι; 6λεγει αυτω [ο] ιησους, εγω ειμι η οδος και η αληθεια και η ζωη: ουδεις ερχεται προς τον πατερα ει μη δι εμου. 7ει εγνωκατε με, και τον πατερα μου γνωσεσθε: και απ αρτι γινωσκετε αυτον και εωρακατε αυτον. 8λεγει αυτω φιλιππος, κυριε, δειξον ημιν τον πατερα, και αρκει ημιν. 9λεγει αυτω ο ιησους, τοσουτω χρονω μεθ υμων ειμι και ουκ εγνωκας με, φιλιππε; ο εωρακως εμε εωρακεν τον πατερα: πως συ λεγεις, δειξον ημιν τον πατερα; 10ου πιστευεις οτι εγω εν τω πατρι και ο πατηρ εν εμοι εστιν; τα ρηματα α εγω λεγω υμιν απ εμαυτου ου λαλω: ο δε πατηρ εν εμοι μενων ποιει τα εργα αυτου. 11πιστευετε μοι οτι εγω εν τω πατρι και ο πατηρ εν εμοι: ει δε μη, δια τα εργα αυτα πιστευετε. 12αμην αμην λεγω υμιν, ο πιστευων εις εμε τα εργα α εγω ποιω κακεινος ποιησει, και μειζονα τουτων ποιησει, οτι εγω προς τον πατερα πορευομαι: 13και ο τι αν αιτησητε εν τω ονοματι μου τουτο ποιησω, ινα δοξασθη ο πατηρ εν τω υιω: 14εαν τι αιτησητε με εν τω ονοματι μου εγω ποιησω.
2. ANALYSIS: JOHN 14:1-14
The passage contains four distinct pieces: 14:1-6; 7-11; 12; 13-14.
John has a tendency to overlap sections, (Anchor Bible, volume 29A, The
Gospel of John, page 623) so 13-14 both ends this pericope and begins the
next, about the Paraclete. I divide the passage into sections for reasons of
structure, as follows:
A "Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me"
B A place will be prepared: Many rooms (v.2), I go and will return (v.3),
You know the way (v. 4).
C Thomas: We don't where you are going, how can we know the way?(5)
D I am the way, the truth and the life.(6)
D' If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.(7)
C' Philip: Show us the Father, then we'll be satisfied.(8)
B' Have I been with you so long…?(9)…the Father dwells in me
does his works.(10)
A' Believe me because I am in the Father and the Father in me
or believe me because of the
Jesus is leaving; what will become of the disciples? At the time of
the final redaction of John, if Brown's or Martyn's reconstruction of the
Johaninne church is at all realistic, the question is more accurately what
is to become of the church in the face of expulsion from the Jewish
community and in the face of the non-return of the Messiah? Expectation
for a return of the Messiah becomes, in light of the high Christology of the
later John, an understanding of the Christ present in the church. John's
assurance to the church is that as Jesus and the Father are one, so also,
through Christ are God and the church one. The sign that Jesus will still
be present even in his 'absence' is belief: "Believe in God…also in me" (1)
and "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me…" (11). So the
first two sections are built very carefully to express this.
John 14:2 - en te oikia tou patro mou monai pollai eisin -- Remiscent of
synoptic images of the banquet or messianic feast, this promises a reunion
between Jesus and his followers. The King James rendering of "mansions"
is wrong. I am not sure what a mansion meant to Tyndale or to James I's
translators, but the image is misleading today. monai is better
understood as abode, dwelling place. Schoenfeld's (The Original New
Testament, New York: Harper and Row, 1985) rendering of this as
'apartments' may be accurate but brings to mind huge blocks of heavenly
Section 8 apartment buildings! The sense is not of a temporary shelter or
way-station, either, but a home. The dwelling place (like banquet images
elsewhere) is an image of intimate life with God and in Christ.
14:6 legei auto he Iesous: Ego eimi he hodos kai he 'aletheia kai 'he zoe
oudeis 'erchetai pros ton patera ei' me di emou. The way (hodos) is
understood in the sense of a road or thoroughfare. The Evangelist is not
mixing metaphors between dwellings and roads, rather he showing us how
Jesus can both come and go to the Father and bring us along with him. The
'way', or road, into the messianic fellowship (be it a dwelling or a banquet)
is through Christ. Perhaps this word was a way of John's orthodox
community identifying itself with the rest of the Christian church? (cf.
Brown, The Community of the Beloved Disciple, New York: Paulist Press,
1979) The early Christians, like the followers of John the Baptist and
those at Qumran, saw themselves as living in 'the Way'. For John, what is
the way? To know the Christ (John 20:30-31).
'The way, the truth and the life' are not in sequence or separate concepts,
but expanding and built on each other. If to 'know' the Christ is to be
transformed, than truly Jesus is the 'way' in the sense of beginning a
journey. The 'truth' brings a changed perspective on ourselves, God and the
world. The 'life' is both eternal life and a changed one as we seek to be
like Jesus in faithfulness and obedience. If one looks at this passage as
perhaps St. Benedict might have, from the stand point of a rule-- a
disciplined map-- of life, we see how both the Evangelist and Jesus were
concerned for transformation of the person for God.
Thomas' and Philip's questions bring us back to our own situation as well
as to the Gospel's setting for the discourse (the Last Supper). They
sandwich the basic question for John: How do we (in more Synoptic
language) "inherit the Kingdom"? How do we know the Father? To be
shown the Father will not "suffice", as Philip and we think. In John's view,
seeing God in Jesus Christ will draw us more deeply into the 'way', which
will change our lives. So the Evangelist answers Philip's question about
'seeing' (and 'knowing') before he asks it, to move us into a discussion of
what that life will be like.
14:11 pisteuete moi hoti 'ego eu to patri kai ho pater eu 'emo. ei de me,
dia ta ' erga auta pisteuete. Brown: "Real belief in the works involves
the ability to understand their role as signs…." The works reveal that
Jesus is in the Father and the Father in Jesus. Rather than a distiction
between knowing Jesus' identity with God and seeing Jesus' works, as
implied in the English, the things Jesus do are a sign-- a sacrament-- of
Jesus' relationship to God. Jesus' oneness with God is both self-evident to
those who have eyes to see, and shown-off by what Jesus does.
But as the next section shows us, the Evangelist clearly thinks that Jesus
is not the only one who shows-off a relationship to God:
A He who believes in me (12a)
B will also do the works that I do (12b)
B' greater works than these will he do (12c)
A' because I go to the Father. (12d)
Verse 12 takes us from belief to power. Through Christ, humanity is
united with God which enables the Christian to share in the power Jesus
has. Jesus going to the Father is linked with our believing in Jesus.
Frequently, in the Synoptic tradition the works of the disciples after the
resurrection are like the miracles of Jesus himself; for John, there is no
list of marvelous works at our disposal. The 'work' ( erga) is to draw
people to God, as Jesus does; to be expressions of God, as Jesus is. In
other words, to show the way is by being on the way.
4. a Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, (13a)
b that the Father may be glorified in the Son (13b)
a' if you (me) ask anything in my name, I will do it. (14)
Because Jesus and God the Father are one, as we become one with Jesus (or
as the Evangelist might say "know that Jesus is the Christ"!) we will
become one with God. The effect of this is that our will and spirit become
conformed to God's. So the effect of this is a two-way street: as we
become conformed to Christ, we ask and recieve what we ask; on the other
hand, Jesus works through us as we grow in Christ. John Climacus is
quoted in Esther deWaal's Seeking God: "God gives prayer to the man who
3. STRATEGY: JOHN 14:1-14
There are, as I have already noted, three possible 'booby-traps' both for the
hearer and the preacher in this gospel-text: the image of
mansions/houses/rooms in heaven; "I am the way"; and "Whatever you
ask…I will do". Fortunately, the most common misconceptions surrounding
these passages do have a base in Christian theology. The image of
mansions in our Father's house does generally point to the fact that God is
bringing all things to completion. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life,
by breaking down the barriers between ourselves and God. And we can
expect have done what we pray, as we live in conformity with the mind of
Christ as we grow in maturity with him among his people. So the preacher
does not have to fight the images we already have, so much as use them as
keys into a deeper understanding of Jesus' and John's message to the
The funeral liturgy could be a way into the passage--even during
Eastertide, perhaps especially just now! The picture of rooms or mansions
can be turned from a romantic reasurrance to an image of power by noting
that the room was prepared for us on the cross, was given to us at our
baptisms and we live in it now just as surely as we will after we have
There are many connections with the second lesson. I Peter 2:1-10
presents several coresponding images to the Gospel: putting away all
malice and nurturing in the life of Christ (I Peter 2:1-3) to knowing Jesus
as the way (John 14:4,6); Peter's spiritual house (oike) and John's mona^
--both being in and living in Christ; John's "works" (14:11b, 12) and the
priesthood described in I Peter 2:4-6-- both declaring the "wonderous
deed of him who called you out of darkness" (I Peter 2:9).
As I have said, I think a key to understanding of John's gospel is
understanding 14:6 both as a Christological affirmation and as way of life
to be put on. "The NT thought of Jesus as truth revealed. His resurrection
became the principle clue through which all other truths were to be
grasped and clarified." (Thomas C. Oden, Pastoral Theology: Essentials of
Ministry, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.) And that discovery leads to
a new pattern of life in intimate relation to God through Christ Jesus.
Archbishop Ramsey said, "The whole Jesus demands the whole man." Jesus
is not only is the way, the truth, the life-- but our way, our truth, our
life. How that unfolds for us is the wonder of real life made holy in Jesus
4. REFERENCES: JOHN 14:1-14
Brown, Raymond E. THE COMMUNITY OF THE BELOVED DISCIPLE. New York:
Paulist Press, 1979.
______________. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN. Anchor Bible, vol.
29A. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970.
Nocent, Adrian,OSB. THE LITURGICAL YEAR. Volume 3: Easter Season.
Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1977.
Oden, Thomas. PASTORAL THEOLOGY. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983.
Schoenfeld, H. THE ORIGINAL NEW TESTAMENT. New York: Harper and Row,
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: JOHN 14:1-14
Thou art the Way (LBW 464, HB 457)
Christ is Made the Sure Foundation (LBW 367, HB 518)
Jesus Shall Reign ( LBW 530, HB 544)
Christ is Alive, Let Christians Sing (LBW 363, HB 182)
All Hail The Power of Jesus' Name (LBW 328/9, HB 450/l)
Exegete: Andrew T. Gerns, AOA (Associate, Order of the Ascension)
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, PA
LEXEGETE © 2008