Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bible reading: John 14:1-4, 10-12

[Jesus is speaking to the Apostles to comfort them.]

John 14:1-4, 10-12

"Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many mansions. Were it not so, I should have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and I will take you to myself; that where I am, there you also may be. and where I go you know, and the way you know."

"Dost thou not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you I speak not on my own authority. But the Father dwelling in me, it is he who does the works. Do you believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? Otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he also shall do, and greater than these he shall do, because I am going to the Father."

[I selected this reading for today because it contains beautiful words of comfort by Jesus in times of great uncertainty, as face many people today.

Jesus also is very clear about his nature, and it is important that all believers understand exactly what Jesus explains here. Jesus is very direct that he is not working and ministering on his own authority, but on God's authority, only God.

You see this in the first passage where Jesus explicitly explains that Jesus prepares a place for those who believe in him, the many mansions, but it is in God's house.

Jesus also says that when he comes again he will 'take you to myself' and the meaning of that is like an embrace, of a friend who hugs another friend and then guides him on the correct path, that path being to God. When Jesus comes again it will once again be on the authority of God, not on Jesus' own authority.

Jesus explains that because he is not conducting works on his own authority, then obviously God resides within him, just as he is within God. When Jesus says God is "dwelling" in him, to those who grew up understanding God's presence in the sanctuary of the Temple, they realize that this is "spirit" within Jesus, just as God's spirit is in the sanctuary, and obviously not "all of God" pushed inside Jesus, if you know what I mean. God's spirit dwells in Jesus and this gives him the ability to do works (such as miracles) and the Son's authority to speak on behalf of "the Father."

Jesus of course understands that this is difficult for humans, even the very Apostles who have lived with him and seen his works first hand, to comprehend. So he says so, telling them that if they cannot comprehend and believe that God's spirit and authority have an indwelling inside of him, then it is OK to believe Jesus just based on the superficial works. In other words, Jesus says if you cannot believe in the theory of God's indwelling, then just believe based on the miracles and other works that Jesus performs.

Jesus then prophesies and promises that if they believe (either way) then when Jesus has left and they maintain their faith, they will be able to do the same if not more of the miracles that Jesus had performed. Indeed, Acts documents that Apostles did perform miracles as did Jesus and the "greater works" refers to preaching beyond the Jews (the only focus of Jesus) to the expanded preaching to the Gentiles and the establishment of the Church. This is what Jesus meant, not "bigger and better miracles," as I suspect some people misinterpret this particular scripture today. Jesus was promising and prophesying that after he resurrected and ascended to heaven that even though he is not with them, their belief will be rewarded with God allowing them to perform the same miracles and greater works, which is to expand the ministry of Jesus beyond the Jews and to the entire world.

I hope that you have found this commentary helpful.]