7:55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he (deacon Stephen) gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
7:57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.
7:58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
7:59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
(Cf. Luke 23:46 & Psalm 31:5)
7:60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (popularly oft repeated psalm; Palm/Passion Sunday (vs.9-16), Holy Saturday (vs 1-4, 15-16) & again today!!!)
31:1 In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.
31:2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.
31:3 You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
31:4 take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
31:5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
(Cf. as above Acts 7:59 & Luke 23:46)
31:15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
31:16 Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
1 Peter 2:2-10
2:2 Like newborn infants, quasi modo (from classical Latin quasi, meaning as if, and modō, in manner), in the phrase quasi modo geniti infantes, as if newborn babes
long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation-
2:3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
2:4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and
2:5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
2:6 For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
2:7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,”
2:8 and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
2:10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
14:2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
14:4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
14:7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
14:10 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; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Today’s gospel reading continues the series of much beloved “I AM” sayings from St. John’s gospel that we have been hearing for several Sundays now. Last Sunday we heard “I AM the door (or gate) (of the sheep enclosure)” (10:7&9). Earlier, on the 5th Sunday in Lent, Jesus proclaimed “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” (11:25). The Sunday before that we heard him say, “As long as I am in the world, I AM the light of the world.” (9:5). And the Sunday preceding that, in conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus said “I , the one who is speaking to you, AM that coming Messiah/Christ)” (4:25-26). And next Sunday again, in the reading that continues today’s we will hear him say, ” I am coming to you.” & (perhaps most importantly!) ” I am in my Father” (14:18 & 20).
|Twenty-three times in all we find our Lord’s meaningful “I AM” (ego eimi ) in the Greek text of this Gospel (4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 13:19; 14:16; 15:1, 5; 18:5, 6, 8). In several of these He joins His “I AM” with seven tremendous metaphors which are expressive of his saving relationship toward the world.|
|“I AM the Bread of life” (6:35, 41, 48, 51).“I AM the Light of the world” (8:12).“I AM the Door of the sheepfold” (10:7, 9).“I AM the Good Shepherd” (10:11, 14).“I AM the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25).“I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life” (14:6).“I AM the true Vine” (15:1, 5).|
The Lord commences today’s reading saying “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” These words are remarkably good news! They are good news to us in these disturbing times. Take the time to say them to yourself, repeat them to you own heart. But these are not cheap, easy slogans. They come immediately after the preceding, chapter 13, in which the Lord “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world” & “after he had washed the disciples feet”, then commanded them to love with that defining mark of his particular discipleship, -as he had loved them, & predicted his betrayal & denial by them (13:1,12,34-35, 21-30 & 36-38). Only then is it appropriate for him to say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have confidence in God, also have confidence in me.” The Jesus who invites us to be untroubled & to trust in him & his Father-God is the Jesus knowingly, determinedly embarking upon betrayal, suffering & death.
Then he reminds them/us (again) of the breadth of God’s welcoming gracious embrace. It is not narrow or stinting. It is the exact contrary! The Greek word John/Jesus uses to describe this isπολύς (polys) great in magnitude or quantity, much, large, Mt. 13:5; Jn. 3:23; 15:8; pl. many, Mt. 3:7; in time, long, Mt. 25:19; Mk. 6:35; Jn. 5:6; οἱ πολλοί, the many, the masses, Rom. 5:15; 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:33; τὸ πολύ, much, 2 Cor. 8:15; πολύ, as an adv., much, greatly, Mk. 12:27; Lk. 7:47; of time, ἐπὶ πολύ, a long time, Acts 28:6; μετ’ οὐ πολὺ, not long after, Acts 27:14; followed by a compar., much, 2 Cor. 8:22; πολλῷ, much, by much, Mt. 6:30; Mk. 10:48; τὰ πολλά, as an adv., most frequently, generally, Rom. 15:22; πολλά, as an adv., much, greatly, vehemently, Mk. 1:45; 3:12; of time, many times, frequently, often, Mt. 9:14
And that the departure, exodus, of his passion is his necessary advance-guard preparation for this Divine extravagance. (“So don’t worry!”)
Only then, comes the well known saying, “I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” (14:6).
When God, Jesus’ “Abba” is so extravagantly lavish why is it then, that we have so ungenerously, narrowly understood, “I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” We have preferred to hear our Lord’s identification in a binary, polarizing, dualistic way, rather than as the witness of christian mystics have recommended unitively. We hear “I am the way” as excluding & disallowing any other. “I am the Truth” as grounds for inquisition & pogroms, to persecute & as denying any other truth than (not God’s) but ours. And “I am the Life” as exclusionary & limiting, when life is actually diverse & fecund. We are entrenched in the impoverished rut of “either/or” rather than the plenitude of “both/and”.
We do so because as the text itself suggests (14:1) we are afraid! We have allowed fear to rule us. The Greek word the Johannine Jesus uses is,ταράσσω (tarassō)to agitate, trouble, disturbed, as water, Jn. 5:7; met. to agitate, trouble the mind; with fear, to terrify, put in consternation, Mt. 2:3; 14:26; with grief, etc., affect with grief, anxiety, etc., Jn. 12:27; 13:21; with doubt, etc., to unsettle, perplex, Acts 15:24; Gal. 1:7
It is our fear that makes us raise up protective walls that exclude, that perpetuate that ours is the only way. God is (excuse the gender bound metaphor) a “big boy” & does not need our protecting. On the contrary it is God who is our dependable/stable protecting refuge (repeated no less than 7 times in today’s psalm against our hard-hearted resistance (Acts 7:51 & 57) to believe it!!!! Psalm 31:1-4). To further develop last Sunday’s metaphor, He is the Shepherd (in other words, Protector) & it is we who are the (vulnerable) sheep in need of warding (Psalm 23).
“Do not be afraid/troubled, have faith in God (& also in me)” (14:1)!
Now I am going to get a bit technical here. Please bear with me. I am not a koine greek scholar. But if my now long ago university greek still serves me at all, I understand the greek wordὁ (ho)the prepositive article,
is best translated as “this” or “that” rather than definitive “the”. This would mean the Johannine Jesus ought not be translated as saying, “I am the (definitive) way” Nor is, “I am a(n) (indefinitive) way” the best translation. Because translation is often difficult when dealing with prepositives, the translation is somewhere in between; “I am this/that way”. So we might well ask the question what “this” or “that” is Jesus referring to then? Good question! This inquiry leads us back to the text again & to that revealing preceding chapter 13, where this conversation about “this/that” way first began; where Jesus, after just having given them the new mandate, warns his friends “Where I am going, you cannot come” (13:33). To which Peter in curiosity responds ‘Lord, where are you going?’ To which Jesus responds, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards. Then Peter say to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now?’ (13:36-37). Then follows Jesus sad prediction of Peter’s denial/betrayal (13:38). Then with only that intervening verse today’s reading immediately follows… So, “this” way that Jesus exemplifies, identifies with Himself, is the way of the cross; “that” way of his betrayal, abandonment, passion, crucifixion & death. “This/that” makes sense of the following, “I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. And as I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.‘Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Which sets up Jesus’ I AM saying, ‘I am this/that way’. Jesus is definitively identifying Himself with “this” way of suffering.
Significantly, “The Way” was the original designation for this newbie fledgling Jewish sect, the disciples of the Nazarene (Acts 9:2). “But you will follow me afterwards!” (13:36). We were “followers of the Way” even before we were identified as “christians” (11:26).
It is, as St. Catherine of Siena whom the Church commemorated only recently (29 April) observed, “All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, “I am the way.”
Both these are saying the same thing as the text; we are pilgrims; we are on journey.
Christianity is a progress, a movement. From the exploded tomb to the very ends of creation.
Hence to suggest Jesus is exclusionary is contrary to the witness of the text. And, moreover, does violence to its wider generous (polys) context.
“Do not be afraid/troubled, have faith in God (& also in me)” (14:1)!
Further, when Jesus then says, “I AM this truth” The word he uses is ἀλήθεια, aletheia, a noun which literally means “the state of not being hidden”, “truth” and “reality” as opposed to appearances. The opposite of a lie. Interestingly, with only one exception, this word is found in Jesus’ mouth only in John. From the outset John has told us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we gazed on his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14): & “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (1:17-18); & in the final chapters, in the passion narrative ” Jesus answers Pilate, “You say that I am a king! The reason for which I was born and have come into the world, is that I should bear witness to the truth” (18:37). In other words the cross-bound Jesus is the truth about the unseen God. Indeed this makes sense of & enables us to understand Jesus’ sayings to Thomas & Philip in today’s text, “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”(14:7) & “Have I been with you all this time, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 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; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (14:9-11). Jesus is this truth about God.
‘Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me, sees the one who sent me. (12:44)
“Do not let your hearts be disturbed/troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
The word Jesus uses to identify himself as life is familiar to us, indeed we use it as a (usually girl’s) name ζωή, zoe; also as in Zoo & zoology ; this indicates the cosmological scope of the Beloved’s mission, it means “life”, “existence,” and, incidentally, “the scum on milk” (Cf. today’s epistle 1 Peter 2:2-3). It is a favourite Johannine word; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” (1:1-4); & the familiar & much beloved “the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life“(3:15-16); & “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself;” (5:26); & “‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…The one who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (6:35,48,54); & “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12); & from last sunday, “The thief only comes to steal and slaughter and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Psalm 23:5d)” (10:10); & famously, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even though s/he die, yet will s/he live“(11:25); & in conclusion, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (20:30-31).”To mention but only a few of the (polys) many. Need i add or say anything more?
This life Jesus self identifies with is profuse & abundant. Entirely contrary to anything narrow or constrained.
Therefore, “Do not be afraid/troubled, have faith in God (& also in me)” (14:1)!
And it does not even end there, “Very truly, I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater (mega) works than these, because I am going to the Father” (14:12); The Lord commission us his confused bewildered disciples to perpetuate this his abundant, superfluous, overflowing, (polys) excessive, mega ministry on his behalf, in his stead during his temporary absence.
Now being disproportionately so much occupied with understanding today’s dominating “I AM” declarations it would be easy to overlook that there are two more “I am” statements in today’s reading, ” Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 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; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I AM in the Father and the Father is in me;” (14:10,11, & 20). These are so important as to give meaning to the earlier. It is precisely because “The Father and I are one” (10:30) that Jesus is this way, this exposing truth about God, this mega life. And now hence, we might grasp, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6b) It is because Jesus is united, in union with his Abba, that “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus & his Abba are so deeply, inseparably integrated, indistinguishably interconnected, it is like those entwined norse & celtic knots.
“Do not be afraid/troubled, have faith in God (& also in me)” (14:1)!
And now we can finally understand, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (14:13-14). It is not that God is some sky-clad vending machine dispensing our every frivolous whim. What then shall we ask? What has Jesus our exemplar Lord asked? It is rather, as John indicates “After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you…that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…I am asking on behalf of those who have believed that you sent me; I am asking on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine…Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one…I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil…‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me…Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ (17:1,3,9-10,11,15,20-21,22-23,24,26). What does Jesus ask of his Abba? That the Father might be glorified (this is code in John’s gospel for the scandalously (1 Peter 2:4,6-8) cross-bound, cross-uplifted Lord Cf. 3:14;8:28;12:32). That Abba might thereby be fully known. That we followers of this his radical way, might be protected from every evil (Cf. today’s psalm again!). That we might be deeply united, have union, with each other, him & his Abba. That we might all be together. Deeply intertwined & interwoven, unitively. And that the whole cosmos might know Divine love. These are the outrageous things we dare boldly ask in “I Am’s” name.
“Do not be disturbed/troubled, have faith in God (& also in me)” (14:1)!
“On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (14:20).
In this time when the few, the 1%, the oligarchy, would seek a monopoly, to capitalize upon this moment in history for their own sole benefit & advantage, as we witness them grasping, seizing every opportunity for only self preservation, self protection, it is imperative that we followers of this unitive way consistently bear witness that we trust in the gracious mega abundant God our Lord Jesus truly makes known & we are convinced, the way forward is that we with all life, are all united in this together & committed to all sharing in the bounty of Divine love.
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb, who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing!
In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
the Reverend Brian Heinrich