June 5, 2022
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: John 14:8-17, (25-27), The Message or John 14:8-17, (25-27), The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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Once again we have a small excerpt selected from a much longer, richer, and more complex lesson which is the whole of John, Chapter 14.
These verses are part of an address by Jesus to his followers (then and now) on why they should not let their hearts be troubled (See Verses 1 and 27) even though he is about to leave them.
The Chapter consists of three exchanges in the pattern:
- Jesus explains why they should not let their hearts be troubled;
- One of the disciples, Thomas, then Philip, then Judas (not Iscariot), misunderstands;
- Jesus adds further clarifications.
The text for today follows the question / misunderstanding by Philip who makes the request (Verse 8):
Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.
I would love to have been a fly on the wall and heard Jesus' tone of voice as he responds to Philip:
Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?
Do you think there might be just a tad of exasperation in Jesus' voice?
Hasn't Jesus in fact been with Philip all this time? Yes, Jesus has. And doesn't Philip STILL not know / not SEE who Jesus is? Yes, Philip STILL does not know.
Jesus has been with Philip, but apparently Philip - or Philip's attention - has been somewhere else.
So before quickly skimming on through the rest of this passage, stop and take 20 minutes - or twenty years - and ponder Jesus' question to Philip as one he asks you. Put your own name in the question:
Have I been with you all this time, *** your name ***, and you still do not know me?
But before falling into inescapable despair by facing the truth of how deeply shallow is our knowing of Jesus, take comfort in the fact that Jesus immediately and patiently responds to Philip's great longing.
Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.
is our longing and our confusion.
We would like to see God, and THEN we would be satisfied. (Cue the Rolling Stones, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction.")
But Jesus' response points us to what we already have experienced and know. There is no further, additional, special, secret, "insider," knowledge / wisdom / insight / enlightenment that is needed. It don't get any better than this folks!
And note again, the repetition of the play on the themes "believe in" and "is in." Have I already mentioned that "believe in" needs to be "believe into?" Bonded into. Trusted into. Jesus has bonded into / trusted into the Father; and the Father has bonded into / trusted into Jesus.
So when Jesus says (Verse 11), "Believe me ...," he is not saying, "Have an opinion about me / agree with me ..." Jesus is saying, "Bond into me / trust into me as the Father and I are."
Jesus then makes an astonishing declaration of what the effect of such bonding / trusting will be. (Verses 12-14)
Unfortunately, "whatever you ask in my name," does not mean that tacking on "in Jesus' name we pray," means that we will get whatever we just asked for.
The phrase "in my name" should be translated, "in my honour," so that it would read:
Whatever you ask for that honours me will be granted.
Darn that Jesus.
Just when it sounds like he is offering us a "Get Out of Jail Free" card; a free ticket to all the things we want simply by asking "in his name," it turns out he is asking us to align our needs / requests to be in honour of him / worthy of him. So much for the Mercedes Benz I've been praying for! Janis Joplin and Jesus must surely be crying - or weeping - or both over all of the dishonouring prayers that are offered in Jesus' name.
Verses 15 needs to be understood as John trying to describe the organic unity - the interconnected relatedness - of Jesus and his followers.
To be a follower is to have and keep Jesus' commandments / teachings; to keep Jesus' commandments is to love him; to love Jesus is to also be loved by Jesus; to be loved by Jesus is to also be loved by the one who loves Jesus - his Father; to be loved by Jesus and the Father is to abide in them; to abide in them is to keep Jesus' commandments. (And remember that here "love" means fully devoted compassion.)
There are probably at least 3 ways to misunderstand John.
One is to treat each of the above (following, loving, abiding) as if they were separate and distinct pieces. These things are all of a whole; you cannot selectively choose only one part: "I'll have the love of Jesus please, but hold the keeping the commandments."
Another is to treat these as a linear progression: first you follow, then you love, then you abide. In John, the organic, inter-connected relatedness of our relationship with Jesus means that these things are fully present at all times. It's true that one may be more prominent at any given time, but all are always present and operative.
And the third is to focus on "keeping my commandments" in a blind obedience, totalitarian way. The holistic, organic unity of inter-connected relatedness is total, but it is not totalitarian. Our freely voluntary participation is essential to John's vision.
Verses 16-17, (25-27) So let's re-remind ourselves that all of this passage is in response to Jesus saying, "Do not let your hearts be troubled," and Philip requesting, "Show us the Father and we will be satisfied."
The whole purpose of John has been that we might SEE Jesus, and by bonding into him, come to have within us the life that is in Jesus.
And here Jesus assures his followers that the Father will send a Truthful Spirit to abide with them, to be among them. The world is full of many spirits - many of them lying and deceiving spirits - spirits that entrap us, captivate us, and leads us astray.
But those who are bonded into Jesus will know a Truthful Spirit who will (Verse 26):
Teach you everything; and remind you of all that I have said to you.
We, who like Philip, have been with Jesus all this time, and still do not know him, should receive this promise with great joy and thanksgiving at Jesus' generosity. We will not be left alone. We will not be left to manage with our own frail and faulty memory. We will not be left to figure things out with only our own dull imaginations. Thank you Jesus for knowing us more truly than we can ever know you.
Verses 27 begins the conclusion of the Chapter with final comments by Jesus on "Do not let your hearts be troubled."
Jesus leaves and gives his peace to his followers. Leaves and gives all that they (and we) need for their total well-being: truth, light, love, teachings, his way.
Jesus gives his peace, not in the way the world gives. But in the way the Father gives: whole-heartedly, freely, totally devoted to the good of the other, nothing held back, nothing expected in return, just because that's the kind of person God is: God SO loved the world ...
Note: Historical background information is primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, pages 228-233; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See link below.
John 14:8-17, (25-27) (NRSV)
8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 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'? 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. 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. 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. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
John 14:8-17, (25-27) (The Message)
8 Philip said, "Master, show us the Father; then we'll be content."
9 "You've been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don't understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, 'Where is the Father?' 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren't mere words. I don't just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.
11 "Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can't believe that, believe what you see—these works. 12 The person who trusts me will not only do what I'm doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I've been doing. You can count on it. 13 From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I'll do it. That's how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it.
14 Whatever you request in this way, I'll do.
15 "If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you. 16 I will talk to the Father, and he'll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. 17 This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can't take him in because it doesn't have eyes to see him, doesn't know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!
25 "I'm telling you these things while I'm still living with you. 26 The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. 27 I'm leaving you well and whole. That's my parting gift to you. Peace. I don't leave you the way you're used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don't be upset. Don't be distraught."
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.