The Way of Life is Through a Cross!
by Father Jamin Scott David
Trouble is really the context of today’s Gospel. We hear the familiar words in John’s Gospel today that are spoken often at funerals. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” We tend to think that Jesus said these words with confidence. But it was a dark gloomy night for him. He sensed what was up. Just before this Gospel, Judas departs on bad terms and Jesus foretells Peter’s denials. Things are falling apart around Jesus quickly, and he likely spoke these words with tears and a quivering chin. We can almost feel the knots in the apostles’ stomachs.
It’s not all bad news. Yes, he’s going away, but he’s also coming back. He tells them about the dwelling places in his Father’s house and his preparation of them so that they can all be together again. We have an advantage over the Apostles. We know how everything turns out. We spend all of Easter celebrating the Lord’s victory over sin and death and professing our faith in the promise of eternal life extended us in baptism. But the apostles, hearing this message for the first time, they are at a total loss.
Naturally, Thomas speaks up first. Ever practical, he points out to Jesus that they cannot possibly know the way since they don’t know where Jesus is going. Jesus responds, “If you just follow me, you’ll come to the Father.” I can imagine their response – “Follow you where, to death? To Golgotha? How can that bring life?”
More trouble and worry. Philip then says “Simply show us the Father and we’ll be satisfied.” And what’s Jesus’ response – you’ve seen him all along. Really? God the Father? God the father with a piece of chive stuck between his teeth? God the Father conked out in sleepy exhaustion on a boat? God the Father weeping and crying? God the Father cozying up to a Samaritan woman with a past or with prostitutes and tax collectors? God the Father being gracious with sinners and spurning religious folks? God the Father pinned to spits of wood with spikes through his wrists and ankles?
What’s the real trouble of the Gospel? Salvation and God have to be different than that! Where’s the glory? Where’s the dazzling lights? Where are the hellfire and brimstone?
Jesus claiming that when they see him, they see God the Father is probably the most scandalous story of hidden identity we have ever known. This isn’t just Clark Kent really being superman or the frog prince waiting to be kissed. This is God revealing himself in humanity. If you come to think of it, that’s where we get ourselves into trouble. Trouble comes from our bewilderment that the way of life is through a cross or that a humble man was the father all along.
We have enough trouble in our lives – much is instigated by us – but we pray that we can begin to unearth ourselves from all our troubles by following the Savior to the Cross!