1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
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?
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.
4 And you know the way to the place 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 know me, you will know 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 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."
Here is John at his most diffcult. Through a glass darkly, indeed!
Several things jump out at me: God has a place for everyone (many dwelling places); but then "No one comes to God except through me," Jesus says. "I am in God and God is in me. Believe me, that I am in God and God is in me, but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves." Shades of John Lennon, indeed, as LC pointed out a few days ago. I don't blame the disciples Thomas and Phillip for their confusion!
But mostly I'm trying to reconcile those two contradictory statements: that there are many dwelling places in God's home on the one hand and that no one comes to God except through Jesus. On further reflection, I'm not sure they really are contradictory, but then I'm not sure I really like what it seems to say.
Jesus may simply mean that there is plenty of room in God's home, God's realm, for everyone who believes in him. Which is reassuring, and an argument against predestination, eh?
But what then, do we do with the second statement? Does it really mean that if a person does not believe in the divinity of Jesus that she or he is denied a place in God's realm? Which, of course, brings up the next question--what is the realm of God?
In a nutshell (a fairly large and knobbly nutshell, but a sort of nutshell) here's what I believe. It's taken me a while (many years) to come to this belief, and in fact it's still evolving. But it goes something like this: God created all things; there is a relationship between the creator and the created, the creature; therefore, the creature has some kind of a relationship with the creator, no matter how the creature sees that relationship and however the creature names it. Because each of us is individual, we each have a unique relationship with our creator, with God. Thus, there are many paths to God. God speaks in many ways and in many places and times. God is beyond human understanding and human definitions and human limitations. God manifests Godself as God wishes, and no human being can say that God would not do, say, or be whatever. Jesus is a form in which many humans can see God; but Jesus, like God, is manifest in many ways. Think of the many different portraits of Jesus: as an Asian man, an African women, a blond Swede, a Mediterranean peasant. Each speaks to a group of people who might not otherwise find a way to God. In the same way, God is manifest to each person in a way that person can understand. They may or may not accept it--there are many atheists in the world. But the opportunity for belief exists.
The realm of God, Jesus said to the disciples, is "within" (or among, depending on your translation) "you," meaning within/among us, also. We can experience that realm here, if we act in Godly ways--love your neighbour as yourself being the basic guideline.
Well, there's a lot of theology there! If you've managed to make it to this point, congratulations, thanks, and my apology for dragging you through my musings!
And if my Systematics professor is out there: Dr. Soulen, isn't this at least a bit of an improvement on my final Credo paper?
Images of Christ:
The Savior of the World, by Noehani Harsono, Indonesia
Christ, El Greco, Greece/Spain
The Nativity, China (artist and date unknown)
Celtic crucifix, c.600s, artist unknown
Two of my favourites couldn't be included, because they are copyrighted. One is Jesus Among the Teachers, by Jesus Mafa, here: http://www.jesusmafa.com/anglais/imag5.htm.
The other is the very famous Jesus of the People, by Janey McKenzie, and you can see it here: http://www.janetmckenzie.com/joppage1.html.
These are all powerful images, and all are tuned to the time and place where they were created, showing a Jesus of that time and place.