I. Establish the text
C. Other texts for Year A for 5th Sunday in Easter
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
1. Why are we not to be troubled? In preceding passage, Jesus has just announced “Where I am going you cannot come/follow me.”
2. A place to go home to!
3. Jesus went to heaven ahead of us so that we may follow.
4. We know the way with our hearts not with our feet. The way is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
5. Thomas is looking for the material rather than the spiritual. Similarly to Luke 24, where Thomas wanted to touch Jesus.
6. Jesus is the gatekeeper. However the text does not say that Jesus only lets believers in according to our criteria for belief in Christ, but rather based on God’s criteria.
7. In seeing and coming to know Jesus we have seen and have come to know the Father. But seeing the Father won’t we die (c.f. Moses on Sinai). Yes we do die. We are dead to sin and alive to all that is good.
8. Philip requires physical proof.
9. Repetition of seeing Jesus = seeing God.
10. Third repetition. This time Father is indwelling of Christ.
11. Believing because of what Jesus has done in their presence is better than not believing.
12. Great works are the fruits of belief.
13. Christological statement!
14. Hence, prayers end: … this we ask in Jesus’ name. Has that phrase become to lightly used?
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- This is part of the Last Supper discourse which begins with chapter 13 and continues at through all of 14 and perhaps also 15, 16, and 17. This passage is at least a good sample of the issues at hand if not the kernel.
- Follows foot washing, breaking of the bread, and exit of Judas. Jesus has just announced to the eleven that he is leaving and that they may not follow, at least initially.
- Followed by announcement of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 14 ends with: “Rise, and let us be on our way.” But Chapters 15 and 16 contain similar last minute instructions, and Chapter 17 contains Jesus’ blessing for the eleven, and finally Chapter 18 begins “After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples …”
F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?
7. The tense of ginwskw (to know) appears in the first instance may be either perfect, or pluperfect. More variants favor the pluperfect (had known), however the older variants favor the perfect (have known). Many of the variants using the pluperfect for the first instance also use it in the second instance instead of the future tense (will know). The difference between the perfect and pluperfect might be difficult to hear if the scribe were taking dictation.
ginwskw also used for ‘to discern’. Thus if the sentence is considered in response to Thomas, then it might be interpreted: Thomas, if you had recognized who I am, then you would have also known the Father. However if Jesus is speaking to all disciples (the 12 and us), then the perfect and future tenses are appropriate.
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
- This is the last Gospel written. Attributed to John, one of the 12. More probably written based on stories collected by the community where John lived. Hence the apparent concluding remark in chapter 14. This community lived after the death of many of the disciples and were very concerned about the promise of the after life and the concern about how they would know Jesus having not seen him personally.
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
- This foreshadows the doubt of Thomas in John 20.
C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
V. 1. pisteuete present active imperative 2nd person plural. Both instances are commands. Often translated as ‘to believe’, but ‘to trust’ and ‘to commit to the power of’ are other usages.
V. 2 oijkiva vs monai The father’s house is a permanent structure, but the rooms/inns are temporary resting/waiting places.
V. 6. Egw Eimi = I Myself Am. Redundant form in Greek. Reminiscent of Name of God given to Moses in the LXX of Exodus.
h odos the way/course/direction.
h zwh the life. Synonyms: bios yuch *Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible*: zwh and bios should be differentiated as health/existence and conduct of life. zwh Almost always preceded by eternal/everlasting/immortal or used with similar contexts. Usage yuch suggests breath and pulse or bodily function.
How does LXX translate nephesh?
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
- This is a didactic conversation. The disciples ask questions and Jesus responds.
- There are at five explanations of Jesus being related to the Father: 1 – know me = know Father. 2 – see me = see Father. 3 – I am in the Father and the Father is in me. 4 – My words are the Father’s words. 5 – glorifying the son = glorifying the Father.
III. Question the text.
A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.
In the preceding verses, Peter is told he cannot go where Jesus is going yet. Now Thomas and Philip question Jesus about where he is going. They seem perplexed about Jesus going to heaven. Are they looking for a Messianic conqueror? Are they having difficult time perceiving Jesus, whom they have lived with, eaten with, slept with, and traveled with, as part of God?
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: John is trying to explain the difficult concept of how that Jesus and the Father are one and yet that Jesus can go to the Father. There is a clear conflict between Thomas and Philip who knew Jesus as a real person and their perception of Jesus as part of God. The PC(USA) Brief Statement of Faith says: “Fully God, fully human.” The Westminster Confession of Faith VIII.2: “Which person is very God and very [human], yet one Christ …”
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Gail O’Day (NIB) notes a shift in verse 4 that Thomas misses. Jesus says “you know the way.” This is finally clarified in verse 7 with “I am the way.” Thomas is thinking geographically, Jesus means relationally.
Fred Craddock (Knox Preaching Guides: John) suggests that the preacher expand on v. 12 by listing some of the works that Jesus has done according to the Fourth Gospel and how the Church has/might expand on those works.
Gerard Sloyan (Interpretation: John) notes that the common theme of chapters 14-17 is the indwelling of Christ in believers. He notes that the opening advice which might be platitudinous (“Don’t worry, be happy!”), instead is a real consolation in that Jesus adds the assurance of eternal life where there are many rooms.
These three commentaries are consistent in interpreting vv. 6 & 7 as a statement like that of Joshua “For me and my house, my faith is in the LORD,” rather than a polemic against other religions.
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?