12 May Jesus’ Way
“I don’t get it.”
Remember back when you were in a classroom at school? Who knew when I’d say this, I’d even be inviting our children to remember back when they were sitting in a classroom at school?! Wow – such times we are in!
Anyway, no matter what your age, can remember back to when you were in a school classroom? Sometimes there would be a lesson that the teacher was more than half way into teaching. Everyone in the room tried to pay attention, but as the lesson kept going, it became clear no one in the class was ‘getting’ whatever it was the teacher was trying to teach. Everyone was confused, but no one said anything because they were too embarrassed to say they didn’t get it.
Until that one kid – thank heavens for that one kid – who would raise their hand, finally speaking up to say “Teacher, I totally don’t get this at all.” Then like popcorn, all the rest of us around the room would say aloud, “yeah, I don’t get it either.”
That’s part of what happens in today’s gospel. We’re all sitting in the upper room with Jesus on the night before he is to be arrested and killed. Jesus is trying to teach his last lessons. His best students, the ones who have followed him and his teachings for three years, are sitting with him. They, alongside the rest of us, are nodding like we know what Jesus is talking about.
Then, thank heavens, Thomas and Philip speak up! They are honest enough to admit – “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” And “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied”.
These two speak for the whole group. They’re in a bit of a panic, grasping that Jesus soon won’t be with them anymore. So, even though they’ve had three years of lessons, observations and internships, they once again beg for Jesus to be clearer about who he is.
Jesus responds by saying something like – “You guys have been hanging out with me all of this time, and you still don’t understand?” Jesus words to his disciples are also words to us.
No matter if you have been a life-long Christian, worshiping regularly, attending Bible studies on and off for decades, reading Christians books or blogs – it’s like you can never know enough about Jesus, right? We’re all hungry to try understand his teachings and his life more deeply. We all have tons of questions about who he is and what he has done. But faith doesn’t come to any of us as a onetime all-knowing revelation.
I hope that news doesn’t discourage any of you who are newer to the Christian faith. I hope that’s actually an encouraging fact. You see, all of us in this church have known Jesus for various lengths of time and we still don’t fully understand him. We’re all on a lifetime quest together to learn more about Jesus our Lord.
But here’s the greater news. A life of faith isn’t just one big knowledge quest. Oh, that’s an important part of faith life. But it’s not all of it. Jesus doesn’t’ call his disciples and say come and know me, he says come and follow me.
With that in mind, listen to this remarkable teaching from Jesus that jumps out in today’s gospel. Jesus says to his disciples, including us, “I assure you that whoever believes in me – will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father can be glorified in the Son. When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it” (vv. 12-14).
Woah! Is Jesus serious? To these disciples and to us, who feel inadequate in our knowledge of Jesus, Jesus says, “You will do the same works that I do. In fact, you’ll do even greater works than I.” Then he promises us that whatever we ask of the Father, in his name (that is, in the spirit of Jesus), the Father will give us. Jesus promises, that because he is so closely related to the Father, and because we are so closely related to him, we will do even greater works in this world than Jesus himself has performed.
Today Jesus calls himself the Way. He assures us that his Way is one that gives eternal life. And while we may never completely grasp what that means, Jesus is sure that he can work through us. What Jesus is telling us is that he has found his way into our lives. By his connecting to us, in ways even beyond our knowledge, Jesus’ life lives on in us.
Think about that today.
Pastor William Willimon, whose preaching I admire, puts it this way: “Whatever Jesus wants to do in the world tomorrow, he chooses to do it through you. He doesn’t wait for you to get your head straight about him. He has his head straight about you. Even though we can’t always to be faithful to him, he makes promises to us.” (“Even Though You Didn’t Know”, William Willimon, May 10,2020, p. 6, Pulpit Resource)
Now, back to my words. Jesus not only knows you and me better than we know him, he is in you and me, through the Holy Spirit. By his empowering presence, we are honored to be so intertwined with Christ, that his work in this world will and does continue through us!
Oh, we aren’t going to do the same miracles as Jesus performed in his lifetime. Jesus could solve things right away with some of his miracles. Instead, our commission, our calling, is to live into the understanding Jesus Christ lives on in us. As we keep pressing on along Christ’s way, we show His way to the world. That’s not necessarily going to happen in spectacular ways. Yet wherever there is healing, reconciling, life-giving work happening, this is the work of the Way that is Jesus.
Many Examples of the Way
For the last few weeks, I’ve been making phone calls to the eldest members of our church. I’ve been speaking on the phone with people between the ages of 87 and 100, checking in on how they are doing in these times.
Most all of these dear church elders are doing just fine, thank heavens. And as you can imagine, I’ve received more inspiration than I’ve given in speaking with them. What a knowledgeable, faithful collection of people!
On several of my recent calls, I’ve talked with women who are widows, who happen to belong to a church small group, a women’s circle, that has met in person monthly for decades and decades of their lives. Of course they aren’t meeting in person right now and they aren’t exactly Zoom meeting savvy. But several mentioned they’ve been phoning one another during these weeks. As one of them put it, “I love getting those calls from my women’s group. We’ve been faith friends for so long, we know everything about each other.” That kind of loving, care and openness, is one example of the Way of Jesus. How does that Way show though you?
Consider this other example in the photos and message I received on my cell phone Thursday evening. Kathie and Dave from our church have been friends with a church elder named Evelyn for ages. Evelyn is now in a nursing home. But over decades, she’s watched and loved up Kathie and Dave’s children every Sunday at our early worship service at Madison for their whole lives. Now those children are grown and have children of their own. As they all still live in Madison, Evelyn has gotten to know the grandchildren at church.
Low and behold, a new grandson just arrived into Kathie and Dave’s family. Evelyn has been longing to meet him. Kathie and Dave had quarantined with their kids and grandkids before the baby was born, so they could be there to help when this new infant arrived.
So on Thursday, the entire extended family made posters and went over to have a grand window visit at the nursing home with Evelyn so she could see, in person, that new grandson. What joy for Kathie and Dave and all their family. What joy for Evelyn. Evelyn was so excited that she kept standing up from her wheelchair and setting off her fall prevention alarm! Oh, the giggles and joy!!! Oh, how great is the Way of faith and life that we share when we’re following Jesus!
What greater work will Christ do through you this week?
Will Jesus Christ’s greater work be in you by the way you listen to someone who is hurting? Will Jesus Christ’s Way be shown by how you love your children who continue to stay at home with you today and tomorrow and the day after? Will Christ be revealed by the principles you practice as you work remotely or serve others in person this week? What great love of God will come through you by your acts of charity and generosity? How will Christ’s power break through in the prayers you offer for the healing of those you love or for strangers or for our national leaders or for our world?
Our lives are part of Christ’s life. Our actions reveal glimpses of God to people for whom we might be their only encounter this week with eternal life, love and redemption.
Jesus gives us a promise today that won’t ever fail us. He says to us, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Just as God’s presence is in Jesus, so now Jesus’ presence is in us. That promise and presence holds us. That promise and presence lives through us. That promise and presence guides our ways, that we might do greater things as a continuation of our Lord’s work in this life.
Thanks be to God!