Jesus has dropped a bombshell. He is leaving his disciples behind and where he is going they cannot come. The disciples are deeply troubled and Jesus knows it. Peter, almost frantic, questions his Master: Where are you going? Jesus assures him he will come later but Peter insists: Why can’t I follow you now?
The thought of being without the Lord is obviously too much for the Apostles. Jesus is aware of their distress but can comfort them only to the extent that his Father’s plan allows: Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.
The unalterable truth settles into them. Jesus sees their anguish and gently consoles them: Do not let your hearts be troubled.
These few words, because they are from the Master are already enormously comforting. This is the Jesus who calmed the sea, who fed the hungry thousands, who brought life to a dead man. This is the Jesus who faced every difficulty with unshakeable composure and interior recollection. They had faced many dangers and difficulties with him and they knew who it was now saying to them: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me.
What wonderful words! We should let them be spoken to every one of our difficult human experiences:
- When the doctor diagnoses a terminal illness
- When a loved one dies unexpectedly
- When a pregnancy miscarries
- When a precious relationship ends
- When a sinner suddenly sees what his sins deserve
- When the world seems to be crashing around our ears
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me.
The effective power of these words lies in their origin, their source. They come from the mouth of Jesus, the Word of God, who speaks only the words of God. Jesus invites us to shift our focus from the disaster before us to him – and to trust that his word is the greater, the more real.
His leaving is unavoidable but it has a context of hope.
- I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full. (Jn 10:10)
- I am going now to prepare a place for you… (Jn 14:2)
- I shall return to take you with me… (Jn 14:3)
We clearly see that all Jesus does is done for us: he came for us, he is leaving for us, he will return for us – and why? – so that where I am you may be too. This is the whole reason for all that Jesus has done and is doing for us - so that we might be with him. But let’s be clear about one thing, it’s not so much that Jesus has gone to prepare us a place but rather that he is preparing us for a place in heaven. Jesus is not preparing heaven for us but preparing us for heaven.
Thomas does not seem to hear Jesus say that he will return to take them with him. He seems to think he will have to find the way himself and bluntly informs Jesus that he knows neither the destination nor the way.
As Thomas’ unbelief gave us those magnificent words: My Lord and my God, so now his incomprehension elicits from Jesus the awe-inspiring, inexpressibly profound self revelation: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
What man has ever dared make such a claim? From which other man would such a claim be accepted and believed? On the lips of Jesus these unbelievable words are eminently believable – they resonate with all the power of their truth. The Father is the destination; the Son is the Way. No one can come to the Father except through me, says Jesus.
The theological and Christological dimensions of this saying of Jesus are enormous. Whole shelves of books have been written on them. However, I will confine myself to that aspect of his words with which we began, Jesus’ desire to reassure his grieving disciples at the moment when all their hopes appeared to be on the point of being shattered.
I am the Way – not the path you have chosen for yourself. When you see your path blocked, your hopes fade, your desires thwarted, as surely, sooner or later you will, remember then – I am the Way.
I am the Truth – not the material circumstances of your life. All that you see around you, all that happens to you, all that appears to be real in the world is not ultimately real, not the final truth about life. I, and only I, am the Truth.
I am the Life – not your concerns and your busy activities, not your efforts to 'achieve' and your desperate clinging to life here on earth. One day your human life and the life of your loved ones will fail. It will be a moment of great distress. At that time remember and be at peace because, I am the Life.