3 “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.
12 I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!
15 If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.
I preached about this chapter just a few weeks ago. If you’re interested, click here to listen. This passage is driven by these two interrupting questions that John uses to highlight things going in the churches of his day.
Thomas’ question: show us the way – what are the religious practices we need to be engaged in? This is the question the Ebionites were asking – which of the practices of Judaism should we maintain? What is the secret handshake? Thomas is asking because he felt like Jesus had not addressed this important issue.
Philip’s question: show us the Father – what secret knowledge about God do we need to know? This is the question the Gnostics were asking – what is the hidden knowledge that is the true essence of the Gospel? What is the secret password? Philip is asking this because he felt like Jesus had not revealed to them the hidden knowledge he had about God.
Jesus responds to both questions by essentially saying, no there isn’t anything else, there aren’t any secrets. He tells Thomas, I have already shown you the way – then goes on in v.12, to say the way forward is the way I’ve been doing things. Keep doing the works I have been doing. Jesus tells Phillip, I have already shown you the Father – the Father looks like me.
What has Jesus been doing? What characteristics does Jesus display?
We could elaborate on that all day (listen to the sermon for more). We could think about everything we’ve read this year. And we can sum it up by saying Jesus has been engaged in a variety of works of love and has been showing that God is love. This is why Jesus’ commandments are to love because the way, the truth, and the life he has revealed is love. Love is the way. Love is the truth. Love is the life.
And yet, when we read v.6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me,” we tend to read that exactly the opposite from what Jesus is getting at here. We read it as proof that there is a secret handshake, that there is a secret password; we use this verse as shorthand to promote the very heresies this passage opposes.
There are no secret practices. There is no secret knowledge. The Spirit comes (v.17) – not to give out secret handshakes or passwords – but to enable us to continue and extend the works of love because as the Spirit of God, the indwelling of the Spirit Jesus promises is the infusion of love itself into the existence of the followers of Jesus. This love will then mark the everyday actions of the disciple – we will live out the love of Jesus to the world around us.
The secret of the kingdom is that there are no secrets. It is more simple (love), more straightforward (love), and much harder work (love!) than any secret thing we could ever concoct. Secret things we make up wind up being easy for us and impossible for whoever we want to exclude and are always the opposite of what Jesus did.
We’re called to do the works Jesus did (and greater works!) and those are only possible when we do things his way. We know the way. We know the Father. Because Jesus has shown us both in his life, works, teachings, death, and resurrection. This is the way, the way of love.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.