“Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles”
The Bible readings for Sunday, May 18 are: Acts 7:55-60, Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (Page 622, BCP), 1 Peter 2:2-10, and John 14:1-14.
The Gospel reading – John 14:1-14 – is part of the “Farewell Discourse” that Jesus gave in the Upper Room during the Last Supper. Jesus intended to comfort His disciples by telling them of the “many mansions” in His Father’s house, a passage frequently used to comfort mourners at a funeral: “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?”
The reading is filled with familiar phrases, including the oft-quoted, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” But it also includes one of the least appreciated verses in the entire Bible, John 14:12: “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.” (Emphasis added.)
To review: The one who believes in Jesus with do “the works that I do,” and beyond that, even greater works than Jesus did. Put another way, the one who believes in Jesus is fully expected to do greater works than Jesus, according to Jesus Himself. (For some interesting reading, just type into your search engine, “The Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it.”)
So since the Bible said it, and the believer believes it, that should settle it. But the question comes up: How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, strict and/or limiting manner? For that matter, why does the Bible so often tell us to “sing to the Lord a new song?” (For example, Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)
Again, how can you sing a new song to the Lord if all you do in reading the Bible is the equivalent of, “Yes dear, anything you say dear?” (See the post, “On arguing with God.”)
But enough of The Scribe’s ramblings. For a far more erudite treatment of this Gospel reading, check out Doctor Thomas Boomershine’s article: A Storytelling Commentary on John 14:1-14 – GoTell …. Dr. Boomershine’s key: “The primary commandment of Jesus is to love one another.” Beyond that, the good doctor notes:
Jesus’ voice here is the voice of one who is talking to his closest friends on the night before his death. He is sharing with them the things that they need to know. The basic dynamic of this speech is his communicating to his disciples how much he loves them.
So maybe our job – in doing these greater works than Jesus – is not to walk on water or still a raging storm or turn water into wine, as some might expect. Maybe our job – according to John 14:12 – is to show even greater love than Jesus showed, toward our fellow men and women, and even to our most obnoxious “neighbors.”
Now that would be a challenge. . .