Friday, April 30, 2010

I AM The Way. I AM Truth And Life.

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Reading I
Acts 13:26-33
When Paul came to Antioch in Pisidia,
he said in the synagogue:
“My brothers,
children of the family of Abraham,
and those others among you
who are God-fearing,
to us this word of salvation has been sent.
The inhabitants of Jerusalem
and their leaders failed to recognize him,
and by condemning him
they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets
that are read sabbath after sabbath.
For even though they found
no grounds for a death sentence,
they asked Pilate to have him put to death,
and when they had accomplished
all that was written about him,
they took him down from the tree
and placed him in a tomb.
But God raised him from the dead,
and for many days he appeared
to those who had come up
with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.
These are now his witnesses before the people.
We ourselves are proclaiming
this good news to you
that what God promised our fathers
he has brought to fulfillment for us,
their children, by raising up Jesus,
as it is written in the second psalm,
You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.
Paul continues his discourse on salvation history and on how Jesus was handed over by the leaders of his people into the hands of the Romans and executed. He addresses his words both to the Jews in his audience (”children of the family of Abraham”) and the Gentile converts (”you who are God-fearing”).

Paul makes it clear that the Jerusalem leaders and the people in the city failed to recognise the true identity of Jesus as the expected Messiah. However, he does not in any way implicate his hearers.

In doing what they did, Jerusalem was only fulfilling the well-known words of the Old Testament prophets, prophets whose readings were heard every Sabbath in the synagogue and hence with which his hearers would be familiar. And, by handing over an innocent man unjustly into the hands of Pilate, they were simply accomplishing everything about Jesus that had been written in those same readings.

But it was not the end, for God raised Jesus up and the apostles are the witnesses to this fact over a period of several days (40 days according to Luke’s account).

Paul and his companions now are proclaiming this good news of what God has done for his people through Jesus Christ. And he emphasises that it is all the expected fulfilment of everything that was prophesied.

Jesus is no upstart. He is the expected climax to the history of God’s people. Paul quotes from the Psalm, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you.” The words clearly are pointing to Jesus as God’s Son. By his resurrection Christ was enthroned as Messiah, and from then on his human nature enjoyed all the privileges of the Son of God. Paul’s words are an unambiguous invitation to the Jews of Antioch to become believers and disciples.

Let us, too, renew our commitment to following with all our heart and soul in the steps of the dying and rising Jesus.
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Psalm 2
You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.
“I myself have set up my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.”
You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.
“Ask of me and I will give you
the nations for an inheritance
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
You shall rule them with an iron rod;
you shall shatter them like an earthen dish.”
You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.
And now, O kings, give heed;
take warning, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice before him
with trembling rejoice.
You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.
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John 14:1-6
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house
there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you
that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him,
“I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”
We begin today the long discourse, covering four chapters (14-17) of John, in which Jesus at the Last Supper says farewell and gives his final instructions to his disciples. Although it is, on the face of it, spoken in anticipation of what is going to happen, it clearly reflects some of the fears and anxieties of the post-resurrection community coping without the direct leadership of Jesus and often harassed by both Jews and Gentiles alike.

So it begins by Jesus telling his disciples “not to be troubled”. The immediate reason is the great threat that hangs over Jesus and his warnings to them of what is going to happen to him. The disciples are disturbed by the predictions of betrayal, of Jesus’ leaving them and betrayal by Peter.

But it is also directed to all those who, because of their following of Jesus, fall under threat of persecution or harassment. It is a time for faith, in the sense of a deep trust in Jesus’ desire to take care of us.

In face of this Jesus tells them to have faith in him and in his Father. Faith here means a deep trust that Jesus will take care of them and give them the strength to face any difficulties.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places [i.e. places in which to stay permanently]… I am indeed going to prepare a place for you… I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be.” Jesus is about to leave his disciples but he will be back soon and taken them to the place which has been specially prepared for them. He will return very soon after his resurrection, although in a very different way, and he will come at the end to take them to himself forever. And, not to worry, there is plenty of room for everyone. In the end, we will be where he is and that is the only goal of our lives that matters.

And then he says, “You know the way that leads to where I go.” They - and we - certainly ought to know the way but we are glad that Thomas, characterised in the Gospel by his blunt speaking, asked his question which drew forth a famous answer.

“Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” To which Jesus replied: “I AM the Way. I AM Truth and Life.” Jesus does not only tell us where to go. He is himself the Way.

Jesus is not a way but the Way. This is not to be understood in a narrow sectarian sense. The way of life that Jesus proposes is not just for a particular group of people; it is a way of life for every single person to follow. The heart of that Way is an unconditional love which sees every other person as a brother or sister and a love which gives itself unceasingly in service.

If we want to know where our lives, where any life, should be going, all we need to do is to identify ourselves totally with the attitudes, the values and the goals of life that Jesus lays down for us.

And, as the Way, he is Truth and Life. Jesus is Truth not just because the things he says are true. His whole life, everything he says and does, all his relationships, have the ring of truth and integrity.

And, of course, he is Life. When we unconditionally decide to walk his Way, we, here and now, begin to live in the fullest manner possible.

Thank you, Thomas, for asking that question. All we need now is to make the answer the centre of our living.

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

'.. that what God promised our fathers he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus'

This reminds me of the Benedictus:

'the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.'

Reading the Old Testament, especially from the time of Moses, I get the impression of a people constantly trying to worship God in the right way. Yet even when they are briefly free from the fear of their enemies, they still find themselves drifting into idolatry. It's human nature. But in Christ, they - and we - can worship God 'in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life'. In a sense, He is the Promised Land, our place of safety and true worship. Today's reading from John also conveys something of this.