Struggling to read the signs
Text study on John 14:1-14 Lectionary text for May 22, 2011
Our gospel this week reads like the Abbott and Costello skit "Who’s on first?" Miscommunication abounds regarding who’s who, who’s going where and how to get to wherever whoever is going. You can see Jesus shaking his head with a slight grin on his face, sighing and saying, "All right, let me explain this again…"
Even though the disciples journeyed with Jesus -- witnessing miracles, breaking bread, sharing in conversations -- they now struggle to understand who Jesus is.
Phillip requests, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."
But Jesus had already shown them the Father: turning water into wine, healing the ill, feeding over 5,000 people with only five loaves and two fish, walking on water. These acts could only happen through the power of the Creator.
The disciples seek physical proof to understand the mystery of Christ. Although they witnessed the mighty acts of the living Word, the disciples were unable to see Jesus as he truly is -- one with the Father, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (verse 6).
The need to understand
Like the disciples, we often struggle to fully grasp who Jesus is. While we ask for signs, for proof, we often fail to see the him active in creation today. We want physical evidence that this one called Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah.
Comprehending who Jesus is by means of intellect alone is a tiresome and futile task. That is why the Good Shepherd begins his explanation of who he is with faith. "Believe," he tells the disciples. "Believe in God, believe also in me" (verse 1).
But belief is not a simple charge to do something. Belief is a gift from the one who gives us life and hope. In the midst of unemployment, malaria, child-sex trafficking and substance abuse, we struggle to see Christ in the world. Distracted by segregated churches, financial woes and the instant contact of the digital age, we fail to name the presence of Jesus in our midst.
Even though our faith is challenged by the world, creation is filled with the living Word of God, the presence of Christ. What will our testimony be? How will we describe who Jesus is?
• Where have you seen Jesus in your life journey?
• How do you witness to God’s presence of hope and healing in the pain and oppression of our world?
• To whom do you turn when you doubt the redeeming work of the Holy Trinity?
Jennifer Manis is a diaconal ministry candidate in the ELCA North Carolina Synod living in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. She is a recent graduate of the Duke University Divinity School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.