In John 14:1-11 Jesus gives an answer to two questions (really a question and a request). The questions flow out of troubled hearts. The disciples had reason to be troubled. They had left their previous occupations and had become followers of Jesus. Now they had heard him talking about leaving, and their not being able to follow, at least not right away. They had heard Jesus speak of being betrayed, and that Peter would deny him. The comforting admonition to let not your hearts be troubled is a command to stop being troubled, not simply a suggestion to calm people not to start worrying.
You face your own questions growing out of the troubles in your life. Jesus’ words are addressed to you and to me. The comfort he provides lies in his instruction to believe (or trust) in God and to trust in him. Notice that the imperative has an ongoing force, keep on trusting. The emphasis on believing continues to run through the answers to the questions as well as through the rest of what Jesus says that evening. Christ’s words of comfort are addressed not only to you as individuals, but, spoken to the apostles as those through whom the church would be founded, they continue to speak to God’s people today. They assure you that this “farewell address” is not a permanent goodbye. Herman Ridderbos writes: “All the ethical admonition, comfort, and power that radiate from this farewell [John 14-17] have no other purpose than that the church on earth should understand itself as belonging to him in heaven and that it should abide in him as he abides in its members.” (The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, p. 483).
Yes, Jesus will be leaving his disciples for the cross, and beyond that, the resurrection and ascension. He summons you to live, not in the despair of his absence, but in the assurance that you are connected with him even as he returns to his Father’s house. As the Son he is busy right now preparing a place for you as sons and daughters of the Father. Jesus is not a Platonist, with concern only for your soul. Among the other things with which the glorified Son of Man is occupied is preparing the glory of the new heavens and earth, where you will continue to live with him.
You can understand the skepticism of Thomas. After stating, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going,” he asks, “how can we know the way?” (That’s question #1 in our text.) You cannot ask any more important question. How can you know the way to the Father? How can you live in the Father’s house?
In response Jesus does not simply issue directions. He gives what has been described as the greatest of his “I am” statements. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Instead of directions, he points to himself. Thomas à Kempis wrote in The Imitation of Christ, Chap. 56, “Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living.”
Politically incorrect today, but crucially important, are the words Jesus adds, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is the one way to the Father. In knowing him, you know God. It is not enough to be religious. You need to know, really know Jesus Christ. As you do, you know the Father.
Philip responds with a question, really a request: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus meets the request with a question: “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?” The response of Jesus to Philip’s request underlines his response to the second question. You need to know, really know and trust in, Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the one way to the Father. As Jesus had repeatedly emphasized in his teaching and preaching, he and the Father are one.
There are some who have never really heard that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. To you, Jesus speaks, inviting you to trust, and to continue to trust, in him. There may be some who have been involved in church for years, but who have never really grasped who Jesus is. Perhaps the rhetorical question Jesus put to Philip is one you need to ask yourself. Have you been with and around Jesus and his people without really knowing him?
If you are one who knows and trust Jesus, his words here call you to keep on believing in him, to recognize as you live in your troubled world that he has not, that he will not, that he cannot abandon you. The answer to the questions raised by Thomas and Philip is Jesus. The comfort in the troubled situations from which their questions and yours arise is Jesus. Because he has gone to the Father, do not let your hears be troubled.