18 May 2014
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Easter 5A (RCL)
1 Peter 2:2-10
Last week, we heard Jesus say, “I AM the door.” This week, we hear him say, “I AM the road.” Commentators look at various contexts for the source of this metaphor. Is it the gnostic way of knowledge (the saying about knowing the father might suggest this). Is it hermetic? I believe the background is Jewish. The Johannine community understood themselves to be on the desert way, the new community of Israel, bereft of the Temple and expelled from the synagogue. Jesus, after all, is the passover lamb, eaten before leaving Egypt on the way to the land of God’s promise. After the resurrection, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene that he is journeying to his God and our God, his Father and our Father.
That helps make sense of the statement, “In my father’s house are many resting places.” The word we sometimes translate “mansions” is mone, a noun form of the verb meno, which means to abide, stay or rest. A resting place is a stopping place along a journey. Jesus says, “In my father’s house are many resting places. If it were not so, I would not have told you that I am journeying to prepare a place for you.” The Johannine community is adrift in the world, like Israel in the desert, but with the assurance that Jesus goes before them on the journey.
At the last supper, the disciples can be forgiven for not quite “getting it” yet. They don’t know where Jesus is going; how can they know the way? The destination is unimportant; Jesus is the road to where God is. Jesus asks them to trust that he is in the father and the father is in him. If they have seen Jesus, they have seen God.
I suspect the bit we will have the most trouble with is the statement Jesus makes about asking anything in his name and he will do it. How much disappointment this leads to in prayers unanswered. But the things we should ask for are very specific. If we don’t trust that Jesus is in the father and the father in Jesus on the basis of the words alone, we should trust him on the basis of the works; and if we do trust, we will do greater works even than Jesus. What kind of works did Jesus do? He restored sight to the man born blind, raised Lazarus from the dead. All these thing have to do with changing our understanding of God. Anything we ask along those lines, Jesus will do. “Name” in both English and Greek also has the connotation of reputation. Anything we ask in line with Jesus’ reputation, God will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Any we welcome to join us along the way, God will bring to Godself, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
The author of 1 Peter is saying much the same thing in the baptism sermon encapsulated in this letter. Baptism makes us into a royal priesthood, a new holy nation, that we may proclaim God’s holy deeds, and offer the creation to God that God may be glorified in the world. Like John’s community, we, the baptized enter the tabernacle into God’s presence wherever we happen to be on this journey, and offer our common life for God’s purposes in the world.