Dwelling place: context

John 14:1–12  1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. 2 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? 3 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. 4 Where (I) am going you know the way.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

Context.  The gospel text is part of a larger section which includes the Last Supper and all that takes place after Jesus had washed the disciples feet, after Judas has left the table (“he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night” (13:30)), and after Peter’s protestations he would never betray Jesus.  The section comes before the disciples see their master led away for trial; then be condemned to death on a cross. Their faith will be sorely tested. Jesus’ teaching, beginning in 14:1, was given to strengthen for the hours, days, months and years to come.

O’Day suggests a broad outline of the context for our reading:

  • The Farewell Meal (13:1-38)
  • The Farewell Discourse (14:1-16:33)
  • The Farewell Prayer (17:1-26)

There are several discourses in the Gospel according to John, however, this one is different. Where the others generally follow an event and serve to explain the event (e.g., John 5,6 or 9), the Farewell Discourse is one given in anticipation of the Passion, Death and Resurrection.  It is thus interesting that in its liturgical use, while Jesus is preparing the disciples for the events of the three days (triduum) – in our time it is after the celebration of the Triduum. But that is not unusual even in biblical times.

One of the great discourses/speeches of the OT is the book of Deuteronomy, especially the farewell discourse by Moses to the people of Israel on the plains of Moab. The book of Deuteronomy reached its final written form during the Babylonian Exile period when Israel was asking itself the deep questions of identity, place and purpose. It is that context that Moses’ farewell speech receives a fresh hearing by new ears, in a new time and place. These words spoken long ago before the event of entering the promised land, are later heard in a new moment by a new people – even centuries after the event. Just as the people of exile were invited to see themselves on the plains of Moab, so too, in our day, we are invited to see ourselves in the Upper Room. We are reminded what is ours to do in proclamation of the Good News of the risen Christ. It is in this vein that the Johannine discourse is offered by the Church for our consideration on the 5th Sunday in Easter.


Sources

  • Gail R. O’Day, John in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 9, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996) 739-46
  • Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970
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