Tuesday, September 27, 2005

John 14: The Son

St John gives us the clearest testimony to the divinity of Jesus in the Gospels. Not only do we see “the Word was God…the Word was made flesh” as an unmistakable teaching about the divinity of the Son and his Incarnation, but his equality with the Father is highlighted in several places. Here in John 14, we will briefly look at who He is and what He does.

We saw yesterday that to see Jesus is to see the Father, that is, the fullness of divinity was expressed in the incarnate Son. The most powerful statement in this chapter about who He is can be found in the famous sixth verse: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” This is one of the “I AM” statements that are found throughout the Gospel. “I AM” is a divine title, the one by which God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush on Sinai. This doesn’t mean that every time Jesus says “I am” He is using a divine title (e.g. “I am thirsty”). But the fact that He does use it in ways that unmistakably point to his divinity (e.g. “Before Abraham was, I AM”) means we can recognize it in other appropriate places.

To be the Way is to be the sole Mediator between the Father and mankind. Truth and Life in this absolute sense (I AM) can only be divine attributes. If we know truth and have life, it means that we must be in some way connected to Christ, who is Truth, who is Life. His other statements about being one with the Father also indicate his divine nature.

But what about this: “the Father is greater than I” (v. 28). That was part of the basis for another heresy, quite different from the one I mentioned yesterday (this heresy also is still around today). Arius and his followers used this statement to “prove” that Jesus was not divine, but a creature (proof that biblical proof-texting is not always reliable). I referred to texts that emphasize Jesus’ divine nature, but here’s one that emphasizes his human nature. Insofar as He is man, Jesus can say the Father is greater than He, for the Son emptied Himself, humbled Himself, as St Paul says, to take the form of a servant. And a servant is not greater than his master. He chose to place Himself lower than the Father, so that the Father’s will could be done for our salvation. Essentially, however, He is still the consubstantial and co-eternal Son of God.

What does John 14 say that the Son does? First of all, He goes to the Father to prepare a place for us, and He will return and take us there. Why? So that “where I am you may be also… I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.” This is one of the great divine promises. Jesus expresses his love for us by the very fact that He wants us to be where He is, and will realize his love by actually coming to get us and bring us to the Father’s house. He also said He will manifest Himself to us even before He returns, but this is an interior revelation, part of the mutual abiding that is the blessing for those who love Him by keeping his word. (The Son also gives peace, but we will treat that separately in a couple days.)

He speaks often of his “works” as a testimony to his union with the Father. These works are mainly his miracles, though these are usually called “signs” in John’s Gospel. But “works” evidently has a wider application, including his teaching as well, for the term is used in a parallel construction with “words”: “The words I say I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does his works.” Later Jesus will say that He accomplished the Father’s work, having given his disciples the words the Father gave to Him.

Jesus makes a final declaration in John 14 that the “prince of this world” (i.e., the devil) has no power over Him. His disciples needed to hear that, for when He was crucified they might have in fact thought that the devil had won the day. Jesus gives a very personal and intimate reason why He was ready to submit to such humiliation and torture: “so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

What better reason could we ourselves have for enduring the sufferings of life, especially those which come to us as a result of our fidelity to Christ and his Church? Let us not merely reflect abstractly upon the attributes of the Son, but let us be like Him. Take up your cross and follow Him, so that the world may know that you love the Father.