In consideration of the context of this week’s Gospel (John 14:1-14) it is important to know where Jesus said these things, to whom he said them and when he said them. The where is easy: in Jerusalem, in the Upper Room. The when of what he said it was the night he was betrayed and arrested by the authorities while at supper with his disciples. They were celebrating the Passover. Judas had made his plan with the authorities and had been paid the price of his betrayal – 30 pieces of silver. When he discovered at the table that he could bend Jesus to be a political Messiah, he tried to stop the trail and execution but failed. It cost Judas dearly. Peter had promised to be faithful even if it meant his own death. Jesus told him that he would deny his Master three times before the cock crowed in the morning.
That last night, this one last chance was meant to encourage his followers to live the life and walk the road ahead of them. Jesus called on them to live like him, to walk and talk like him. We need to look live and act like Jesus. Jesus to the time to tell them about the road ahead and about the promises of presence and other things.
He tells them not to allow their lives to be shaken to the core by what is about to happen. Jesus encourages the disciples (and his apostles) to go on believing in the Father, which is important but to also continue believing in him. Please understand that faith is far more than head knowledge and a choice to believe that God is here. It is a life that is given into the living of that belief, that you trust the Father and the Son to enable you to have that relationship, welling up into eternal life. Our relationships with God and with one another can grow up and out to become eternal life because God sustains them and eternity is a part of his nature.
So we are challenged in the midst of grief and loss to not allow our lives to be shaken to the core. We are asked to put our trust in God for the way ahead. We are called personally and corporately to love and to believe (that is, to trust in God and participate in what God is doing). We are called to serve and eat together. We are called to hold things in common. Christ calls us to these things and to unity in him so that we can know him and the Father better. Unity, in this case, is not about conformity. It is far more and far above one’s personal or a Church’s corporate theology. We are together for the sake of Christ and in doing so, for the needs of one another who are called into community with him and with us. Jesus prayed that The Father would bind us to him and to one another by and not by fine-sounding doctrine. The unity that Jesus prays for and seeks for the Church is about a deep and profound love rather than for fine sounding doctrine that puts up walls that divide.
Deacon Stephen (Acts 7) would have recognized this. He was called into the ministry of a deacon to enable the Apostles to preach and teach the Word. The awesome thing is that he was able to serve at the table, meet the needs of his community and it doing so was enable to preach and minister to those he was responsible for. Stephen was a man attested to for being a man of deep faith and full of the Holy Spirit. He was known for being full of grace and for his deeds of power through the working of the Spirit. The Book of Acts describes Stephen as the protomartyr because his life, arrest, trial, condemnation, and execution were carried out in a mirrored way to the way the Jesus did. Keep on thing in mind though, not all of us are called to be martyrs. If you are gifted as a martyr, you will only get to use your gift once and at the end of your life.
How we live and how we give to the point of giving and living sacrificially is important first for the life of the Church, then of the winning of the world. The Church is the medium through which God transmits his message of grace mercy and love. We know the way home. It is in Jesus and through Jesus that we live and move and have our beings. Living like Jesus at this moment is what we are called to do so that we can draw others into our fellowship and make our way home together.