Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’
Today’s reading will be especially familiar as one of the most well-loved readings for funerals and memorial services. As Jesus makes clear the fate that awaits him he also promises that he is going ahead of his disciples to prepare a place for them in God’s heavenly kingdom. Thomas, who was destined to become remembered as ‘Doubting Thomas’, questioned Jesus over how they might eventually come into that place of peace and rest. Jesus responds by saying that the route is one of true discipleship because Jesus himself is the way, and the truth, and the life. Considered in this way, there can be little wonder that those who are mourning the passing of a loved one find such comfort in these words. But, the learning of one of Jesus’ great ‘I am’ statements should not be seen as the end of the story.
As we have considered in recent days, Jesus is indeed the Way. However, that way is not necessarily an easy one. That way is one of love and service for all. That way is one of obedience and faithfulness when it comes to following all the teachings of Jesus. That way is also the way that may lead us into pain and hardship as we strive to be seen as worthy of one of those many dwelling places prepared by Jesus himself.
So much of Jesus’ teaching flew in the face of the received wisdom of contemporary rulers and scholars. And yet, that teaching is indeed the truth. We are challenged to set aside our worldly wisdom and to follow the truth laid out by Jesus. That takes courage and determination because so much of that truth will bring us into direct opposition with the self-centred and self-serving teachings of the world in which we live.
If we do find the strength and the courage to follow Jesus as both the way and truth, then comes the rich reward of life, life everlasting in God’s nearer presence. This is a prize that cannot be bought at any price other than the price of loving and faithful discipleship.
As we ponder these well-known words, let us pray that we might come to know their reality as we wend our way through the mazes and pitfalls of our human life. Let us pray that we might one day inherit our dwelling place, the place prepared for us by Jesus himself.