As Jesus prepares his disciples for his imminent departure, he tried to cheer them up in several ways. As I noted yesterday, he encouraged them to not let their hearts be troubled. He promised that he’d be back to get them once he had prepared a place for them in his Father’s house. He also assured the disciples that they “knew the way to the place where he was going.” If you’ll pardon me for engaging in some gender stereotyping here, I am a typical guy. If you mention a place where you’d like me to meet you, I’ll pretend all day long that I know where that place is. I’ll nod my head vigorously. I’ll mumble, “mmm hmm”s. I’ll pretend I don’t need the directions you are giving me, even though I’m just not listening because I know I won’t remember which way to turn where the old Dairy Queen used to be. I’ll convince you that I know the way, and then get in my car and let Siri guide me. If the 11 disciples who are still in the upper room with Jesus are any indicator of the wider male culture, then roughly 91% of men will act like me.
And then there’s Thomas.
Thomas doesn’t pull punches. He never has. He was the one who named the reality that Jesus would most likely die if he made a return trip to Jerusalem (John 11.16). Later (chronologically, though the lesson has already come up in the Lectionary cycle), Thomas will be the one who refuses to believe that Jesus is risen from the dead until he sees it with his own eyes and touches him with his own hands. And in our lesson for Sunday, it is Thomas who pipes up on behalf of the 9% and says to Jesus, “Man, we don’t even know where you are going, how can we possibly know the way?”
I’ll get to Jesus loaded response in tomorrow’s post, that pesky word “the” deserves a reflection of its very own. For today, I’m wondering about Jesus’ assurance that they already know the way. For me, it all goes back to my constantly beating drum that the Kingdom of God is not a place far off in the heavens that we get to go to when we die. Instead, the Kingdom of God is all around us. The way to the Kingdom is through the commandment Jesus just gave the disciples in 13:34-35, “Love one another.” He tells them, “the world will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
The Way to the Kingdom of God is through agape love; love that is self-sacrificial; love that puts the needs of another before your own. You can’t blame the disciples, in the heat of the moment, for forgetting this fact and focusing on the literal. Two-thousand years later, we have less of an excuse for forgetting that the key to the Kingdom is to love one another. We know the way. If only we were better at following it.