I cannot believe I have failed to stick up for my friend Thomas heretofore. My apologies.
Oh, you may not know who I am talking about until I supply you with his very unfair and mean-spirited nickname. I am talking, of course, about the guy you may know as “Doubting Thomas.” Let he who is without doubt cast the first stone!
Now hear me out, hear me out! I feel a deep connection to Thomas. I mean, give me a break, who is really going to believe a story about your friend rising from the dead on the first go-round? Did you believe the story about Jesus rising from the dead the first time you heard it? Ok, then, no more dispersion will we cast on my friend who will be known from here simply as “Thomas.”
But for Thomas we may not have ever heard one of the most important statements Jesus ever made. Jesus is in the Upper Room on the night he was arrested, and he is trying to prepare his friends for his alarming, jarring and confusing departure. Jesus, the one we have agreed so far is God in the flesh, started off the night by washing the feet of his students- the bible calls them disciples. Jesus’ whole message has been love so far, as John’s story recounts.
Jesus has told the disciples to love one another and serve them just like he was serving them in getting down on his hands and knees to scrub the dirt from between their toes. Then Jesus makes a pretty terrifying prediction. Peter, the first mate of the expedition, is going to deny the fact that he even knows his leader three times before the sun shines- or the rooster crows, if you are keeping time the old way.
So you can imagine this is a fairly confusing situation, right? Here is Jesus telling his friends that they would pretty much collapse before daybreak, while at the same time charging them to love and serve one another. You will excuse Thomas for being disoriented, then when Jesus tells them that he goes to prepare a place for them, right? And a reassurance that they know the way he is going is nice looking back but- wow! I mean, one thing at a time, Jesus!
Serve one another.
Love one another.
Peter (so, pretty much everybody else) is going to utterly wimp out in the next 8-9 hours.
I go to prepare a place for you and if I go, I will come back again.
You know the way to where I am going.
Are you perplexed? Imagine being there and not having the first clue as to the outcome of the situation! Now, before you reach for your nearest and dearest medication, take a look at what Thomas asked:
Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?
That is about 800X my best question in the scenario. I would have asked for Jesus to slow down so I could process the “serve one another” part- I still have problems with that one.
If nothing else, it is apparent that Thomas is about to lose his friend. Thomas is not asking a philosophical question about differing ways to heaven. He is not preparing for a comparative religions course or a conversation with a friend who is becoming a Unitarian. He just does not want to lose his friend. When your friend is Jesus, I would say that is a really good impulse.
Thomas just wants to know how to find Jesus once he goes away.
And what does Jesus do? He points to his Father.
I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
First mention of the Father, unless you count the fact that Jesus mentioned he was going to the Father’s house. So far it has been all about Jesus and his relationship with his friends. Now the conversation has changed.
Jesus is saying, You are really longing for your Father. Then he points right back to himself. He is the way to the Father. No access to God except through the God-Man but in him, full access. Unfettered access. Bold access. Confident access. Constant access. Comforting access. Strong access. Tender access. Sweet, restful access with the Father in trouble times- this is the promise Jesus makes to his friends.
The death, burial, resurrection, going back into heaven (or “ascension”) and promised second coming of Jesus is proof that Jesus was serious here. He was not making an empty promise.
Jesus meets us in our own places of doubting, fear, uncertainty and pain today with the same message. His way is the way back to our Father. His is the way to the loving embrace of the prodigal’s father when he finally comes home.
His life with us is solid proof that he will always be for us.