Know the way and the Father
Jesus is the way and whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father
April 20, 2008 -- Fifth Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Mike Stubbs
One of the clichés spread by self-help circles holds that people already know most of the things they need to know. They possess a vast reservoir of untapped resources.
In Sunday's Gospel reading, it almost sounds as though Jesus is speaking along those lines. The scene is the Last Supper. Jesus is addressing the disciples. Since the theme of Jesus' imminent departure pervades these remarks, they often are called the farewell discourse.
Twice, Jesus confuses the disciples by informing them that they have already acquired certain bits of crucial knowledge and experience. They already know what they need to know: "Where I am going you know the way." (v.4) and "From now on you do know him and have seen him." (v.7). Both statements of Jesus earn a surprised reaction from the disciples. Thomas asks, "Master, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?" Similarly, Philip protests, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." Those questions serve as a springboard for Jesus to impart further teachings.
In both cases, the disciples' association with Jesus explains how they have this knowledge which they did not realize that they had. They know the way because he is the way. They know the Father and have seen him, because they know and have seen Jesus, and whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father.
When Jesus proclaims to his disciples that he is the way, he is alluding to the dusty roads of Galilee that he and the disciples have traveled the past few years. He brings to mind the new way of life that he has taught them. But beyond that, he specifies that their journey targets a definite destination. They have not been wandering about aimlessly. He is the way that leads to God.
Similarly, when Jesus informs the disciples that because they have seen him they have seen the Father, he reveals the close bond that unites him to God. Jesus is able to serve as the image of the invisible God, because Jesus is the Word made flesh, the incarnate Son of God. Jesus is God in tangible, visible form. That makes Jesus the perfect medium for us to arrive at belief in God. Through belief in Jesus Christ, we are able to "see" the unseen God. By our faith in Jesus Christ, God in human form, we are able to bridge the gap between physical sight and the eyes of faith.
When Jesus identifies himself as the way to God and as the image of God, he has much the same purpose in mind. In both cases, he is presenting himself as the intermediary who brings
us to God. That is what he has been accomplishing with the disciples, who have spent so much time with him over the years.
That is why Jesus is able to tell them that they know the way and that they know the Father and have seen him. By our association with Jesus, we hope to accomplish the same.
(Fr. Stubbs, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., has a master's degree in theology from Harvard.)