5th Sunday of Easter, Year A | John 14:1-14
On Getting Lost and Alternative Destinations
Arriving home one day years ago, my son stamped his foot and pouted, “But, Mommy, we didn’t get to have an adventure!” Because I have no sense of direction and frequently get lost, I had spun our excess wanderings as adventures, and he had bought this optimistic perspective. My way from point A to point B is never straightforward, no matter how clear the directions.
The disciples could relate. When Jesus tells them, “Where I am going, you know the way,” (v.4), Thomas argues, “…how can we know the way?” (v.5). Yet, Thomas has just spent the last three years at the Master’s feet. He has witnessed untold miracles. He believes that Jesus is Lord. But still…Thomas knows himself and gives voice to his humanity when he begs for still more clarity.
Thomas isn’t the only one. Philip wants even more explicit detail: Jesus, he says, if you just “show us the Father, and that will be enough…” (v.8). Basically, Philip wants to follow, with Jesus in front, to be sure he won’t take a wrong turn. (I so know that feeling.)
You can’t blame the disciples for their unease. The celebratory meal they had expected to enjoy with Jesus had been turned on its head. Jesus turned the atmosphere upside down when, despite their protests, He washed their feet. He reminded them that to be His way was not earthly glory, and rubbed it in a little more: to be His follower, they too must perform such menial tasks. Every time they think Jesus might be the Messiah they had hoped for [Palm Sunday], He turns the tables, and tonight there is an uncomfortable immediacy to His words.
Further, Jesus had announced that one of their closest friends was a betrayer. Moments later, Judas, their trusted friend, slipped into the darkness. Then, just before Jesus revealed that Peter, their leader in-the-rough, would deny Him three times, He told them His time was now.
Suddenly, the three years they have had with Jesus isn’t enough. Suddenly, the disciples know in their bones they haven’t learned all they need to carry on Jesus’s work. In an instant, they feel their humanity to their very core: there is no straight line from point A to point B.
Every time I set out for an unfamiliar destination, I feel their pain. My hearts beats a little harder: I am human, I will get lost, I can’t get there on my own. Fortunately, Jesus knows my every greying hair. He might get a little frustrated with my lack of faith, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me?” (v.9), but like a good parent, He reminds me, “I will come back again and take you” (v.3). He doesn’t expect me to get there all on my own.
Further, Jesus reminds me that there isn’t one destination, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” (v.2). It’s ok if my path isn’t perfectly, or even very, straight. There are many adventures to be had along the way. When my daughter and her friends got lost recently, she laughed. “My mom calls these adventures.” And then they found their way home again.