“Jesus, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
I love Thomas. He doesn’t go along to get along. He doesn’t pretend to understand Jesus’ baffling words or—later–to believe an unbelievable story of resurrection. I imagine the other disciples smiling, nodding along, just happy to be in Jesus’ presence. Then Thomas interrupts with his question. The truth is, I wish Thomas was around more in John’s Gospel because there are plenty of other times I’d like to see Jesus interrupted and forced to explain himself. Jesus says a lot of crazy things in John.
I realize, though, that the questions aren’t always so welcome when I’m the one doing the talking; when I’m leading a group or preaching a sermon or teaching a Bible study. Things go so much more smoothly when people just trust me and believe what I say. Congregational meetings are shorter. We don’t have to change the way we do worship. We get through the Bible study material faster. And I can feel good about the knowledge I impart through my sermons. When I’m the one doing the talking, the Thomases are annoying.
Jesus might have felt irritated with Thomas’ question, but he answers it: “How can we know the way?” “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
I don’t know what Jesus was planning to say as follow up to: “You know the way to the place where I am going.” He may have had a whole sermon all planned out, been practicing it under his breath as he walked the streets of Jerusalem. But Jesus allows himself to be interrupted; he listens to Thomas’ question, and he responds.
It seems important these days to pay attention to Jesus’ example of leadership during a difficult and fear-filled time: Good leaders respond to anxiety with comfort, but not false promises; good leaders explain difficult concepts in personal terms; good leaders breath through their irritation and answer whatever questions their people have; good leaders seek to embody God’s presence and share God’s wisdom.
And it seems important these days—when we don’t know where we are going—to remember that Jesus is the way; when we get conflicting messages from so many sources—to remember that Jesus is the truth; when death surrounds and threatens us—to remember that Jesus is the life.
Thanks be to God.
The good people of Peace Mennonite have granted me a one-month sabbatical. I hope to be more active on my blog during this time and post brief reflections on the Lectionary passages several times a week.