Who gets an answer?
John 14: 1-27.
My granddaughter Jessica is nearly two. That is a special age.
It is a special age because she is beginning to realise that the world is bigger than just her and she is fascinated by this world.
She will go into a toy box full of animals and say, ‘What is this?’
‘That’s a gorilla.’
‘Orilla. What is this?’
‘That’s an octopus.’’
‘Oc-o-pus. What is this?’
And on and on she will go.
I find this passage a deeply comforting passage for many reasons.
It is often used in funeral services because it gives reassurance.
In many ways this passage gives more hope to people than any other passage in the Bible.
At a time when we mourn people the most, at a time when we are at our most afraid, when we have lost someone really dear to us;
this passage gives hope that one day we will meet again, that our relationship isn’t gone. It may be changed for a while, but it isn't gone.
True, this hope is only valid because of the resurrection; because Christ rose from the dead that becomes the guarantee that we can too. But it is this passage we remember as the first to show us that truth.
It is a truly comforting passage, as it was meant to be.
Jesus knew he was facing his death.
Jesus knew that the disciples wouldn’t be able to process everything that would happen in the next few hours;
the betrayal, the torture, the trail, the death sentence.
Jesus knew that the disciples would face a tsunami of emotions that would overwhelm them.
But he also knew something else;
that those emotions, that turmoil wouldn't last forever.
And at some point there would be time to think, time to reflect. And when that time came they would need something to hang on to...that moment when one of them said,
‘This will be all right, because Jesus warned us of this.
He said all those things would happen and they did.
And if those things came to pass then the other things will come to pass as well.
That he will prepare a place for us.
That he will send the Holy Spirit to help and guide us.
That we will be given the strength to carry on.’
And that is very encouraging to me.
But there is another message in this passage that we may have overlooked.
Consider this...who asked the questions that brought the answers?
Three disciples ask questions in this passage.
These three disciples will ask possibly the most significant questions Jesus will be asked in his life.
And it isn't who we would expect.
It isn't the important disciples, it isn’t the leaders, it isn’t the big guys.
It’s not the first disciples Peter and Andrew and James and John. Not the disciples that were often taken apart from the others for special training.
It’s part of the nobodies group...Thomas, Philip, Judas (not Iscariot).
Look at these guys.
Thomas...throughout the Gospels Thomas is the doubter, the one who is unsure, the one who struggles to make a decision. Now ministers like me try to make him a bit better than he is. But the Bible doesn't try to do that. He is called Thomas the twin. That isn’t just put in there. There is a point that the writer wants to make about Thomas’ character. In ancient near east twins were bad omens. Child mortality was high, it was much higher if there was twins. And the chances of the mother surviving were significantly decreased if there were twins. It was often thought, especially with identical twins, that one person had been halved and that their character, maybe their soul, had been halved.
What if the soul hadn't been split, what if the soul only went into one twin. Maybe you would have an evil twin with no morals or soul, and a good twin with the soul, but how could you tell which was which?
And then came the inheritance laws that insisted that the oldest get a greater portion of the inheritance, how do you decided who gets what when they look identical? Especially if the twins are in dispute about who is the oldest.
There was the feeling that because the twin was less of a person that they were indecisive, unsure, unable to make decisions.
Philip...Philip is so insecure about his place as a disciple that when Greeks come to him in the temple asking if they can see Jesus, Philip doesn’t ask Jesus.
Think about that.
Philip has so little confidence that not only does he think that he is too insignificant to make a decision about whether they can see Jesus,
he thinks that he is so insignificant that he can’t even ask Jesus if it is OK for Jesus to see them.
Philip goes to Andrew and asks Andrew if he can ask Jesus if it is OK for the Greeks to see Jesus.
This is not a person who has great confidence in his abilities or status.
Judas (not Iscariot)...poor Judas. Did you know that all the disciples became saints apart from Judas the betrayer. And all these saints were prayed to for hundreds of years. The church believed that if you wanted to get into Jesus’ ear then maybe we weren't good enough to ask Jesus directly, but if you prayed to Peter and Peter asked, or Mary and Mary asked, then MAYBE Jesus would answer your prayer.
And all these saints were prayed to...except Judas (not Iscariot).
Even though he had done nothing wrong, this poor Judas had no one praying to him because they confused him with the other Judas, and we all know that Jesus would never listen to the other Judas, so there was no point praying to him for help.
The popes felt so sorry for Judas (not Iscariot) that they made him the patron saint of hopeless cases.
These were the three that asked the questions that have given us this passage of hope.
And that is significant.
You see there is a wonderful truth about my granddaughter Jessica and her questions.
She asks because she doesn't know better.
We are scared to ask questions because we think if we ask a question then it makes us look stupid.
There is a proverb in the Bible that goes like this, ‘Even the foolish man seems wise when he keeps his mouth shut.’
And we know that. We are terrified that if we ask the wrong question then we will look stupid.
Let me tell you the truth. If you ask the wrong question then you may indeed look stupid.
But if you don't ask the question then you will stay stupid.
I spent four years studying microbiology. At the end of the course I knew I was more stupid than I was when I went in.
Or rather, after I had finished the course I was more aware of my ignorance than when I went in.
Before I went in I thought that I didn't know everything that I needed to know, but I was a smart person.
After four years I became more and more aware of how vast the subject was. I didn't know how much I didn't know, but I was a lot more aware of how much I still needed to learn.
The great thing about Jessica is that she doesn't care.
Growing is more important than image.
And that is what is going on here with the disciples.
Remember where this conversation is taking palace, in the upper room after the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.
While Jesus is trying to warn them about what is going to happen they aren’t hearing any of it. They are still thinking that Jesus is going to be crowned king and they will be allocating who will be the prime minister, who will be the treasurer, who will be in charge of the army.
As Jesus is rambling on they haven’t the foggiest what he is talking about, but none of them want to ask Jesus to clarify what is happening, in case they look stupid.
It is the so-called lesser disciples that realise that they are not important, the lesser disciples that realise they will never be the great ones, they are the ones that ask the questions because everyone thinks they are stupid anyway.
And because they ask, they get the great gift of their question being answered.
So here is my word of comfort.
If you think you are aren't that important.
If you think you are not a leader of women or men.
If you think that you are insignificant.
Then feel free to ask your questions to Jesus...because you are the one who he will answer.
Jesus wanted to give people hope.
And the hope is twofold.
It is in the answer he gives.
And it is in the people he chooses to answer to.
So if you are indecisive like Thomas...
If you are unsure of your place like Philip...
If you feel you are ignored like Judas (not Iscariot)...
Then you are truly blessed...
because this passage tells us that Jesus listens to you
and he answers you when you call.