“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” John 14:1-14
We are picking up where we left off before Lent. Jesus and his disciples were in the Upper Room where he instituted the Blessed Sacrament and washed the disciples’ feet. At some point he told them that he is about to be betrayed and he dipped the sop and gave it to Judas who left the table and went off to betray him. The other disciples thought nothing of it because they assumed he going out to purchase provisions or to provide something for the poor. The text says: “He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.” Please note once again how light and darkness frames the narrative. Back in chapter 3, Nicodemus, a Ruler of Israel, left the Temple under the cover of darkness and came to Jesus, the Light of the World. Here Judas leaves the Light of the world, enters into darkness, and makes his way to the Temple and once he was out of the room Jesus told his disciples that he, Jesus, was going away and they could not go with him. But Peter would not let it go: “Why cannot I follow you now? Right now. I will die for you!” Jesus said to Peter: “Will you die for me? You will betray me before the break of day, before the cock crows.”
Then, with chapter 14, Jesus begins reassuring his disciples: “I am going away. You cannot come with me. I am going away for your good. But you and I will one day be together never to be separated again.” At some point Philip says something like, “Before you go show us the Father and that will suffice us.” Then Jesus replies:
“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”
We will come back to this statement of Jesus’ self-understanding next week, but today what I wish to focus on what it means to “participate,” to be “in” someone or something, as Jesus says he is “in the Father and the Father in me.” The reality of what it means to be “in the Father” or “in the Son” or “in Abraham” or “in the Church” looms early and looms large in the Fourth Gospel. And now that we have the privilege of receiving the literal account of Jesus’ last few hours of teaching in the Upper Room we shall see again how “being in Jesus” is the whole matter of our life. If one is not in Jesus, then one is in Adam. Being “in” someone can be a blessing or it can mean death. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
What Paul meant is that by virtue of being in Adam we participate in his unbelief and his death; but by virtue of being in Christ we participate in his faith, his obedience, his life. Paul uses the same imagery in Romans chapter 6:
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
And in John 14 our Lord presents to the disciples his own mutual indwelling with the Father:
“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.”
So what exactly does it mean to be “in” someone? Several years ago we saw that in the Old Testament when two persons cut a blood covenant with one another they were not cutting it for themselves alone; they meant to cut the covenant with all those people the covenant-makers represented and that meant especially their unborn children. In a sense that means to represent, re-present, to acknowledge that one’s future children are present at the cutting of the covenant. How were they present? The future children were present in the covenant-makers’ bodies of flesh as the seed. For example, God promise that he would make Abraham a “father of many nations.” From the point-of-view of the people in Old Testament times, those nations were in Abraham’s body of flesh at that very moment God reckoned him righteous. The seed, as in Isaac, Jacob, Essau, and David, and Jesus were in Abraham’s loins, in his very body of flesh. Jesus especially is the Seed of the Promise.
Let’s look at a story from David’s life that will throw more light upon the state of being in a person and especially when it comes to a blood covenant. Right after David defeated Goliath he was ushered into King Saul’s tent where he met Saul’s son Jonathan. The two young men immediately saw in one another the character of a true Israelite, and shortly after that they cut a blood covenant with one another:
“Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.” I Samuel 18:3,4
The covenant was ratified by sacrificing a lamb or an oxen. The animal was cut down the middle and the covenanters walked hand in hand down the middle of the carnage thus saying they would be as these dead animals rather than to break their covenant. Jonathan and David loved and trusted one another and even when Saul turned against David, Jonathan remained his true and loyal friend. David and Jonathan stood as representatives of their children yet unborn. Their children, their grandchildren, all their seed reckoned to be in their bodies of flesh would benefit from the covenant.
“And you shall not only show me the kindness of the Lord while I still live… but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no not when the Lord has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” I Samuel 20:14,15
It was not long after that that Saul and Jonathan were both killed and David is anointed as the King of Israel. Fear and panic gripped all of Israel, especially the family of Saul, because all his children and grandchildren would be marked for death on account of Saul’s treachery toward David. Saul’s family fled for their lives. The royal nurses ran to the babies’ rooms to save Jonathan’s children but as one of the nurses ran with a little boy in her arms, a little boy named Mephibosheth, she slipped and the baby was thrown from her arms and his legs were crushed. She scooped him up and safely escaped to a desert town where he was raised in obscurity. As all of that was going on, David led his men of valor against the Philistines. It took years but eventually David established peace and safety in Israel and with that accomplished he began to inquire about Jonathan’s family:
“Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
But fear still reigned in Saul’s household and many of them expected that David meant to do what other conquering kings did, that is to eliminate any possible competition for the throne of Israel. But eventually David did find young Mephibosheth and he sent his men to fetch him back to his palace. When Mephibosheth was brought to David he fell upon his face before the king in fear and trembling waiting the word of his execution. But then David spoke:
“Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.” 2 Samuel 9:7
What I want you to see is that David did not treat Mephibosheth with loving-kindness because of his track record of loyalty to David, but on the basis of the blood covenant David had cut with his father Jonathan:
“So David said to him, ‘Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake…”
David loved Mephibosheth, he delighted in him as if he were Jonathan his father because David reckoned that the seed of Mephiboseth was in Johnathan’s body of flesh when the covenant was made and so it was made with him as well.
In Romans chapter 4 St Paul declares that the “promise” made to Abraham, was that all the nations will be blessed “in” Abraham; that is all nations will participate in Abraham’s blessing and thus benefit from Abraham’s faith. “Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness,” but it was not just reckoned to him as an individual person, it was reckoned to everyone who was “in” Abraham — those Paul refer to as the true seed of Abraham. Paul sums it up in Galatians:
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
This is the truth that our Lord will open up for us in the remaining few hours before his Passion.