Today’s gospel picks up yesterday’s conversation (JN 14), known as the “farewell discourse.” Moving on from the extraordinary verse where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” Jesus is speaking now about his unity with God. “If you know me, then you will know my Father,” he says. “From now on you do know him and have seen him.” It is an enthusiastic Philip, I think, who jumps in saying, “Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us!”
Poor Philip. We are still struggling to understand the depth of what Jesus was saying. Poor Jesus, whose frustration after all that he had tried to impart to these disciples was evident in his response. (“Have I been with you for so long a time and still you do not know me, Philip?”) The great thing about Jesus is that he never gives up on them. He tries again by talking about what they have seen: the works that Jesus reminds them are evidence that the Father functions in the world through him. Then he delivers another astounding line that could be overlooked if we are reading quickly or thinking that the words of this chapter only apply to first century followers of Jesus.
Here’s what he said. See if you can comprehend the meaning and then accept that it is possible for us. “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.” Stop here. Repeat that sentence aloud. How might it possibly be believed?
In this case, I believe possibility resides in surrender. We will only be successful if we recognize that we are not the doer and allow God to work in us in everything we do. My guess is that it takes a very long time to come to clarity on this point, after which our knowing needs to travel from our minds into our hearts in order for God to truly take over. This is the work of a lifetime and calls for extreme faith and great perseverance. The key to all of it, it seems, lies in our trust – of God and of ourselves.