RCL A Easter 6
Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 66:7-18, I Peter 3:13-22, Saint John 14:15-21
The disciples were not ready to hear what Jesus says to them in the Gospel today. Remember that the setting is the Last Supper, and Saint John packs into that occasion much of what Jesus has to teach about the disciples’ lives, and our lives, after Jesus is raised and after Jesus ascends into heaven.
He says that he will not leave them orphaned. He will be with them, and they will see him. Not everyone will see him, but those who believe in him and those who keep his commandments will know him and will see him.
Jesus tells his disciples that he will send another Advocate to be with them forever. Jesus is the first Advocate, who teaches everything his followers need to know and who suffers on the cross, is raised from the tomb, and ascends to heaven to advocate for them forever. The second Advocate is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who will remind them and lead them to God.
The disciples were not ready to hear any of this. For what they were ready to hear, what they wanted to hear, differs so significantly from the unconditional and limitless love of God.
This Easter I have presented Jesus’ resurrection appearances to you as events where God gives to people what they need to believe. Peter and John need to see only the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene needs to see Jesus and to talk to him. Thomas needs to put his hand in his side and his fingers in the wounds of the nails. Philip needs to see the Father. The little-known companions on the road to Emmaus need to make sense of the terrible events in Jerusalem in light of the scriptures. All these requests from the disciples Jesus fulfills. They all are given what they need to believe. Jesus opens to them another world, the world of God’s unconditional and limitless love. They only need to act as though they want to be a part of it.
The disciples want to hear that Jesus will save them in the terms of the only thing they know. They want to be saved in the terms of this world. But Jesus offers them another world, the world of the Spirit, the world of the Father’ perfect will, and the world where Jesus advocates for those who love.
And so it is with us. Jesus opens to us the world of the Father who is good and is love itself, the same world of the Son advocating to the Father for the people who love him, and the same world of the Holy Spirit abiding with the followers of Jesus forever, forever reminding them of God’s love and forever guiding them toward God.
All of these things, all of these spiritual things Jesus presents to his disciples and to us. They are different from all the other things we know. We step into that world by indicating to God that we want to be a part of it. And we indicate we want to be a part of it by keeping Jesus’ commandments.
I have heard people say that all these things, that heaven and Jesus, are fairy tales. Those people haven’t done a single thing to learn how true they are. They don’t know that heaven and Jesus become real to us the minute we keep a commandment, the minute we give God a single indication that we want to be part of it all.