The Departure

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter in Year C of the Lectionary Cycle. In yesterday’s post we explored a possible understanding of Jesus’ reference to “glorification.” Today we explore the second of the three parts of this very short reading. Referring again to his imminent departure, Jesus said to his disciples, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you” (v.33).

“My children (teknia)…” This term of endearment expresses Jesus’ love for his disciples and is a poignant introduction to his announcement that his departure is imminent. The term a little longer (eti mikron) is imprecise (cf. 7:33), so they could not be sure how soon this separation would take place, but given the announcement of the betrayal they might suspect that it would be very soon. Jesus seems to refer not just to the time of separation between his death and resurrection, but also to the time thereafter. For he says they will look for him, which they did not do after his death, but which they did do after the resurrection. Just as the first disciples sought him out (1:38), so will they continue to seek for him after his departure. Part of the purpose of the farewell discourse is to tell them of the new ways in which they will find him in the future.

The departure had been a theme in the controversy with the Jewish opponents (7:34; 8:21), as Jesus reminded the disciples. Even earlier Jesus had talked about going to where he was before (6:62), referring to the Ascension.

While it is impossible for either group to follow Jesus where he is going, there is a big difference between the groups’ relationships to Jesus. For the opponents are alienated from God and can never follow Jesus into the Father’s presence as long as they remain in that condition. The disciples, on the other hand, have been cleansed (v. 10). They are little children who will indeed follow Jesus as later outlined:

  • Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” (12:26).
  • And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  Where (I) am going you know the way.” (14:3-4)
  • “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am  they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (17:24).

As the following chapters will make clear, they first need to receive the Spirit, the Paraclete, to share in the Father’s life and love and to accomplish his works, as Jesus himself has done.

The question of Jesus’ origins – “where he is from” (pouthen) – becomes a significant faith-issue in John (7:27-28; 8:14; 9:29-30; 19:9). His human origins in Galilee are clear, but by faith, we also know of his divine origins and the place where he will return to.

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