This passage holds what are, for me, some of the sweetest words in the Gospels, when Jesus reckons with the limits of what the disciples can grasp and simply turns them to their trust in him:.“If it were not so, I would have told you,” he says. That is the kind of word we build our whole lives on. And, for many of us, our faith unfolds from moments when someone we trusted to tell us the truth spoke or somehow embodied words like these for us.
The last saying we heard this week—“I will do whatever you ask in my name” — is a word about prayer that may be jarring in place like the place we find ourselves in now. We are asking for treatments, support, progress, relief. We know that much was asked on behalf of the many thousands already lost to the coronavirus.
It may be helpful to consider what comes before. This is the last night—the night in which Jesus is arrested. They all know what has to be coming, hearts in throats. And Jesus is trying fill them with confidence that they are not being torn apart despite the hard fact that they cannot yet follow him where he is going. They are confused and frightened and so they are saying things like “why can we not?” “How can we know the way?” “Show us.”
Jesus comes to speak about prayer because his disciples are afraid of loosing him, or of him loosing them. They are afraid of being alone. And this may be why Jesus tells them about the intimacy, the perfect one-ness of he and God, who he calls Father.
The Father has been at work through him all along. That close to him, and that close to them. That connection is what they had seen everywhere they had gone with him. And now, Jesus tells them, those who follow him will do the works that he does, which is another way of saying that they are part of the communion between he and the Father.
It goes on, whatever happens. They will see in each other and in themselves signs of God’s love. They will see the movement of God creating community, creating family around them and through them. And their asking, the longings of their hearts, will have a part in it. These words are about their place and their voice in the unfinished healing of the world.