instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cracking the Jesus Code

Today's Gospel reading illustrates the difference between believing a truth and believing in the Truth.

The disciples think they've finally figured Jesus out. They've endured all the hints, all the parables and signs and proverbs and suggestions. The time for subtleties has passed, and at last Jesus tells them plainly, "I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."

Aha, the disciples think to themselves, we thought so. And they say with one voice:
"Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God."
If Jesus came from the Father, then He knows everything the Father knows, which is everything. And if Jesus knows everything, that would certainly explain why He seems to know everything. But if He knows everything, then He must come from God. QED.

The problem is, Jesus is not a fact. God did not so love the world that He gave His only Proposition. In the beginning was not the Datum.

Fact, truth; proposition, Word; assent, faith. These may seem like academic distinctions, not at all the sort of thing the disciples thought about, but Jesus draws their attention to a most practical difference:
"Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone."
He doesn't say the disciples don't believe that He came from God. He warns them that their newly-minted belief in His origins does not yet amount to faith in Him personally. They have not yet worked through the implications of their profession; they aren't quite ready to declare boldly, "What will separate us from the love of Christ?"

Well, they're ready to declare it. They aren't ready to live it.

Still, Jesus loved them to the end. He did not belittle them for their immature declaration of belief, but directed them beyond declarations to Himself:
"I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."
He neither demands nor expects the disciples to take courage that night. He might have commanded them to stay with Him, and some might have, but would any have stayed out of personal love for Him? Jesus is from God, Jesus tells me to be arrested and condemned with Him, what someone from God tells me to do I must do, therefore I must be arrested and condemned with Him. QED. Is that the discipleship God became man to obtain?

Instead, Jesus tells them at the Last Supper to take courage so that, after the Ascension, they might remember His words and take courage despite their troubles. They would be led where they did not want to go, but not until they could endure it with peace in Christ. The seed Jesus planted during His ministry was not to be uprooted, but watered with His blood and brought to full flower in the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps, then, whenever we disciples of today have our own "Aha!" moments, we should listen all the more carefully to Jesus, Who doesn't want our faith to rest in anything short of Himself.