Attempts to seek truth apart from Jesus will lead to disappointment

Father John A. Kiley

St. Mark has 34 references to exorcisms in his Gospel account. St. John the Evangelist makes no mention of Jesus casting out demons in his version of the good news.

In the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus is very much in charge of the situation. St. John knows that Jesus is ultimately victorious over sin and evil so these contests with the powers of the underworld are not a feature of his narrative. Along this same line, when Jesus is confronted by Judas and his band of brigands in the Garden of Gethsemane, the presence of Christ is so overpowering that the nasty cohort trip over themselves in apprehension: “When he said to them, ‘I am he,’ they turned away and fell to the ground.” Again, in contrast to the synoptic Gospels who note the kindness of Simon in aiding Jesus with the cross, St. John deliberately notes that Jesus set out for Golgotha, “bearing the cross for himself.” Jesus is always the Master. Jesus as met in the pages of the Gospel according to St. John is undeniably the victorious Christ, frankly, the resurrected Christ, the Christ already triumphant over sin and death. In a sense, St. John cannot restrain himself from revealing the outcome of the Gospel story. He knows from the start that Jesus will overpower the devil by his unflinching obedience to the Father’s will, hence the many hints of Jesus’ superlative nature, in fact, Jesus’ divine nature, scattered through the Gospel.

Unsurprisingly, Jesus is often accused during his public life of making himself out to be God. Recall how frequently the Scribes and Pharisees picked up stones to hurl at Jesus because of his divine pretensions. In this coming Sunday’s Gospel, St. John has the audacity to record Jesus’ bold words: “You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” Jesus is asking that his disciples gathered in the upper room should expect to the have the same internal relationship with him as they do with their Father God. Jesus goes on to claim that he has the run of the Father’s heavenly dwelling: “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” So Jesus holds the key to the Father’s eternal dwelling. In fact, Jesus is the key to the Father’s heavenly home. As Jesus instructs Thomas, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus’ daring does not end there. Not only does Jesus have personal access to the Father’s eternal home, he has admittance to the very nature of God. Jesus reminds Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father.’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”

The divinity of Christ was rightly shocking news to the disciples and to the first generation of Christians. As good Jews their ancestors had gone to their deaths espousing the oneness of the one God. Now to accept that this man before them shared in the divine nature was a challenge to their heritage as well as to their own understanding. That God the Father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the burning bush and the summit at Sinai, should have a Son equal to him in all things, “consubstantial” with him as the new Mass translation will read, was and is astounding. Like the gang of thugs that went out to arrest Jesus, all believers should be floored when they confront and acknowledge the divinity of Christ. To leave no doubt in the minds of his disciples and in the beliefs of succeeding generations of Christians, St. John has Jesus repeat, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me”

The uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the authentic Son of God and as the completion of divine revelation frankly needs repeating in today’s broadminded generation. In a well meaning if over enthusiastic effort to give other ecclesial communities their due, the centrality of Jesus Christ is often overlooked and sometimes even ignored. While other religions and even other philosophies do contain “rays of truth,” to use Vatican II’s gracious phrase, Jesus Christ exclusively offers the fullness of divine truths necessary for salvation.

Attempts to go beyond Jesus or to seek truth apart from Jesus will lead to disappointment and frustration. Deeper and deeper involvement with Jesus rather than wider and wider departure from Jesus is the only action that will lead to the ultimate goal of eternal life.