Thomas asks Jesus, where he is going. Jesus then tells him, and it seems like the apostles still don’t get it. ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?’ It took Philip, and Thomas, indeed it took all the apostles and disciples, some time to really know Jesus.
Who was this man Jesus? When they first met him, first began to follow him, they regarded him as their rabbi, their teacher. Their questions however were about what more he might be. Is he the one to liberate Israel from the Romans, and from a corrupt religious establishment that collaborates with the Romans? Will Jesus free us from a regime that steals from us to enrich themselves? Is Jesus the promised one, the anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ?
Read the gospels and you can see these questions being asked. In today’s gospel Jesus is teaching about who he is. And that is not what the apostles expect. Jesus IS the anointed one, Messiah, the Christ, but that does not mean a political saviour. No, he is the one who will save us from our sins, the one who shows us the way to eternal life, the one who is truth, the one one who invites us to life, life lived to the full, as we heard in last weeks gospel.
So the apostles are walking with him, they hear his teaching, they see the miracles, but it still takes them time to understand. They knew him as rabbi, teacher, then they accept him as Christ, as Messiah, and then this journey of the apostles has its first peak when Thomas, face to face with the risen Jesus, makes that great declaration of faith, ‘My Lord and my God.’
After that, of course, their journey continues . At Pentecost they are given the spirit, the spirit that raised Jesus from the dead comes into their hearts, and gives them the power and the passion to spread the good news, as Jesus promised them, to do even greater works.
The apostles’ journey can be our journey too, and the journey of many others today. Many know of Jesus as a moral teacher, and know parts of the gospel, but the journey we are on, and that we can invite others to join, is the journey to follow Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, the journey to acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and our God, the journey to see that Jesus and the Father are one.
The apostles were given the spirit at Pentecost, and we are invited to receive the spirit now. However for the apostles, and for us, receiving the spirit is not the end of the journey.
The apostles then had to build the body of Christ, build the church, in this world. I believe that was the greater work that Jesus referred to. We see them doing this right through the New Testament, through the book of Acts, through the letters they wrote to the young churches they founded, through to the book of Revelation. We can see throughout the need to try new structures, like the commissioning of the Seven we read today, we see the need to resolve arguments and disputes about how to best live as followers of Christ. One of the big arguments in the early church was, do we need to be a Jew to follow Jesus? Do we need to follow all the Jewish laws? It took a meeting of the apostles to sort that one out, after quite a lot of heated disputes!
For us? We are still building the body of Christ, the church, in this world. As the apostles, with the gift of the spirit within them, still had to deal with disagreements and arguments, searched for new structures to build the body of Christ, so do we have to do. Jesus showed the apostles, and shows us, the way, the truth and the life. Our task, like the apostles, is to follow that way to build the body of Christ in this world. May we be open to the spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, and empowered the apostles to go out and change the world.