Why? How? What? The answer is the same

The last, long discourse reported in the Gospel of John gets punctuated by disciples’ questions. These begin with different words.

After Jesus’ opening remark about the son of man being glorified, He tells them that they cannot come where He is going. And then He gives His great commandment that you must love one another just as I have loved you. What Peter hears is that Jesus is leaving and, sliding past the great commandment, he goes right at Jesus and asks his Friend, Why can’t I follow you now?

The why question is not so much a query but an assertion of independence – and an implication that “I can do whatever I choose to do” – the original human temptation. Peter swears he’ll die with Jesus. He doesn’t know himself well at all. He won’t later on, when he acts the hypocrite with the Judaizing party and argues with Paul.

A little later, Thomas asks how can we know the way to where you’re going since we don’t know where you’re going? Thomas is still insisting on how some days later. How can He be alive? He’s dead! But how heads a real query, because when Jesus gives him the answer – the wounds in His side and hands – Thomas worships Him.

After Jesus tells Philip that anyone who has seen me has seen the Father, Jude Thaddeus asks his question. He has finally understood the gift of faith: to some it is given and to others it is not given. He asks, What has happened that you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world? Jesus doesn’t give a theoretical answer – not what Thaddeus was after, anyhow – but talks about knowing and loving and the work of the Spirit. Then He moves into the vine-and-branches discourse. We all understand that and feel it.

Jesus repeats His great commandment a second and a third time. He tells how the world will accept – and reject – the disciples as it did Himself. He tells how the Father holds them and the Spirit guides them. He calls them not servants, but friends now. Then He says he’ll shortly be gone – and be back again.

Then some of the disciples said to one another, What does he mean? Jesus knows they are wondering and admits that I have been telling you these things in veiled language, but events will show you the truth. He tells them that the Father loves you for loving me, and now they can ask for what they want in Jesus’ Name.

They say, Now we see that you know everything and need not wait for questions to be put into words. And the answer to all of the questions, why, how, what, WHAT – the answer is the same: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.