The back story to this passage is that Jesus, having just healed on the Sabbath, is being reprimanded by the religious authorities. Not only has he transgressed against the Law, he has invited the person he has just healed to do the same, telling him to pick up his mat and walk. Jesus tells the authorities who are rebuking him, “My Father is still working and I also am working.” Then he launches into the discourse that is quoted above.
What Jesus says here about his relationship with God affirms for me that Jesus, the Son, is a window through which we can gaze at the Creator, God. What Jesus says and what he does shows us who God is, how God acts and what God values. This gives us a Way – a path that supersedes the Law because it fulfills it.
How do we find that path in our lives today? Where do we look to gaze through the window of Jesus Christ?
It is tempting to create a new set of behaviors, to study scripture with the intent to take what Jesus said, parse it out, and make it into rules. But I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind, either in his actions or his teaching. He wasn’t after any more “Thou Shalt”s.
I think that in everything he did Jesus was pointing at something else. He was inviting us into relationship. He was asking us to challenge ourselves, to question, to open our hearts. He was showing us over and over again a living God, a God who desires relationship with us, who wants dialogue, who wants to teach us, change us, open us up like a seed so that we can sprout new roots and stems.
Whenever something is alive it is capricious. Life brings with it creativity and the ability to try on new forms and explore in new directions. Gazing through Jesus at God necessarily means coming into relationship with daunting paradox, searing beauty, and limitless possibility – not to mention all the permutations of Love. Anything concrete or tied down will be broken apart or worked loose. When a place of knowing is reached it will become the gateway to a new level of chaos and uncertainty.
Let’s read scripture, therefore, with the intent to go deeper and deeper not into answers but into our questions. The answers are meaningless; they will all fall away. It is in the asking that something is received; it is in the seeking itself that something is found; and knocking creates both the door and the opening.
Our questioning brings us back from the exercise of concluding, the ritual of making rules, and the labor of being definite to the simple contemplation of the figure of Jesus. Who is he? Who are we? We see him standing in the Temple surrounded by religious authorities, and he is saying, once again, “whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” And we can watch and wonder.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: By NoNomme (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons