Ps. 146; Acts 6:1-9, 7:2a, 51-60; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
House, “In my Father’s house are many rooms… And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also… Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father” (vv. 2a, 3, 12).
Jesus’ Supper is background as he speaking of his Father’s house on Holy Thursday. No doubt what is reported here is apostolic table talk with the Lord; after Supper Jesus’ High Priestly prayer will be foreground. In this context we hear Jesus’ teaching of God’s household.
Jesus is going to prepare a new abode for believers at the cross of which his Supper and Prayer are integral; heaven opened to reveal Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:56).
The Father’s new Temple construction joins material stuff of earth and the things of heaven, beginning to come into view with the bread-flesh and wine-blood of the Supper. Jesus, as did Isaac, will obediently carry wood to new Zion; lay down his life as incarnate Cornerstone, a new and acceptable sacrifice for access to God.
During Supper, Thomas and Philip register confusion about the “way” and “seeing” the Father. Further clarity however would await more construction, laying the rejected Cornerstone, placing contiguous apostolic confessional stones, lifting resurrection scaffolding for “living-stones” (1 Pet. 2:5), such as St. Stephen, martyrs, and converts.
Old temple contractors and managers rejected God’s new Cornerstone, stoning to death in the NT epoch Deacon Stephen, the church’s first martyr, by whose confession, his blood was mingled with Jesus’ sacrifice. From then-on the church fully comprehended the Father’s dwelling with men to be a spiritual household built without human hands (Acts 7:48; 17:24).
In the Resurrection, Jesus invited Thomas to return to the Supper precincts of God’s new heaven and earth coming into being; put his hands into the Lamb’s wounds for faithfulness in the new Temple and Sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world.
That Jesus is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (Jn. 14:6) is affirmed, exhorting Thomas to Eucharist fidelity, “do not be faithless, but faithful” (Jn. 20:27), precisely in the things of word and Supper presence, the entire point of the Resurrection and Ascension to the Father in these last days (see Sermon, Easter 2/A).
Only then does so called “doubting Thomas” comprehended Holy Thursday’s new command, “take eat, this is my body… take drink, this Cup is the NT in my blood” and confess, “My Lord and my God” (see Sermon, Lent 5/A). The church’s on-going Meal is both “Gate-Way” and carriage for “seeing” the Father within new Israel’s priestly courtyard of Thanksgiving (see Sermon, Easter 4/A).
Stephen’s death reveals we are “living-stones” of the new Temple. Baptism ordains on the foundation of the Apostles’ preaching and fellowship of breaking and distributing the Bread, the crucified and risen flesh of Jesus.
Stephen, like Jesus, did “signs and wonders” (Acts 6:8) to conversions. Like Jesus, he was brought for trial before the temple Sanhedrin charged with blaspheming both Torah and God’s OT dwelling place. Again, like Jesus, Stephen turned the tables, accusing his accusers of the very unbelief in God for which Jesus died.
From Stephen’s martyrdom, the church continues her proclamation and Eucharistic worship as “signs and wonders” availing the invisible God and heaven opened through apostolic “prayer” and sacramental “breaking of the Bread” (Acts 2:42). We confess Jesus, God’s word become flesh (Jn. 1:14), in whom all Scripture is understood (Lk. 24:27). With St. Stephen we witness to Jesus in whom alone is salvation.
But trivializing Scripture, as do some, to be serial “insights for living”, moral proscriptions, or any other way apart from God’s Christological intent to Spirit and Life, then we practice biblical idolatry. Biblicism, makes a “god” of Scripture’s text over which men may critically exert thoughts and will; thus, the ancient adage: “The Church Teaches”. By biblicism, the Jews, according to what seemed right in their own eyes (Dt. 12:8; Jud. 17:6; Prov. 21:2) opposed Jesus, the church’s true Teacher of Torah.
Biblicism today is the overriding feature of the “denominations” who abstract “Sola Scriptura” from “Solus Christus”. Such failure is the very “faithlessness” with which Thomas threatened the church’s unity, by his declaration, “I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25). Therefore, Stephen well warns us from being “stiff-necked… [and] resist[ing] the HS” (Acts 7:51) concerning the new things of God’s Temple.
Temple Jews brought blaspheme charges against both Jesus and Stephen against God’s dwelling. So also, we observe sectarian “Christians” “kick against the goads” (9:5b NKJV), disbelieving that eternal life is essentially connected to “apostolic fellowship” of those, with us today, “touch with our hands concerning the word of life” (1 Jn. 1:1, 3).
How then do we understand Jesus, Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father”?
Jesus leads our Father’s house a house of prayer (Mt. 21:13). At the cross Jesus learned perfected obedience to the Father’s will (Heb. 2:10), that culminated in this prayer, “forgive them for they do know what they do” (Lk. 23:34).
Jesus, our Shepherd to the Father, our High Priest in the work to which he and we are baptismally ordained, a holy priesthood, join Stephen’s last breath, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
Faith attaches us to Jesus’ “once for all sacrifice” (Heb. 10:10), “living-stones” laid upon the Cornerstone. In this construct we offer prayerful sacrifices of Thanksgiving asking all things through Christ according to the Father’s will.
Our mass’ Prayer of the Church is intimately associated with its consecratory “Verba”. Our “spiritual” works (1 Pet. 2:5) thus joined, magnify Jesus’ Eucharist on the cross before the Father. In this manner our “works”, are “greater” seeking only the Father’s fidelity to his Son. Thus does, Jesus say, “Whatever you ask in my name I will do it.” Amen.