The disciples, with Jesus in their midst, are nervous and anxious again. Jesus is telling them he must leave them and return to his Heavenly Father. You can imagine the uncomfortable feeling that descended on the group.
Now what? Is one of the questions they began to ask themselves. Why does he have to go? Things were so good, why does Jesus have to leave us again, now?
Jesus tells them he is going away and that he is going ahead of them to prepare a place for them. Wait, what? “Wait, what?” Is one of my least favorite idioms. It is an expression uttered when a person is not paying attention to someone speaking directly to them. Perhaps they were daydreaming and now are compelled to pay attention because there is information directed at them with consequences that they have not been absorbing for various reasons. “Wait, what?” Is a way to cover the fact that a person was daydreaming and not particularly interested in the information being told to them.
This is a good example of how the disciples experienced Jesus throughout their relationship. Jesus told them such things as “the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” You can imagine the disciples saying, “wait what?” How many times do you think the disciples reacted the same way when hearing the words Jesus said to them? “Wait what?”
It must have been frustrating for Jesus at this point, after all they were through together and after all the things he tried to teach them. “Where I am going you know the way.” “Wait, what?” They had not been paying attention well enough to the things Jesus tried to teach them. It reminds me when in a classroom setting, a teacher is going over what will be on a test to which alarmed students protest, “wait what? We never covered that!”
You can feel Jesus’ frustration when he reminds them, “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…” Thomas, “we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” Wait, what? Thomas had not been absorbing Jesus’ words.
Then Phillip gets into the act, “Show us the Father!” How frustrating it must have been for Jesus, as he pleads with Phillip and the others, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Phillip?”
Of course we have the luxury of hindsight to understand Jesus’ words so we should not be so hard on the disciples. Even though we know the story and are able to see Jesus’ ministry as a whole, are we any better than Phillip or Thomas? When we experience misfortune, pain, suffering or loss, don’t we feel the same way? Wait, what? Why is this happening? Is this part of the theater of redemption?
It is a very human response, but certainly not an excuse. Our faith should have made us know better. We don’t want to be the same kind of daydreamer that Phillip and Thomas seem to have been in understanding Jesus’ way and will. We don’t want to be in the position when tragedy strikes or even death and then turn to Jesus and utter, wait what?
We would rather not hear Jesus’ words he had spoken to Phillip, spoken to us….”I have been with you all this time and you still don’t know me?”