This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on May 15, 2016.
Our text falls near the beginning of the so-called Farewell Discourse in John’s Gospel (chapters 14-17). Just before this, Jesus has washed the feet of his disciples, announced his coming betrayal, eaten the Last Supper with them, given them the “new” commandment that they love one another as he has loved them, and predicted Peter’s coming denial. At the start of the Farewell Discourse, Jesus has promised to prepare a place for them, to come again and take them to himself and to a place where he is going. He has answered Thomas’s question about the way to where he is going by pointing to himself and saying that he is “the way, the truth and the life.” That is, Jesus is the true way of life that leads to the Father.
The first part of what follows in verses 8-14 takes us deep into the identification of Jesus with the Father. This passage lays the groundwork for a more developed doctrine of the Trinity that would take nearly three hundred years to work out. What John repeatedly wants us to see is the oneness of Jesus with the Father. This oneness is a unity of persons, not a singularity. Think of it this way: When we are talking about God being one—and this is a common conversation among the three great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam—we mean there are no other gods but God. There is one and only one God. That singularity, however, is not the issue of our text. Jesus uses the intimate language of Father to talk about what we would come to understand as the interpersonal inner character of the one Triune God.