Jesus’ taunt of the Pharisees is both frustrating and confounding. They must wonder where he is going that they cannot go. Why not? And who’s to stop them? Don’t they have better connections to powerful people in both Jewish and Roman circles?
His cryptic statement is typical of Saint John’s gospel. A statement that seems, on the face of it, fairly straightforward actually leads to a mysterious revelation.
Where is he going? Up.
As in…? Up the mountain like Moses? Up to the top of the parapet of the temple? Will he rise upward in influential circles? Will he excel Caesar Augustus?
Only those whom the Father has given Jesus can comprehend what he is saying; they are those gathered and anointed by the Holy Spirit. But even their comprehension is more apprehension -- an intuited awareness that there is something here; something beautiful, desirable, important and infinitely beyond human understanding.
This apprehension is a bit fearful too, because I realize even as I am not understanding that I am being understood – and cherished and loved – by one greater than myself. As Etta James sang, “SOMETHING’S gotta hold on me.”
And, whatever it is, it’s good, very good. It’s beautiful and delightful and so much better than my former way of life. As Saint Augustine said, “The heart is drawn to love as iron is drawn to a magnet.” Iron has less understanding of the magnet than we have of God but not by much!
The Pharisees can’t understand. Clinging to and leaning on one another in a frightened phalanx, none dares to break ranks and none can permit another to break ranks.
Jesus will ascend to his Father by way of a ladder. He had alluded to Jacob's Ladder when he met Nathaniel,
Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.The ladder is the cross which he will climb, ascending like an incense offering before the Father's throne. Those who go down with him into Baptism will rise with him to Glory.