I don’t go to the movies often, but when I do, I almost always go to matinees, and always arrive early. Many times I’ve been the only one in the theater. These days, for early arrivals like me, theaters usually have some kind of on-screen entertainment — a string of commercials, really — to keep us occupied.
I watch — but I’m still waiting for the feature presentation. That’s what I paid for. And I’ll start to get impatient if the show doesn’t begin on time.
From the end of chapter 13, John has been recounting Jesus’ long goodbye to his disciples. Over and over, they interrupt him with their questions and concerns: first Peter, then Thomas, then Philip. It’s a sign of camaraderie that they’re able to do so. But now comes yet one more confused question: “Lord, why are you about to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22, CEB).
The one who asked was named Judas. John quickly qualifies this in a parenthesis: no, not that Judas, not Judas Iscariot. Little is known about this man; some think he may be the one called Thaddaeus (Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18). There’s no way to know; but for now, let’s refer to him as “Thad” just to avoid confusion with the other Judas. Thad is responding to Jesus’ earlier statement that even though he was leaving, they would soon see him again — but the world would not (John 14:19). Why not? Thad asks. Enquiring minds want to know.
It could be simple curiosity on Thad’s part. But it may also be because the idea of Jesus appearing only to his disciples violates his expectations of how the Messiah is supposed to behave. Shouldn’t the Messiah show himself to everyone and usher in the kingdom on the spot (see, e.g., Acts 1:6)? And perhaps just as importantly: if Jesus doesn’t appear to everyone, how will the disciples’ choice to follow him be vindicated in the sight of all?
How long do we have to wait for the show to begin? This is what we paid for…
We might identify a bit with Thad’s consternation. As believers, we await the day of Jesus’ return, when “at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).
But in a sense, until that time, we are the show, embodying the love of Jesus (John 13:34-35), carrying on his work in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let the show begin.