2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
There are no periods or question marks in the ancient Greek texts – and this is one of the places where it matters. Does Jesus say, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Or “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you…”
There are no great doctrinal consequences to the two possible translations, but personally I like the latter. The first one sounds a little snotty to me; the second calm and firm.
I don’t like it when people ask me ambiguous or loaded questions like “Would I have done that?” I like the clear assurance of “I wouldn’t have done that.” The truth is uncertain in the first, but not in the second.
I never liked it when Mother asked, “What were you thinking?” It wasn’t really a question; it was an accusation. There was no point in explaining what I was thinking – it was obviously wrong or stupid or (and this is what I think she really meant) I wasn’t thinking at all.
A friend carried into adulthood the shame from being accused of trying to take money out of that little plastic receptacle for Muscular Dystrophy donations that used to stand by the cash register hoping for your change. She wasn’t trying to get the money; she was just curious if she could touch it. How deep was that thing? How full was it? It was a pretty natural thought for a small child. But no one was really interested in what she was thinking – they all thought they knew. It was a sad scar to carry. A scar like those many of us carry.
Jesus has no problems being blunt. I don’t think he has to resort to being snide. So, for me, this text will always be a simple declaration. “I would have told you.”
With those little words I hear him say to me “I don’t play games with you. I wouldn’t mislead you. I would have told you.” With those little words he reminds me once again that everything he says to me can be trusted – including, that he has prepared a place for me in the heart of the father.
And a place in me for the Father.