First Mennonite Church
April 26, 2015
Text: John 14:1-14
God and His Self-revelation III
Once again, here are the questions I have been trying to respond in the last two Sundays: How does God reveal himself to us? Is it possible for humans to see God? Related to these two questions is a whole list of other questions seldom expressed openly but most often pondered in silence. How can we know what God looks like? Is he a person? Can he really love and related to us like people do only even better? Or is God like an old, old man with a long white beard sitting somewhere in a reserved corner of the universe, looking down at us but not wanting to be so closely involved with our messy but somewhat exciting short lives? Is God an abstract entity or force, like gravity is, within the universe or emanating from a secret place? Is talk about God real or is it just a giant fraud of long ago and continuing today against people who would not dare to ask the hard questions?
Today I want us to focus our eyes (mind and heart) on Jesus, who we call “God Incarnate,” that is, God in human form/flesh.
Read John 14:1-14
Beginning in chapter 12, Jesus has had a heart to heart talk with his disciples. He had eaten the Last Supper, washed the feet of his disciples, and had revealed to them that the hour of his death had arrived. The disciple had truly gotten it clear: Jesus was going away (13:33). Yet they were still not quite clear on various things: Where was he going to (13:36)? Why couldn’t his disciple go where he was going? Why should he have to die? Where was the Father’s house? Why it was that no one could go to the Father except through Jesus? What “way” was he talking about that they should know? How comes that after three and half years of Jesus being with his disciple, they had not seen the Father? Remember, Jesus had just told them, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.”
Phillip realized that Jesus was at a decisive point in his life. He was about to die and “go back to the Father,” whom Jesus had talked so much about lately. But Philip still had one lingering question and he came to a point in which he could not hold it anymore. Philip, therefore, pleaded with Jesus and said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us!” Philip’s request shows that we are not alone in this desire to know or see God. But Philip’s desire also shows us how erroneous we can be if and when we persist in wanting to see God, away from or in disregard of Jesus. Maybe Philip wanted a something similar to those instances reported in the Old Testament about God’s manifestation. Maybe Philip wanted to have an experiences similar to what Isaiah had. In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet saw the Lord God seated on his throne, majestic and surrounded by his holy seraphim. Maybe Philip wanted to see what Moses saw in the desert, a burning bush or the back of God. Maybe Philip wanted to hear at least what Elijah heard in Horeb, God’s presence in a “still small voice” (1Kings 19:11-18). Any such a manifestation of God to anyone is sure to convince even the most skeptic that God indeed exists. Any such a manifestation of God would shake up a person to the core and dissipate all doubts he or she might have. However, it is imperative for us to realize that behind Philip’s request to see the Father is a veiled denial that Jesus is indeed God incarnate.
Like Father, Like Son
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Let us remember that Philip was one among the first disciples Jesus called (John 1:43). He had been with Jesus from the very beginning and after more than three years of being with Jesus, Philip seemed to have not figured out that God had made himself present in the life of Jesus. Therefore, the issue we need to attend is how does Jesus reveal the Father? What were some clear evidences that the Father was made present in the life of Jesus? In what manner could men and women be able to see God in him?
Jesus made God’s voice audible to humans
John 12, verses 44, 45, 49 and 50 read: Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me…. for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”
Jesus revealed the will of the Father. The message he delivered was the message God wanted humanity to hear. It is no wonder why our spiritual ancestors, the Anabaptist, insisted that Jesus’ words are to be supreme in the church. It is not uncommon to hear Paul being quoted on matters of doctrine and Christian practice sometimes even in disregard to Jesus words. John Driver, one of my seminary professors used to say that the Old Testament is like a photocopy of God’s words, but Jesus’ words are the original manuscript. Jesus said, “You heard it was said to those of old …., but I tell you….” (Matthew 5:21, 27, etc.).
Jesus emphatically said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). If we want to hear God’s voice, let us listen to the words of Jesus. He made the voice of God accessible to us humans. Let us remember what happened to Israel when God was speaking to Moses on the mountain. They implored Moses to meet God at a distance but nowhere close to them. They were terrified when they heard his voice talking with Moses (Exodus 20:19).
Jesus’ works revealed the power of God and the presence of his kingdom in the miracles he performed. Jesus healed the sick. He cast out demons. He announced the good will of God towards those who were rejected and ostracized. Jesus asserted, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you (Luke 11:20). The people confessed that Jesus taught like some who really has authority. Nicodemus confessed, “Rabbi… no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God” John 3:2). Jesus announced to those in the synagogue,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Yes, the poor, women, who were considered second class citizens, the lepers, the tax collectors and sinners got to see what love really meant when they met Jesus. They were welcomed without condition. They were given their rightful place around the table of Jesus, for he ate with them. They were embraced in his arms and were pronounced forgiven of their sins. The people who met Jesus concurred with John when he writes: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
To the Apostle Paul wrote: He is the image of the invisible God
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (Colossians 1: 15a, 19-20)
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews also wrote: He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being…. (Hebrews 1:3a) Jesus, both in his glory and humility, in his power and in his love, in his grace and truth, in his words and in his deeds, he revealed the very being of God in a language and level humans could understand.
But this same Jesus who revealed the Father to us now sends us as the Father sent him.
So today, we are being sent to a skeptic world, which wants to have evidence in order to believe. Today, Jesus sends us to a world that is longing to see, in one way or another, indubitable signs that God exists and is present.
Today, Jesus sends us to show the world who he is. So let us gird ourselves with the character of Jesus.
Let us announce his message of love, hope and salvation. Let us love with a love that is free and unconditional. Let us be agents of reconciliation. Let us bring healing into our world where anger, hate, and distrust abound. Let us become Jesus incarnate in Paso Robles. Let us become reflectors of the living light which pushes the darkness of sin and death. Let us reveal that God lives in us. Amen!