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St Peter stood at the pearly gates, waiting for incoming. He saw Jesus walking by and caught his attention. “Jesus could you man the gate while I go on an errand?”
“Okay,” replied Jesus, “what do I have to do?”
“Just find out about the people who arrive. Ask about their background, their family, and their lives. Then decide if they deserve entry into heaven.”
“Sounds easy enough; I think I can handle that okay.”
The first person to approach the gates was a wrinkled old man. Jesus summoned him to the examination table and sat across from him. He peered at the old man and asked, “What was it you did for a living?”
The old man replied. “I was a carpenter.”
Jesus remembered his own earthly existence and leaned forward, and said, “So was my dad; did you have any family?”
“Yes, I had a son, but I lost him.”
Jesus leaned forward some more, “You lost your son? Can you tell me about him?”
“Well, he had holes in his hands and feet.”
Jesus leaned forward even more and whispered, “FATHER?”
The old man leaned forward and whispered, “PINOCCHIO?”
In John 14:8 we have one of the biggest asks in the Bible: “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied” (John 14:8).
To see the Father?! He might as well be asking to see the dark side of the moon! Who does Philip think he is making such an enormous and brave request?
I am sure he was aware that the Old Testament indicated it was a risky venture to actually see God. In Exodus 33, Moses makes a Philip like request: “Show me Your glorious presence” (Exodus 33:18). And God says, “No one can see My face and live” (33:20).
Is Philip being brave or is he just plain stupid?
My guess is the intimidating Old Testament picture of God has been toned down by Jesus as we shall see in a few minutes. And so Philip says, “Show us that Father and we will be satisfied.”
If Philip’s request is bold, Jesus reply is astonishing: “When you see Me you have seen the Father!” This is the high point of John’s Christology. Jesus is not simply a religious teacher or guide. He is the One in whom God can be found.
As Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and “God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ” (Colossians 1:19).
One of the third century’s early church fathers, Origen, had a great analogy. He told of a village with a huge statue; so immense you couldn’t see exactly what it was supposed to represent. Finally, someone miniaturized the statue so one could see the person it honored. Origen said, “That is what God did in his Son.”
Theologian Dale Brunner says, “Paul tells us Christ is the self-miniaturization of God, the visible icon or image of the invisible God (Colossians 1). In Christ, we have God in a comprehensible way. In Christ, we have God’s own personal and definitive visit to the planet.” 1
Such a claim requires justification and in verse 10 Jesus supplies it.
First, His words . . . “The words I speak are not my own” (14:10)
If this was the only gospel, we would have more than enough of His words to convince us that Jesus was in the Father and the Father was in Him. For example, this gospel contains the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus. In each case, Jesus is harkening back to Exodus 3 where God calls Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom from the Egyptians.
But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you. (Exodus 3:13-14).
When Jesus speaks these seven “I am” sayings, His disciples understand that He is claiming to be the same God who called Moses.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again” (John 6:35).
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will the light that leads to life” (John 8:12).
“I am the gate for the sheep. Those who come in through me will be saved” (John 10:7b, 9)
“I am the good shepherd; I know My own sheep, and they know Me, just as my Father knows Me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15)
“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25).
“I am the way, the truth and the life. And no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit” (John 15:5).
The words Jesus has been speaking to His disciples have been indicating to them that He is God.
And then Jesus points to His deeds as evidence of the same: “My Father who lives in me does his work through me” (14:10b).
Again, in this gospel, John presents the seven signs that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Him.
- In chapter 2, Jesus turns water into wine (John 2:1-12).
- In chapter 4, Jesus heals the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54).
- In 5, Jesus heals the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-17).
- In chapter 6, Jesus feeds the five thousand (John 6:1-14).
- Still in chapter 6, Jesus walks on water (John 6:15-25).
- In chapter 9, Jesus heals the man born blind (John 9:1-41)
- Lastly but certainly not least, in chapter 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-46).
But John isn’t through yet as in 20:30-31 he writes:
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
And he concludes his gospel in John 21:25 with
Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.
For evidence to support His claim to Philip, Jesus references both His words and deeds.
But make no mistake, beyond being God’s agent to say and do what God the Father would say and do, Jesus challenges them and us to the uttermost when He concludes this section by claiming that the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. Jesus is saying to Philip: Listen to Me! Look at Me! And believe that I and My Father are one and the same!
But what does this mean for Philip and for us? What does it mean to know Jesus as Father? What can we take away from this teaching that will help us in our understanding of God and how He relates to us?
It means first of all that God loves us like a father should love a child.
In the gospel accounts, Jesus refers to God as His ‘Father’ 179 times. He talked of a father who gives good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11), who knows the number of hairs on their heads (Luke 12:7), who dresses them more splendidly than the flowers of the field (Matthew 6:30) and feeds them more faithfully than the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26). The Father Jesus spoke of is not a stern and distant taskmaster. He is a devoted daddy who comes running to His children when the hour is darkest (Luke 15:20).
I don’t know any perfect parents; I know the qualities we expect from good parents. We expect them to love us unconditionally; to encourage, guide us and teach us. We count on them to set boundaries and yet give us the freedom to explore and fail. We depend on them to pick us up when we fall and hold us when we’re in pain. We want them to believe in us when everyone else doubts and to claim us even in our moments of shame.
While I am far from being the perfect father, being a parent has helped me glimpse the heart of God; and the same is true for many of you. I still recall 49 years ago, how overwhelming it was to hold Jennifer in my hands and realize this was a person I helped create. In those first few moments, I think that every father wants nothing more than to guard and love and bless. I can recall when my children were little, walking into their bedrooms in the middle of the night and standing over their beds holding my own breath for a moment while listening for the welcome rhythm of their breathing. If they had become uncovered, I’d quietly and carefully so as not to disturb pull the blankets back up and place the edge at the exact most comfortable spot. In those blissful moments of innocence, any mischief they might have caused that day was forgiven. They are our children and we love them.
When Jesus speaks of God as our Father, He is telling us that God loves his children far more perfectly than we love ours. And when Jesus speaks of Himself as the Father, He is saying that both He and the Father love us unconditionally.
Yes, He sets boundaries for us, and yet at the same time gives us the freedom to explore and even to fail. He allows consequences to occur, ever hopeful we will learn from our mistakes and experience the blessing of maturity. God believes in us when no one else does. He is willing to claim us and call us His own even in our moments of shame.
I can still vividly recall the day before I started the 7th grade. It was a warm, bright, sun-shiny day and because it was the last official day of the summer we, that is, me, my first cousin, Mark, and a mutual friend, Chip were hoping for something cool to occur so that we could end the summer on a high note. So I suggested we go to Becky’s house as it was a good bet her parents were working. And when we knocked on her door, she and her friend invited us in for a refreshing glass of ice tea and a rousing game of Pinochle. If you believe that, I’ll tell you another one.
There’s no reason to share with you any of the details of that afternoon’s activities except to say that for some reason Mark and I had to pour copious amounts of coffee down Chip’s throat and even put him fully dressed in a cold shower. That brought him around enough he decided it was time for him to leave. Feeling benevolent, Chip stopped to water the flowers in the neighbor’s garden. Unfortunately for Chip, he didn’t see the retired owner of that house was kneeling nearby weeding his garden. And unbeknown by and unfortunately for the rest of us, he called the local constable, who hustled all five us into his cruiser and took us to the hoosegow for a couple of hours of interrogation and incarceration. Where I had only one thing to say, “Please don’t tell my parents.” And whereby he responded by picking up the phone and saying, “Mrs. K’Meyer, do you know where your son is?”
My mother didn’t drive and my dad was at work, so the officer took me home to my mother, who said, “Wait till your dad gets home.” I retreated to the safety of my bedroom until I was called to the dinner table. I’ll never forget when his eyes met mine. And when he didn’t speak for several minutes, I said, “Aren’t you going to say something, Dad?” He simply said, “Let’s have some dinner . . . son.” And at a time when I had failed him the most, he reminded me that I was his son. To be sure, he grounded me for the first six weeks of school. But in the years that followed he never once brought up that incident. He just continued to love me for who I was and who I could be.
Jesus is assuring His disciples both then and now that He loves us like His Father loves us.
And that love will be supremely expressed when Jesus dies on the cross.
We must remember that in less than 12 hours, Philip and the others will be standing before the cross. Surely, these words will come back to them: “When you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9).
There is nothing so incredibly startling than this in all the world. It is easy to conceive of God who condemns people. It is easier still to imagine a God, who if men oppose Him, wipes them out. No one would have ever dreamed of a God who deliberately chose the cross for the benefit salvation of people.
Think about His Love, think about His goodness. Think about His grace that’s brought us through. For as high as the heavens above, so great is the measure of our Father’s love. Great is the measure of our Father’s love. 2
Author and speaker Brennan Manning, originally his name was Richard Manning, has an amazing story about how he took on the name Brennan. While growing up, his best friend was Ray Brennan. The two of them did everything together: bought a car together as teenagers, double-dated together, went to school together, and so forth. They even enlisted in the Army together, went to boot camp together, and fought on the frontlines together. One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was reminiscing about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate a chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole. Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar and threw himself on the live grenade. It exploded, killing Ray, but Brennan’s life was spared. When Brennan became a priest he was instructed to take on the name of a saint. He thought of his friend, Ray Brennan, so he took on the name Brennan. Years later he went to visit Ray’s mother in Brooklyn. They sat up late one night having tea when Brennan asked her,
“Do you think Ray loved me?”
Mrs. Brennan got up off the couch, shook her finger in his face and shouted, “What more could he have done for you?”
Brennan said that at that moment he experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus wondering, Does God really love me? And Jesus’ mother Mary pointing to her son, saying, “What more could He have done for you?” 3
And now I’ve found the greatest love of all is mine since you laid down your life, the greatest sacrifice. 4
The cross of Jesus is the Father’s way of doing all He could do for us. And yet we sometimes wonder, Does God really love me?
God on a cross means that no one has ever sunk so far as to be out of the reach of the Father who is ever ready and willing to reach down and grab your hand and pull you up to the heights of His love of grace.
In 1989 an earthquake that almost flattened Armenia killed over 30,000 people. A father rushed to his son’s school and discovered the building was flattened. Standing there, the father remembered his mantra to his son, “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you!”
It looked like a hopeless situation, but he could not take his mind off his promise. Remembering that his son’s classroom was in the back right corner of the building, the father rushed there and started digging through the rubble. Other grieving parents tried to pull him off of what was left of the school saying: “It’s too late!” “Surely they’re all dead!” “You can’t help now!” Even a police officer and a fire-fighter told him he should go home. To everyone who tried to stop him, he said, “Are you going to help me now?” They did not answer him and he continued digging for his son stone by stone. He needed to know for himself: “Is my boy alive or is he dead?”
This father dug for 8 hours and then 12 and then 24 and then 36 hours. Finally in the 38th hour, as he pulled back a boulder, he heard his son’s voice. He screamed his son’s name, “ARMAND!” and a voice answered him, “Father?” Then the boy added these priceless words, “there are two others with me. I told them not to worry. I told them you always promised you’d always be there for me no matter what and that when you saved me, they’d be saved. Thank you, Father, for never giving up on me. 5
Majesty, majesty, Your grace has found me just as I am, empty-handed but alive in Your hand. 6
A young boy burst into the great throne room of a medieval king. The boy was skipping and singing as children do; completely oblivious to the regal soberness of his surroundings. Suddenly, he was grabbed by the collar by an armored guard. “Have you no respect, lad?” hissed the soldier. “Don’t you know that the man on the throne is your king?” The boy wriggled out of the soldier’s grasp. Dancing away, he laughed and said, “He may be your king, but he is my father!” And the boy bounced up to the throne and leaped into His Father’s lap. 7
Perhaps this would be a good time for you to do likewise.
1 Dale Bruner, theologian, from Is Jesus Inclusive or Exclusive?
Theology, News, and Notes of Fuller Seminary (Oct. 1999), p.4 https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2000/march/12331.html
2 Harrah, Walter. Lyrics from Think About His Love. Hosanna Integrity Music. 1987.
3 Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; source: adapted from James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God (IVP, 2009), p. 142 https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2010/july/6072610.html
4 Lyrics from Majesty (Here I am) Arranged & Orchestrated by David T. Clydesdale. 2008.
5 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Chicken Soup for the Soul. [Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, © 1993]. Page 273.
6 Lyrics from Majesty (Here I am) Arranged & Orchestrated by David T. Clydesdale. 2008.
7 Quoted from craigpages3.100megsfree5.com/sermons/janfebmar92.html http://saltforsermons.org.uk/category/god-fatherhood-of/