Know the Son, Know the Father (John 14:1-14)

babushka dolls 02

If you were to draw a picture of God, what would it be? An old man with a long, white beard sitting among the clouds? A nature scene? A burst of light? Or something else…?

I think Philip, one of Jesus’ Twelve Disciples, must have been a visual person, because asking Jesus to show him the Father (v8) could have come from a desire to have some sort of picture about what the Father looks like. Instead of drawing him a picture, though, Jesus points to himself as the visual representation of the invisible God.

This is consistent with other parts of the New Testament that points to Jesus as the visible face of the invisible God (for example see Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3). What they are saying is that if we want to see God, the best place to look is at Jesus.

However, this is more than a picture of God. In Jesus we see the character and nature of God. Especially when we follow Jesus to the cross and empty tomb, we see the depth of God’s love for us and the power of his love which is stronger than death.

In seeing God in Jesus, we also get to know him (v7). Jesus says the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father (v10,11). The relationship between the Father and Son is so close that they exist in perfect relationship with each other. One way we can think of this relationship is like a mystical babushka (or matryoshka) doll. The mystery of the relationship between the Father and the Son is that not only is the inner doll nestled within the outer doll, but the larger outer doll also exists within the smaller inner doll. It defies logic and messes with my head, but this is basically what Jesus is saying – the relationship between himself and the Father is so close and intertwined that we cannot separate them from each other.

Jesus tells us this so that we can know the Father through the Son (v7). In our current culture, we usually think about ‘knowledge’ as an intellectual activity based on information. From a biblical perspective, however, knowing someone was a lot more than an intellectual exercise. Knowing someone meant having a relationship with that person. For example, there is a big difference between knowing about the Queen of England and knowing her well enough to drop into her palace for a cup of tea and scones with her and the corgis. Through Jesus, we can know the Father in a close and intimate relationship where we are participating with Jesus in God’s work of redeeming, reconciling and renewing the world (v12), and where Jesus promises that he will give us whatever we ask for to do his saving work and bring glory to the Father (vv13,14).

So, how is your relationship with God? One of the challenges we face in our time and place is that we can tend to over-intellectualise our faith. God want us to love him with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27 etc), and so our intellect plays a part in our faith. However, the language of faith that Jesus uses in this passage is about relationship. As we follow Jesus, he leads us deeper into a relationship with the Father. The more we get to know Jesus, the more we also get to know the Father. And the more we get to know God who is the author and sustainer of all life, the more we get to know his life in us (see John 10:10).

We’ve talked a lot about the relationship between the Father and the Son, but I’m guessing there will be people who will be pointing out that a Christian understanding of God is Trinitarian, and so we need to include the Holy Spirit in this relationship as well. Jesus goes on to talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in the next few verses, which we’ll look at next week…

More to think about:

  • How do you picture God? Spend some time drawing how you visualise God…
  • How does your picture of God compare with Jesus, given that he says that those who see him also see God (v9)? In what ways is your picture similar to Jesus? In what ways is it different?
  • This isn’t just about the way God looks, but his character and nature which we encounter in Jesus, especially when we follow Jesus to his cross & empty tomb. What does Jesus’ cross & empty tomb say to you about the character & nature of God?
  • Do you tend to think of faith is more an intellectual activity or a relationship? What might it look like to have ‘a personal relationship’ with Jesus? (think about other significant relationships you have in your life; what keeps those relationships strong? how can you do those things with Jesus to keep your relationship strong with him?)
  • What do you think about the idea that discipleship is following Jesus into a closer & deeper relationship with the Father? What do you like about this idea? What might be challenging or uncomfortable about it for you?
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Sight for the Blind (John 9:1-41)

John 9v25

I have really struggled with this text this week.

On the surface, John 9 tells a simple story about Jesus healing a man who had been born blind. The religious leaders want to know who did it because the healing happened on a Sabbath, and so investigate the circumstances of the healing in a way that almost becomes comical. Eventually, they expel the healed man from the community of the synagogue for saying that his healing shows that Jesus must have come from God. Jesus catches up with him and then gives one of his paradoxical statements about the blind being able to see and those who can see being the ones who are actually blind (v39).

It is this statement of Jesus that has sat in the back of my mind all week, making me wonder if I really see what this story is about, or whether I’m blind to what Jesus is trying to teach us.

I know I’m reflecting my post-modern culture, but we all come to Scripture with our assumptions about the message of the Bible and what God is trying to tell us through the Bible. That makes us no different from the Pharisees whose assumption was that the Law of Moses gave them their best understanding of who God is and how God is at work in the world. One of the reasons they rejected Jesus was because he worked this miracle on the Sabbath. He broke the Law of Moses and so, the Pharisees concluded, he couldn’t be from God. The assumptions the Pharisees worked with prevented them from seeing Jesus as the one through whom God was working in the world.

The key to seeing what this story is about seems to lie in verse 3b when Jesus says that this man was born blind ‘so that the works of God might be displayed in him’ (NIV). What Jesus seems to be saying is that the man born blind encountered God working in the world through Jesus because of his disability. The Pharisees didn’t see it because they didn’t recognize their need for God’s grace or healing. The blind man needed it because he couldn’t see, and it’s because of his lack of physical sight that he gained spiritual insight into Jesus doing God’s work in his life and in the world.

Maybe that’s the point of the story – seeing Jesus as the One who does God’s work in the world to bring us grace which makes us whole.

I’m always cautious about drawing parallels between us and the Pharisees because, let’s face it, none of us like to be called a Pharisee. However, like them, we can look for God to be working in lots of different ways in the world – for example, through nature, or a personal experience of some kind, or a miraculous revelation, or doing good things, or even a set of rules or religious tradition. I know that we can encounter God in ways such as these, and I don’t want to discount them. What this story seems to be saying, though, is that the one place we can see most clearly the way that God is working in the world is through Jesus.

This can become a real challenge for us because Jesus doesn’t fit in with the way we expect God to work. When we look at Jesus, we see God at work in humility, in weakness, in suffering and in the cross. We can look at the man born blind and see God working in his life through Jesus who meets him in his disability. In the same way, when we are being humiliated or shamed, in Jesus we can see God meeting us in our humility or shame to give us honour and dignity, like we saw in last week’s story of the Samaritan woman at the well. When we are weak, in Jesus we can see God meeting us in our weakness to make us strong in faith. When we are suffering for any reason, in Jesus we can see God meeting us in our suffering to give us the hope that he is with us, will give us a better tomorrow, and somehow even use our suffering for good (see Romans 28). In the cross, we see God meeting us in the worst circumstances of life to pour his self-giving, grace-filled love into us which makes us whole and gives us what we need to live in peace and joy now and forever.

I don’t see a God who works like this anywhere else but in Jesus. That’s why, first and foremost,

Discipleship is … Jesus opening our eyes to see God at work in him.

We are all like the blind man in one way or another. We all need to have our eyes opened by the Holy Spirit to see God at work in the person of Jesus, meeting us in our need, showing us grace, carrying our brokenness, and raising us to new life through faith in him. Only then are we able to live as God’s people and glorify him in what we say and do like the man born blind in the story did.

It’s worth asking: where do we look for God? What kind of God do we meet there? And how is that God similar or different to the God we meet in Jesus? We will all come to the Bible with our different assumptions, and they will shape our understanding of God and how God is at work in our lives and in the world. When we think we can see things clearly, maybe that’s when we are actually blind to God’s truth. When we admit we can’t see him, but need the Holy Spirit to open our eyes, maybe that’s when we start to see God at work in Jesus.

More to think about:

  • Where do you look for God at work in the world? In your life?
  • What does that say to you about who God is? What might be some problems with looking for God there?
  • What do you think about looking for God at work in Jesus? What might be helpful in doing that? What might be some challenges about it?
  • When you look at the way God was at work through Jesus in the life of the man born blind from John 9, what does it tell you about God?
  • How might it help you in your life if you could see God at work in humility, weakness, suffering or the cross?