Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Show and Tell That Makes a Difference


Religious pluralism…an attitude or policy regarding the diversity of religious belief systems co-existing in society…is a new experience for us, but it does put us in touch with the world that surrounded the biblical authors.  This is challenging for many people today, because most adults were raised in a time where the predominant religion in this country was Christianity.  Yet, our world looks more and more like the world of our religious ancestors.  In Mesopotamia, there were thousands of gods and goddesses, many of which were known to the Israelites – and indeed, sometimes they were known all too well.  Nothing, therefore, could be more remarkable than to hear the contention…even from those within the church in general…that the existence of religious pluralism today makes belief in the uniqueness of Christianity improbable.  Had this been the necessary consequence of encountering a multitude of other religions, Moses, Isaiah, Peter and Paul would have given up biblical faith long before it became fashionable to do so.

The real question that must be considered is still, “Who is God?”  The plurality of “religious” opinions does nothing to change the importance of this question…or the answer.  In fact, concerning this, 400 years before Christ, Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “To find out the Father and Maker of all this universe is a hard task, and when we have found Him, to speak of Him to all men is impossible."  Oh how wrong was the great philosopher.  Jesus says just the opposite.  We can know the Father…and we can know Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.  We still have a responsibility to believe and speak the truth concerning our beliefs in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.   Jesus is approaching the end of His life and ministry and He is still trying to answer some fundamental questions for His followers. 

Jesus’ words to the disciples in this passage (John 14:7-11) are really prompted by Thomas’ question in vs. 5, “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?  As Jesus has just shared, He is going away and they cannot come with Him. He attempts to comfort them by telling them that he is going to prepare a place for them and that he will return to take them back with Him.  Still, after three years, one would think that the disciples would have a pretty clear understanding of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Apparently, this is not the case.  Philip has a question, and Jesus tries to help Him understand the truth about the Father.  He says, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."  Jesus answers, "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'? (14:8-9)  The concept “know,” as described by Philip is a “deeper” understand…and a knowing that only comes through “experience.”  There is a lot of irony here.  Some might ask -- what qualifies Jesus to tell us what God the Father is like? The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is the Son of God, meaning that he is in fact God (John 1:1ff).  Jesus is God incarnate.  The word “Incarnation” simply means, “God taking on flesh”. This is what 1:14 describes… the Word, Jesus becoming flesh and living with man as a man.  Philippians 2:6, Colossians 1:15-20, etc. go on to further establish that Jesus is God. These verses describe Jesus as the “image of the invisible God” (vs. 15). When we see Jesus, we see God.  They also describe Jesus as having “all of God’s fullness dwelling in Him” (vs. 19). Jesus was completely human, but He was also completely God.

Jesus shows them.  First, He displays what God is like through the life He lives (vv.7-9).  You can tell a lot about the influences on a person’s life by looking at the way they live.  When we look at a person and their behavior, mannerisms, and just the way they do things, we are not just seeing them, but we are seeing that persons parents, teachers and mentors as well.  What Jesus is saying in verses 7-9, is that when you see Him, you see God…you see the Father. The life Jesus lives directly mirrors that of His Father, God.  Also, Jesus lives a life of total purpose…Matthew 20:28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus lives His life for two purposes -- He lives to be a servant and He lives to be a Savior.  Jesus’ life of purpose reveals to us the heart of God. God has a servant heart. He delights in helping others and serving others.  God also has a heart for people. He loves us. He is a compassionate, merciful God, who is full of grace. God has his sights set on saving you from yourself and your sins. Through Jesus’ life, we see the heart of God.  Jesus says in vs. 10 that, “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”  The point that Jesus is making to Philip and the disciples is that if you want to see the Father, look at me and listen to me, because I am speaking the very words of the Father.  After Jesus had finished giving the Sermon on the Mount, the people responded this way in Matthew 7. Matthew 7:28-29, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”  Jesus’ words and teachings reveal the authority and power of God. It becomes very clear to the people that God’s ways are definitely higher than theirs.  If we read through the gospels…Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…that tell the life story of Jesus, we notice that in Jesus’ teachings and parables we are given a description of who God is and what He is like.  We see God as our Father, who loves us deeply but is willing to let us make our own decisions and choices even if they are contrary to His will.  We see God as our Shepherd, who cares for us and knows each of us intimately, who provides for us, protects us and leads us in the right direction.  Jesus shows us what God is like through the life He lives and the words that He speaks, but also through the miracles He performs (v.11).  Jesus tells the disciples and Philip in v.11 to at least believe that Jesus is in the Father and that the Father is in him based “on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”  Jesus did not perform miracles to draw attention to Himself, but to focus attention on God.  Jesus entire purpose was to glorify His Father in heaven…and this is precisely what He does.

A young boy approached his father reading the newspaper on the porch, "Dad, why does the wind blow?" "I don’t know, son." "Dad, where do the clouds come from?" "I’m not sure, son." "Dad, what makes a rainbow?" "No idea, son." The young boy leans against the porch railing and says: "Dad, do you mind me asking you all these questions?" Dad looks around the newspaper and says: "Not at all, son. How else are you going to learn?" Hmmm.  This may the case sometimes with us earthly fathers…but, thankfully, this is not the case when it comes to knowing our heavenly Father.  We can know Him...and we can know His Son, Jesus Christ.

Blessings, Don 

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