Pentecost-2013-If You Have Seen Jesus You Have Seen the Father!
May 19, 2013
By Thomas L. Truby
John 14:8-17 and Acts 2:1-4
If You Have Seen Jesus You Have Seen the Father!
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. It was a family reunion and the whole family had gathered. Suddenly, in the midst of their conversation everyone heard a sound like a powerful gust of wind and the sound seemed to be coming from a place outside human experience. The sound filled the house where they were sitting (Blow on microphone.).
“Then tongues, seemingly made of fire, appeared to them.” Were they burned? No, not a one! Did the fire spread? Yes, it did. It spread to everyone. The fire divided and each person found a tongue of fire resting on them. How would you feel if a tongue of fire were resting on you? I think I would be saying, get it off of me. Do you think the fact that no one got hurt says anything about Jesus—after all, it was His Spirit that was coming?
If Jesus’ Spirit doesn’t burn us, or hurt us in any way, is God like Jesus? Is God as gentle as Jesus? In the Gospel lesson this morning Phillip is wondering what God is really like. Have you ever wondered that? So Phillip asks Jesus to show him the Father so that he wouldn’t have to wonder or worry about it any more. What will Jesus say? How will Jesus respond?
He asks Phillip a question. “Have I been with you all this time, Phillip, and you still do not know me?” Have you ever had a teacher, friend or parent ask you a question to get you to think in some new way? The most skilled teachers do this. When he answered Phillip this way, what was he trying to get Phillip to see? Was he being mean or tender? Was he shaming Phillip for being slow or encouraging him to see something he hadn’t seen before? The question Phillip asks shows that he still doesn’t understand who Jesus is.
When Phillip doesn’t respond Jesus doesn’t withhold his answer and leave Phillip in the dark? Instead he gives Phillip a direct and clear answer. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Do you believe this? Do you believe if you want to see God all you have to do is look at Jesus? Many of us don’t. We actually think God is different than Jesus.
We think Jesus is kind, compassionate, and gentle and forgiving like the perfect parent or friend we all wish we had. But what about God! God is different; God can be kind but sometimes is mean. At the drop of a hat God can order the extermination of whole tribes and throw whole populations into an outer darkness that has no end. We see that in lots of places in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. If we are honest, we sometimes think God is like these unpredictable spring days where one minute the sun is shining and we feel so warm we take off our coats but the next moment a cloud covers the sun, it’s hailing and we shiver with our coats on. Do you see what I mean?
Michael Hardin says we often think God is “Janus” faced—two faced—like the masks the Greeks used to depict the actors in a theater. One mask is smiling and welcoming while the other is frowning and scary. But that’s not how Jesus sees God?—as fickle and two faced, prone to rage and not beyond execution. Jesus tells Phillip God looks like himself, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”
God doesn’t have two faces. God has one face and it is the face of Jesus. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. Jesus says, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” N.T. Wright has a clearer translation here. He says, “It’s the father, who lives within me, who is doing his own works.”
Do you see how carefully Jesus is instructing Phillip, setting him straight on his theology, gently correcting his thinking? Phillip has been confused about God and Jesus wants him to get it right. Jesus is saying, “Phillip, believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”
“Very truly, I tell you.” There’s that phrase we see again and again in John’s gospel; Jesus’ way of saying listen up, Phillip. Take this in. Open your ears and let this sink into your heart. “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” Do we believe this?
Phillip, these works that you see me doing, you are going to do too—if you believe me, if you believe that I really do show you the face of God, the character of God, the attitude of God. If you believe God is like me, there is no limit to what we can do together. For one thing, you won’t be so afraid any more and you will be able to go on adventures you would never have dreamed possible. When we believe God is like Jesus, the whole universe begins to smile. The insides of our hearts light up. A lightness of being animates our bodies. As Jesus said, if the eye is whole the whole body is full of light.
All this happens because Jesus has gone to the Father; and stations himself at God’s right hand. We have an advocate speaking in God’s ear. And since God and Jesus are on the absolute same page, God will listen when Jesus speaks. I hope this isn’t too simple for you. I don’t want you to feel demeaned by it. John’s gospel is deceptively simple.
Jesus then makes a solemn promise to Phillip. He tells him that when he returns to God, after his sojourn on earth has ended, whatever Phillip asks in Jesus’ name, Jesus will do. He will do this so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You see, there is no rivalry between them, no competition to see who is the greatest. Each party to the dance wants to honor the other. No one is trying to get ahead at the others expense. All are working together in unity. This is Jesus’ way and Jesus and his Abba totally agree on it. There is no dissention between them. Their relationship is a model for us. He wants us to live this way too.
Jesus tells Phillip he can be brought into this unity. If he believes that Jesus shows us the Father, he too will join the dance. If we see God as Jesus does, we become part of a unity that undergirds the universe. If you want to join this dance, here’s what you do. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What are Jesus’ commandments: to love Jesus and one another as Jesus has loved you.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” Another huge supporter is coming to join you, a voice who will speak for me and defend you against all false accusations. And this voice will never abandon you.
This new addition “is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
We circle back to where we began on that day in which the Spirit came. “Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability.”
The Holy Spirit speaks in our own language because He comes from God and deeply enters our hearts. The Spirit knows us and knows how to speak to us. The languages are many. For some the language of the Spirit is music, or art; dance or poetry, drama or novel, thinking logically or service toward people or being in nature itself. The Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, speaks in our native language.
No one is excluded. It is not about who is out and who is in. It is about who is loved and all are. Everyone has their own separate tongue resting on them and yet all share in the same flame. Each is an individual but all are profoundly connected through the fire of love.
The spirit of joy is so palpable onlookers think they must be drunk, but it is only nine in the morning. This party has unity at its core and the joy is genuine. Something new has been added to the human experience. The God our hearts cry for has been seen in Jesus and has come to stand with us forever in the person of God’s Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. This is why Pentecost is the birthday of the church. It is the day the Spirit came pointing to Jesus and saying, “If you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father.” Amen.