The Fifth Sunday in Lent April 10, 2011
1 John 1:1-4
17, 352, 155, 50
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.”
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of Him who came to the cradle that He might die on the cross:
We used to live in Missouri, “The Show-Me-State.” I guess for the people of Missouri, “seeing is believing.” Philip would have made a fine Missourian, don’t you think? “Show us the Father,” he asks, “and it will be enough.” [v.8] Don’t we also find ourselves thinking at times that it would be easier for us if God would just show Himself to the world all at once?
Moses had similar thoughts. “Show me Your glory,” he once demanded of God. What did God answer? He said to the man Moses: “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. But you cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 18:20).
We can’t even look at the glory of the created sun in the sky without harming our eyes. How could man look with the naked eye upon the glorious light of the Holy God? Thankfully, He does not reveal Himself in this way to sinful mankind!
Instead, He wants to reveal His goodness and grace in Jesus Christ to sinners, now in our day of grace, before that Day comes when He no longer hides Himself from the eyes of sinful man. He has determined to reveal Himself through His Word. We are commanded to go out and ask people who rely on their senses to believe what they do not see! So let us consider “THE ‘HIDDENNESS’ OF GOD AND THE BLESSING OF SEEING HIM.
Philip’s question shows how impossible it is for natural man to see God. God is hidden by His very own nature. God is spirit. He has no flesh and bones which man may perceive with his natural senses. Furthermore, God dwells “in the high and lofty place,” far above and beyond the vision of mankind. Isaiah wrote: “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and lofty place’” (Isaiah 57:15).
Now what did Philip and the other disciples see when they looked upon Jesus? John tells us in the first chapter of his Gospel account that the disciples saw Jesus’ “glory as of the glory of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14, cf. Hebrews 1:2). But what did the disciples actually see during their three years with Jesus? They saw a man. They saw the Man that God became when He entered human flesh.
If we come across the print of a foot in the snow or dirt, we can tell whether a bird or other animal made it. But we cannot determine that it was left by a spirit, no matter how long we study the print. Neither could the disciples determine that Jesus is God with their natural eyes or with the power of their reason.
Because of this, we who have not even physically seen Jesus cannot hope to use rational arguments to convince others that He is God. Neither should we be surprised if our telling of His great miracles, His power over death in raising Lazarus, or His own resurrection fail to convince people that Jesus Christ is God.
The temptation is to reduce the scriptural revelation of God and the truths of the Christian faith to the level of human understanding. Take, for example, the teaching of those who say that Christ cannot be really present in the Lord’s Supper because He is not seen or tasted in the Sacrament. People fall into this error because they deny the hiddenness of God. Or, how about the emphasis of certain Christian groups, archaeologists, and scientists in the last 40-50 years. They are intent on using scientific arguments and the abounding visible evidence to prove the truth of the creation account of Genesis and the miracles of the Old Testament.
In years past when the Turkish government was more open to permitting expeditions into the Ararat Mountains, several expeditions were made in search of Noah’s Ark. Many Christian people think that if they can just “prove” the existence of the Ark, they can make people believe in God and His Christ. This too is a failure to recognize the hiddenness of God.
For the same reason many of our friends deceive themselves by reinterpreting God’s Word so that it jibes with what they think or want it to say. For while they talk about God in their lives as if the hidden God has revealed Himself to them, yet they refuse to let God reveal Himself whenever they deny what His Word says and teaches!
When Peter rejoiced to see the transfigured Christ as God on the mountain top, God still said, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5). If we want to witness well, we need to listen well to what God tells us about Himself. We will often hear people denying the hiddenness and loftiness of their God. Often when we bring a scripture passage into a conversation, we’ll hear a response that goes something like this: “But I think…” And then the person goes on to judge the clear Word of God with his own opinion!
When we are sharing the Word of Christ we need to remember the hiddenness of God, and not think that we are going to argue anyone into true faith in his Savior. For the truth is never really accepted by anyone who insists that it must be understood and made to fit his way of thinking. Many who live in the state of Missouri may proudly say, “Show me!” But those who live in the state of Grace must say with all humility: “Lord, speak! Your servant hears!” (1 Samuel 3:10). Christian truth must either be accepted by simple, Spirit-worked faith, or it must offend those who hear it. It cannot be reasoned away!
Philip wanted to understand so that he might believe. In answering him Jesus exhorts him to “believe” so that he might understand (v.11)
Philip wanted to see God with the eyes of his body. But John writes in chapter 1:18: “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Jesus declared the glory of God by proclaiming His great love and mercy toward sinners, His power over sin, Satan, and death! Jesus’ death on the cross, however, has proven to be the greatest stumbling-block to mankind. That’s why Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Jews request a sign and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness…” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).
You see, God on the cross is hidden by the nature of man. The Gospel’s claim that Jesus on the cross is God works like a mirror to reveal the thoughts of human hearts. The teaching that God died on the cross in the person of His Son exposes two kinds of people: those who are offended by such news and those who are not.
Those who are offended by the idea of God dying on the cross fall into three classes. First, there are those who admire and crave the things of this world. They don’t like to be told that since Christ came to make us rich in heavenly blessings through His cross, we are to forsake our fleshly craving and humbly rely on Jesus for life and salvation.
Secondly, there is the group who rely on their own goodness to find acceptance with God. These are offended when we proclaim that God the Son died on the cross as a sacrifice for a world of helpless, no-good people!
Thirdly, there is the group that takes pride in their own ability to determine what is true and what is not. They don’t like to be told that they must put aside their human reason and accept God on the cross for sinners by faith alone. So it is that God on the cross is hidden to all people by nature because of their pride in their good things, their good deeds, and their good minds.
Are there any who are not offended by God on the cross? Yes, for sure. These are the ones who have no reason to be offended. They are the ones who have recognized the vanity of this world’s things, the wretchedness of their works before the holy God, and the smallness of their mind compared to the lofty thoughts and ways of Him who created and yet fills all things. These are the ones who will answer the call of the Savior when He says: “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus has indeed called us to perform a difficult task! He says to us: “Reveal the God on the cross, who is hidden by His own nature and by the nature of fallen man!” But our mission is not impossible! Our Savior God is constantly preparing the soul of human hearts so that many will recognize the voice of their Savior in His Word (cf. John 10) and not be offended by God on the cross or God in His Word.
It is God alone who levels the mountains of human pride so that He may reveal Himself through the Gospel which we seek to share with our fellow sinners. Listen to His promise: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).
Seeing Him through the eyes of faith is God’s greatest gift to us! May this blessing belong to all those who hear us say: “Look, my friend! That Man on the cross is YOUR GOD!” Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.