Scripture - John 14:1-9
Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us. We do not know, of course, whether Philip whispered these words,
hoping no one else would hear, or shouted them across the room. We don’t know if he spoke in a tear-filled voice or simply blurted out his request. We do not know if he realized the importance of what he asked. What we do know is that he spoke for all of us: to know God is a fundamental human longing, so deeply imbedded, in fact, it can rarely come to our lips. Why?
Perhaps it is pride. One must swallow the pride of self-sufficiency in order to make this request. A man paces back & forth outside a church door before entering. This is strange territory. Inside a friendly face hands the visitor a worship bulletin & with a smile says, “Welcome; we know you are here in search of God.” “Well, no,” comes the reply, “I just had an hour to kill & thought I would drop in.”
Perhaps the difficulty in expressing our desire to know God lies in the fear of exposing our emotion. After all, the desire is not only cerebral. A patient lies in a hospital bed awaiting surgery early the next morning. Through a partially open door he sees his pastor coming down the hallway. “Pastor, what are you doing here? You should be seeing other patients who are really sick. Of course, I am having a little surgery tomorrow to remove my kidneys & liver, but it is no big deal. A piece of cake. But some folks in here are nervous & could use a pastoral visit.” What is going on? The patient doesn’t want the minister to come to his bed, take his hand, & pray? What he really wants is for the pastor to come to his bed, take his hand, & pray. But he doesn’t want to cry.
Or perhaps the request “show us God” sticks in the throat because of a suspicion it will go unanswered. Maybe the writer of Ecclesiastes is right: God has placed eternity in our hearts, but we cannot know the beginning or ending of anything. After all, just because you are hungry does not prove there is bread. James Crenshaw of Duke Divinity School compared this dim view of life with a huge Easter egg hunt. In the morning we all go out with baskets & full of anticipation. During the day, now & then, someone yells, “I found one!” but in the evening most go home with empty baskets.
But suppose someone wanted to give me some kind of answer to my request; to what or to whom would I be pointed? After all, the author of this gospel has already said, No one has ever seen God. Now, many people would point me to creation. Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1) Even Paul, in his own way, says that all humanity, even those without access to Scripture, is without excuse. Romans 1:19-20: What is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – God’s eternal power & divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. And Luke agrees: [God] hasn’t left himself without a witness. He has blessed you by giving you rain from above as well as seasonal harvests & satisfying you with food & happiness. (Acts 14:17)
And our own experience of nature offers its own Amen. We are in spring when the world is filled with light & color, when “butterflies flutter from every little buttercup.” It is so in summer, when trees & vines hang heavy with fruit, God’s provisions for his creatures. It is so in the fall, when a chill is in the air & the leaves turn to flame. And, in winter, when the barren trees welcome a blanket of snow. It is a rare place on earth that is so barren & desolate that you cannot see in the lower right-hand corner the initials of the artist – GOD. Sit alone on the back steps with your fingers wrapped around your early morning coffee & see how long it takes for God to enter your thoughts.
So, why is this not enough? Why is Philip standing there waiting for an answer? He has eyes, ears & a heart; he has seen creation just as we do. So why is he still asking: Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us. Probably because it is not enough simply to have witnesses in creation that there is a God. There is nothing saving, nothing redeeming, in believing there is a God. Our desire is to know God; to know what God is like, what God’s relationship is to us. Show us that; do not point me to a cloud or a bird, nor to a leaf or a sunset.
Philip’s question was not only important, it was urgent. His only hope for an answer had just announced to his followers that he was going away. Don’t be troubled. My Father’s house has room to spare. I’m going to prepare a place for you. Where I am you will be too. His followers are confused. They are children playing on the floor only to look up & see Mom & Dad putting on their coats. The children have 3 questions (always 3 questions): Where are you going? Can we go? Who is staying with us? Jesus responds: I am going to the Father. You cannot come now; you can come later. I won’t leave you as orphans. I will ask the Father, & he will send another Companion.
Hearts heavy with the news of the approaching death of their leader & friend cannot grasp these words. It is too much. Questions follow questions, until finally Philip speaks, not only for himself, not only for the 12, but for all of us. We are all full of questions about life, death, & what we do next. But our minds & hearts will be satisfied if we can know God. Just show us God.
Show us God? Is that your question, Philip? Where have you been? All this time together & you don’t know? Were you there when the lame man stood & walked? Were you there when the blind man saw his family for the first time? Were you there when the centurion’s son got up from his sick bed? Were you there when the crowd was fed? Were you there when Lazarus was restored to life? Yes, I was there & I believe in miracles, but I want something more; I want to experience God. And so, Jesus took a towel, tied it around his waist, & with a basin of water washed their feet. Oh no, not this; show us God. And so, Jesus took up a cross & as he walked up to Golgotha, he turned to Philip, to the 12, & to all of us & said: Whoever has seen me has seen God. Jesus healing, feeding, caring, serving, & dying; this is the portrait of God.
But is that the end of it? Is the class in theology over & the students dismissed? Of course not! Jesus has shown us God in order to show us ourselves as believers. To be a believer in the God revealed in Jesus is to heal, feed, care, serve, & die. Whether or not Philip understood it, we do: knowing God carries the assignment to live out the character of God.
And that will be enough. But is it? I must confess I did not realize that in knowing I would be known, & in finding I would be found.
When I was a kid, I loved playing hide-&-seek with my brother & neighbor kids. You remember hide-&-seek, don’t you? One person is It, which means hiding your eyes & counting to 100, then announcing, “Ready or not, here I come!” then It goes in search of the others, now well hidden. The first one found is now It. When my brother was It, he cheated. “One, 2, 3, 4, 10, 20, 50, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100.” But I did not care because I was always well hidden – inside the neighbor’s garage behind their car. All over the neighborhood he would search. He passed by me again & again. I was sure he would never find me. But after a while it hit me – he will never find me here! So, I would start creeping around, he would see me, & bam – I am it! I would slink out muttering, “Aw, shucks, you found me.”
Now what did I want; to be hidden? Well, yeah, but what did I really want? To be found, just like all of you watching this video. To be found, to be known, & that will be enough.