By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
June 5, 2022
John 14:8–17 (ESV)
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:25–27 (ESV)
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
When you think of Jesus, how often do you think of him laughing? I ask this in all seriousness because our perceptions often dictate how we interact within our relationships. We have all had teachers in school that seem one way in the classroom and then you meet them in a different context. Suddenly everything you thought you knew changes. I will give one example. My first-grade teacher was the oldest person I knew. Not really but to me she seemed like she was because she had white hair. She wore dresses, acted like a grandmother, and just fit the stereotypical grandma image. But one day we met my teacher at Dairy Queen, and it scared me. My first-grade teacher’s husband owned the Harley Davison store in our town. He was the stereotypical biker. He looked like the guys I saw on tv, but then this woman was with him. Dressed in leather pants and vest, with a bandana around her head, and she knew my name. I was a bit freaked out. My teacher was not the little safe grandma, she was part of a motorcycle gang. How could I possibly sit through class all day when I knew the truth now?
No, she was not part of a motorcycle gang. She just had a life beyond school. A life that most people do not see. She was human just like me and you. And she was probably just as surprised seeing me in that context as I was her, because the Dairy Queen we were at was not in the town we lived in. It was thirty miles away. They were there because they had just taken a weekend cruise around a lake on their motorcycles and we were there because we spent every weekend on the farm. I did not know about her motorcycles and she did not know about our farm.
This tells us a great deal about people. We only truly know what they tell us, and if we make assumptions based on our perceptions we might be surprised. This also takes me back to my first question. When you think of Jesus, how often do you think of him laughing?
We often have a perception Jesus. We make him appear as we want him to appear. If you were to do a google image search on Jesus you would find a wide array of images. There are images of Jesus wearing clothing from the traditions of the Indian subcontinent, Jesus appearing as if he lived in Jamacia his entire life, Jesus as if he lived in the cold regions of Scandinavia, and Jesus as if he lived among the tribes that migrated around the North American prairies. We imagine Jesus as if he were one of us. This is human nature in many ways. If we are not given a description of an appearance it is difficult it imagine any character in literature, but the reality is that every one of those images of Jesus is wrong. Even the painting we have here in our Meetinghouse, is ethnically incorrect. The interesting thing about all those thousands of images of Jesus being depicted in nearly every ethnic identity known to mankind, the moment I look at the picture, I know that the image is depicting Jesus. But can we imagine emotions?
I must admit that in my mind, when I imagine Jesus, often he is appears stern. I know that he is caring but for some reason that is what I see. I work hard to attribute different emotional pictures but still the default is stern. If you have been around for a while, you might understand why this is. I come from a family that is blunt. When I told my grandmother that I fathered a child out of wedlock, her response to me was, “Well that was pretty stupid wasn’t it.” To many this could have broken their spirit, but to me it was just grandma telling me the truth. The actions that happened with the words told the greater story. The words seemed as if she was swinging a 2×4, the hug that came with it informed me that her love was unconditional.
That is the trouble with written words. We do not always get the nuance of the emotions when we just look at the words right in front of us. The emotions behind the words are developed as the story unfolds. When taken out of context we might miss the joke, the concern, the irony, or the sarcasm. We can come to scripture like ease droppers, just catching part of the conversation. We must take time to develop the relationship, to be able to notice the little clues. It requires years of constant interaction for us to understand the meaning behind the words when we interact with people. At first, they may seem a bit harsh or maybe even funny. But as we get to know them, we might find that the people we first gravitated toward are the ones that hurt us, but the ones we thought to be a bit cold might be the most caring people we will ever meet. The same can be said with scripture and with God, we need to take the time to develop the relationship.
How do we perceive Jesus in our minds? Is he stern, angry, laughing, or smiling? Is he hesitant or is he running to you to give you a hug? Is he scary or welcoming? The reality is that he is all those things and none of them. He is who he is. Those things we think he is can be our own projections onto him. We might see him as hesitant because we are hesitant, and slow to open to those around us. We might see him as running up to us to give us a hug because that is what we want to do. We might regard him as smiling because we are smiling. But do we see him laughing, do we imagine Jesus sitting around the fire with his disciples cracking jokes?
Today we see Jesus in a conversation with his disciples. This is part of his farewell discourse. Right after he has washed his disciples’ feet, after the passing of the bread and the cup, after Judas has left to betray him, and before Jesus goes into the garden to pray. He teaches and talks about what will happen, and what they should expect. And the disciples just do not seem to understand.
Jesus says, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?” Is Jesus annoyed? Is he upset? Is he perplexed that his words are too much for them to grasp? I do not think so. I think Jesus is laughing. Philip asks Jesus to show them the father and that is enough. What exactly has Jesus been doing for the past three years? His laughter might be from a state of distress, but I still see him laughing.
I am sure Philip is being honest. I am sure he does not fully understand the question that he has asked, because there is a great deal of history surrounding God. They had been taught that if they were to see the face of God they would die. That is why God put Moses, their law giver, in the cleft of a rock so that when Moses looked up, he could only see the back of God and not the face. And after that encounter it was said that Moses’ face shown with the Glory of God, and the glowing diminished as time went on. This became such a problem with the people that Moses had to wear a veil because people would look at his face and judge if they would listen based on how brightly his face was glowing. I am oversimplifying this of course, but there are traditions surrounding seeing God.
When Philip makes this statement, all those traditions are right there with it. Can we be like Moses? Will it be evident that we are the chosen people of God? Show us the Father and we too will glow like Moses and the people will believe. He says all of this while Jesus is trying to explain what the true glory of God will be, and Philip is missing the words because he has his own assumptions fogging his mind.
Jesus is telling them that he will suffer, that he will be turned over to the religious and secular leaders and they will crucify him. He is telling them that this will be a good thing, because by doing so he will reveal the glory of God. Even after they had listened to his voice telling them that the bread is his body broken for them and the wine is the blood of the new covenant that he will shed for them, they are missing the meaning of the words. He has told them descriptively and directly what will happen, and in their mind, they are hearing kingdom, conqueror, and conquest. Jesus turned over the tables in the temple, now it is time to take it to the tax collectors.
“Show us the Father,” Philip says, “and it is enough for us.”
I laugh, because I am reading this two thousand years after the fact. I know things that Philip could only dream of knowing. And I have read what comes next. Philip does not have that luxury. He is experiencing this in real time, he cannot push a button to skip the introduction or the recap, but he must sit through everything. And the narrator is not doing a voice over to remind us of what happened last week. It would be nice if there was a voice over that would remind us of things before we move forward and make a fool of ourselves.
Show us the Father. Make us shine like God’s angel army. Let us know God! “How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” Jesus asks. I have been showing you the Father since you first saw me. And Philip was present very early. If we were to look at the calling of the disciples, we would find that Peter and Andrew were among the first, along with James and John. But right after them was Philip, and it was Philip that brough Nathanael. When Philip went to get Nathanael he said, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Philip said this right after he met Jesus.
Nathanael scoffs, and yet comes to see who this Jesus is, and Jesus says to Nathanael, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael is skeptical and asks, “How do you know me?” and Jesus replies I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
We might think this is just storybook filler, but it is profound. Nathanael knew how far they walked, and he knew who was around. There was no way that Jesus was in the area to have known what he was doing under a fig tree. So immediately Nathanael says, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel.”
Philip’s statement about showing us the Father is not what it may seem on the surface. They know and fully believe that Jesus is the one they have been longing for. They know that he is the Messiah. They know that he was sent by the Father to them and that Jesus speaks the words of life. Philip wants something tangible to prove to the entire world around him that he is right.
If only life was that easy. I truly believe that Jesus is laughing at this point. “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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” At that time, Jesus is becoming the voice over narrator. He is reminding them of everything they had experienced, everything they saw. He is reminding them of that time they were sent out and drove out demons in His name, and how excited they were to see that happen. He is telling them, that was not you but the Father in you just as He is in me. You have already seen the Father. He then says, if you do not believe the words, believe the works themselves.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Jesus laughs, but he laughs out of the great stress he is facing. They do not understand, and yet they do. They know and yet they do not know. They have this sense that something amazing and terrible will happen. They know. They know that their expectations are not exactly right, they know what they want, and yet they realize that those expectations do not quite fit in the reality they are living in. Jesus is telling them to believe. He is telling them to trust, he is telling them to entrust their lives to the life they have followed for these years while walking by his side and have faith that God is working through the clouds of unknowing.
Jesus laughs, with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. He knows their only desire is to follow God. That is why Jesus said to Philip’s friend here is a true Israelite. Their only desire is to love God with all they have. Jesus is looking them in the eyes and telling them, you have seen the Father. You have seen Him in every action I have made, you have heard his voice in every statement I have made. You yourselves have experienced him as you have severed alongside me, and you will know him in even greater ways if you listen. You will see even greater things. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
I imagine Jesus grabbing Philip and the others, pulling them into a hug and embracing them as he says these words. He tells them that there are the ways of the world, and the ways of God. And he is challenging them to examine their hearts and to act accordingly. He is encouraging them in his final hours to Love God, embrace the Holy Spirit, and to live the love of Christ with others. He is reminding them to take on his life and lifestyle, to worship together with the community. Encouraging them to love and honor God. To withdraw often to the isolated places to pray and meditate on the scriptures, like Nathanael was doing under the fig tree. And to then live the words out among the community, helping those that need help and encouraging those that need encouragement.
Philip was ready like all the others to take up the sword in the name of God, but Jesus laughs and says you know better. You know that force, control, the manipulation of power is not the way of the Father. You have seen me, you have seen what I do, go and do likewise.
They watched as Jesus went out into the garden to pray. They watched as the soldiers came and arrested him. They watched as they mocked and beat him. They watched as nails were pounded and they heard him cry out “Forgive them”. Philip probably reflected on this conversation shortly after and wondered. What would the world have done? Would the world have acted as Jesus acted in that situation? This conflict raged in his heart and in his mind. Yet in the end if tradition is correct Philip went to the Greek lands and preached. He was also persecuted and faced physical harm for his faith. One tradition says that Philip was crucified alongside his friend Nathanael upside-down outside a town in modern Turkey, and he continued preaching to the crowds as he hung there in his torment.
What do we see when we see Jesus? What do we see when we see Philip? What do we see when we see or remember our parents, or our teachers? What do we see when we look back through our lives and remember all those who encouraged us? What do we see when we gaze upon their faces and why did we respond and respect their words? We respond because they lived with us, they walked with us, they encouraged us and showed us their lives. We remember because they invested their lives into our own. That is what Jesus is telling Philip in that moment. If you want to see the Father, you see him as you share and encourage those in your community to live in faith. It is not the harsh words and actions, but the tender hugs that make the difference. I will always remember the words of my grandmother, not because they were hard (and they were hard) but because those hard words were followed with acts of love. That is the peace the world does not give but desperately needs. Will we show them the Father?
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