Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” John 14:8-14
Questions, of course, are an essential ingredient of everyday conversation. Questions help us learn. If you’ve ever spent time with a two-year old, you know this truth! Questions also bring us deeper into dialogue. This whole series is about the life-changing and transformative questions that Jesus asked.
There are a number of good questions in the gospel of John. Of all the questions in John’s Gospel, however, the ones asked in this reading in John, may just be the hardest to answer. Certainly they are among the most embarrassing.
David Lose shed light on this story to help us understand the shock of Philip’s question to Jesus. Enjoy his insights here. (1)
“And when Jesus says he is the way, and asks again that they trust him, Philip can stand it no longer and asks the one question no faithful Jew should ever ask. Actually, it’s a statement, a request, a plea, maybe even a demand, but underneath it all is a question: “Show us the Father,” Philip says, “and we will be satisfied.” Or, to put it more directly, “What does God look like?” John doesn’t record this, but there is probably a collective gasp on the part of the other disciples when Philip asks this hard question.
“Moses, the model of heroic faith in the Old Testament, once made a similar request, and God put him face-forward in the cleft of a mountain and passed by and all Moses could see was the glory of the Lord shimmering around him. He was finally allowed to turn around and look only after God has passed by, so that Moses ultimately saw only the trail of the Lord’s glory or, more literally in the Hebrew, Moses could only see God’s backside.
“God is too much, you see, for us to bear – too holy, too powerful, too infinite, too full of potential and life and the future for any mere mortal to behold and live. And yet Philip asks to see God anyway. “If you want us to trust you, Jesus, just show us the Father.” That is, “What does God look like?”
“It’s a terribly bold, even inappropriate question, but I suspect we can understand where it came from. Because each of has been there, too: at our wits end, desperate for some hope that things will get better, for some reason to believe that this tragedy is not all there is. Maybe it was when the doctor told you that the cancer had returned. Or when a loved one died unexpectedly. Or when you discovered your spouse or partner has left. Or after one more miscarriage, or when you got that pink slip, or…. we can all fill in the blank from our own story.
“Each of us, you see, has also had moments where we wanted some reassurance, some glimmer of hope, that all that we had heard and learned about God is not just some false story but true. “Just show us the Father,” we plea, “and we will be satisfied.” To which Jesus responds, not in frustration but in love, both to Philip and to us, “Have I been with you all this time and yet still you don’t know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the father!”
All of this conversation happens on the eve of Jesus’ crucifiction. We are on our lenten journey, moving closer to the cross, but Jesus was much closer. He could have turned away from such a horrible death, but he gave himself into the hands of death to show his love for us. God’s love for us. We’ve seen Jesus in action; so we’ve seen God the father.
So, a question for you to ponder today is, “What question do you have for God?” Philip asked the most bold and embarrassing question a Jew could have asked. Jesus still loved him. How about you?
Prayer for today:
Jesus, you listen with patience to our questions, our fears, our longings. Thank you for your patience and love to receive us over and over again. Open our eyes to see you, our ears to hear you, and our hearts to receive your love. Amen
(1) David Lose, comments at the South Central Synod of Wisconsin synod assembly Working Preacher,May 15, 2011