Sermon for 5/6
John 14:8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
What Phillip asked does not seem, perhaps, such a strange thing. I love the way it is phrased here in the NIV translation “Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” That’s all we ask for, Jesus. Just show us the great God of gods and Lord of lords, Maker of heaven and earth. That’s all…that will be enough!
In what ways are our attitudes similar to that of Phillip here? How do the cultures around us take up this question?
And then there is Jesus, who basically says, “You have no idea what an enormous thing you ask, and yet, that is exactly what I will do for you. And anything else you ask for along those lines in my name, I will do for you.”
Just what does it mean for us to “ask anything in [his] name”?
What are we doing when we ask to see God? The chorus to one contemporary Christian song proclaims, “God of wonders, beyond our galaxy, you are holy, holy. The universe declares your majesty, you are holy, holy.” (Third Day)
Phillip’s request seems so straight forward. We are surrounded by people who in various ways talk about “seeking God” or “wanting to know God” – the same thing that Phillip seeks. But if we stop for a moment and think back on Israel’s proclamation of who God is, we are reminded that God is fierce and holy, that “no one can look upon the face of God and live.” (Ex 33:20) This same God spun the galaxies like so much cotton candy floating through the air. This same God chose this special people for himself, called them out of slavery and gave them a land of blessing and loved them as his own. (Deut 4:32-40).
And Phillip says, “Show us God…that’s all.” Remember what happened the day that Isaiah saw the Lord in the temple? (Isaiah 6)
1 In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Hovering around him were mighty seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew. 3 In a great chorus they sang, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” 4 The glorious singing shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke.
5 Then I said, “My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!”
Fear and trembling overtook him – and he knew nothing except his own depravity in the midst of a depraved people…
So how is it that we presume to seek God at all? How is it that we dare to think that if God is anyone worthy of worship, that we could bear to stand in God’s presence or even to look upon God, and live?
But we do, because perhaps we are wired to do so. In the creation story, we read that God formed the human from the material of the earth, (so we are part of and one with creation) and then breathed divine breath into the human. Perhaps, our seeking after God is connected to that proclamation from Genesis – that we long to return to the one who has made us, has given us life.
And Jesus does a curious thing – unique, I think, in world religions. Jesus does not here say, “Let me teach you about God.” But rather, “You have seen me . . . you have seen God.”
And what do they see, when they see Jesus? One who has power, for sure, yet uses that power only to serve others – never to claim any rights for himself. One who just before this dialogue WASHED THEIR FEET! Can you imagine, President Bush, or Queen Elizabeth, turning to the folks working with them and serving in that way? Our society is not built like that – we serve up, not down, in most organizations. Yet Jesus breaks all those conventions, and shows us a new way to live in relationship, and then tells us that through this, he has shown us the Father.
And then Jesus moves to bless them again, by offering them power ‘in [his] name.” What does that mean, that anything we ask for in Jesus’ name, he will give us? What does it mean to ask for something in someone’s name?
And another related idea comes in the next chapter, when Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
Let’s jump back to Isaiah 6 again briefly. The next few verses that follow our earlier passage:
6 Then one of the seraphim flew over to the altar, and he picked up a burning coal with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” 8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go for us?”And I said, “Lord, I’ll go! Send me.”
When Isaiah encounters the Lord, and responds in humility, the Lord cleanses & heals him, and then commissions Isaiah for service. Likewise Jesus is here calling the disciples to service, offering them cleansing and healing. Isaiah will go in the name of G_D to proclaim the divine WORD.
We are called by Jesus to do the same, in His name, which, he tells us, is the same thing.
What is Jesus calling you to do and proclaim in His name? How would entering fully into this story change the way you live your life, your relationships with people, posessions and power? Will you love one another, so that the world may know that you are His disciples? When you show them Jesus, you are showing them the Father.