Show us the Father

March 2013 

Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.

.....Though you do not know him, I know him

The passage begs a question doesn’t it?

“What is it that Jesus uniquely knows, that we need Him to tell us about?” There is an old man, a monk in a detective story by William Broderick, watching a bonfire. A stranger watches him and watches the fire and asks him, “What is it you monks do?” There is a silence and in the end the old man replies, “We tend a fire that never goes out”

There are a number of instances in the growing relationship with Jesus and the band of followers where they see something in him which is extra-ordinary. He taught, ate, walked, did miracles, explained, told stories, partied. Then there were the times he scared the pants off them. They saw something in Him and through Him which was a portal to something vast. We saw something no one had ever seen in a human man before. The fire that never goes out. The fire that burns in the wild darkness but which is irrepressible. The light of the world. He took their breath away. He said wild and scary things that first century Jews were unused to hearing.

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father and no one knows the Son except the Father or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Luke 10

What is people want? What have we sought after in philosophy and religion?

  • There is the question of what we are –. what defines us, what is our identity. 
  • There is the question of where we are -  the anxiety about where we are heading. 
  • There is the question of whose we are – is there anyone accompanying through the journey of life.
When the disciples asked Jesus, as they appeared to have frequently done,” Who is the Father? Show us the Father?” that this was the way first century Jews would have asked our three questions. The questions of identity, anxiety and emptiness. The Jews were not philosophers. Greeks were the philosophers, always asking questions. Big questions. Great questions. Jews wanted to see evidence of God working.

Jesus is saying that what He is offering to us is the knowledge He has of the Father that we lack. To put it another way, living by faith is having Jesus continually showing us the Father. If we knew who the Father was then we would know three things:
  • If Jesus was showing us the Father we would know the source of our being, that we were made in the image of this God, the source of love and creativity and joy. That whatever the mechanisms of how the world came to be, it was willed by a vast and mysterious being and that we have a unique place in this world. We are the creatures in whom God has invested something special. We look like him in a way nothing else does. That is the deepest source of our humanity. Our questions about identity would be resolved 
  • If Jesus was showing us the Father we would have a proof against anxiety because we would know that we are on the way to the Father. That life’s meaning is bound up in this amazing thought that each of us is on a special journey. We are journeying through this life with its mixture of joy and sorrow and frustration and success to another place. In that place we shall be welcomed, comforted, healed. Our anxieties about life’s meaning would be resolved. 
  • If Jesus was showing us the Father we would know whose we were. That our deepest meaning was not in finding out who we were but whose we were. Our identity is shaped by our belonging to the Being who made us. I interviewed a lady called Maggi about her spiritual journey. She struggled to find the right words, she was a lapsed Catholic, a nursery worker. I said to her, “Maggi, never mind what you think you ought to believe, what does your heart tell you is true?” She filled with tears and whispered, “He’s always with me”. Jesus was showing her the Father, who will never leave us or forsake us. Our fear of being alone or abandoned would be resolved. 

Jesus encouraged the disciples to have an energetic faith. A spirit of vigorous inquiry. They should ask and seek and knock on the door. The asking faith would receive. The searching faith would find. The faith that beat on the door would find it opened. What did he assume they were looking for? The knowledge of who the Father is. Who is the Father? Who will tell us who we are? Who will tell us where we are going? Who will assure us that we are not alone? 

If we ask Jesus, it is His joy to show us the Father. He knows uniquely who the Father is. He has access that is privileged. He is the way to follow and door to knock on. 

A man enters a woodshed and muses as he looks on the shaft of sunlight piecing through the gloom. It is 1945 and his name is Jack Lewis, the beloved Christian teacher and academic. He wrote an article about his experience for the Coventry Evening Telegraph. This is what he wrote: 

“I was standing today in a dark woodshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly, the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no tool shed and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside, and beyond that, ninety odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam and looking at the beam are two very different  experiences.”

There are two sorts of knowledge. Knowledge about things – looking at the beam of light. Knowledge of things -  looking along the beam of light. 

If Jesus is going to show us the Father in a way that answers our questions we must move from a relationship with Christianity which is knowing about it to a relationship with Christianity which is a direct knowing, looking along the beam of light to the beauty and immensities that exist outside of this small space. 

This is what we guard as Christian leaders. The possibility that Jesus will show us the Father and lay to rest the midnight questions by showing us who the Father is. 

Tim Marks
BA MA Dip Couns. Dip MT.