(A sermon based on John 14:1-17 preached on November 9, 2014)
Let’s start with a question: Do we even want to know God?
Please note what I am not asking: I am not asking if we want to know about God. I am asking whether we want to know God. Do we want to be in a real relationship with God, by which I mean a relationship in which God is in us and we are in God? After all, such a relationship requires openness, it requires vulnerability, and it requires intimacy. It requires recognizing that while the basis of our relationship with God is God’s love for us, it is not a relationship between equals; God has the right to point out our sins and to expect us to repent of them, to point out our weaknesses and to expect us to strengthen them, and to point out our strengths and to expect us to build on them.
The question assumes that we believe that God in fact exists, that God is God and nothing less than God, and that God in God’s grace wants to be in relationship with us. It assumes that we believe that life is about more than keeping a bunch of rules, having a decent reputation, and even showing up at church services. It assumes that we believe that real life—the life most worth living—is the life that is always in and with God and is always aware that it is in and with God.
It was the night on which Jesus was going to be arrested; he would be crucified the next day. As Jesus shared supper with his disciples, he told them that he was going away and that they knew the way he was going. Thomas said, “Umm—no, actually we don’t. How can we?” Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” To which Philip responded, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
To which Jesus replied, “Really, Philip? Really?” (I wonder if Jesus rolled his eyes and sighed deeply? I wonder if he thought, “Philip, I just like 30 seconds ago said “If you know me, you will know my Father also.”) What he did say was, “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?”
Jesus was telling Philip that if he wanted to see the Father he had only to look at the Son; he was telling Philip that the Son fully revealed who God is. What an act of amazing grace by Almighty God: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son; God so wanted us to be able to know God that he sent Jesus so that we could know who God is. Philip and Thomas and Mary Magdalene and those other Marys and the rest of Jesus’ followers had the privilege of walking with and talking with the one who fully reveals God.
Just as surely as those followers of Jesus had Jesus with them, we have the Holy Spirit in us; that Holy Spirit also reveals God to us and teaches us how to know Jesus so that we can know the Father. We have just as great an opportunity to know God as we would have had if we had been able to walk around with Jesus. How can we pass up that opportunity? How can we not open our lives up to God and let the Spirit bring the Son and the Father into us?
Perhaps the saddest thing about the life that many of us who profess belief in Christ lead is that we do not take full advantage of it. We can know God and not just know about God. We can experience God and not just vaguely think about God. We can love God and not just casually assume God and presume upon God.
We really can. Listen to me—we really can!
And when we do, over time everything becomes different because we are living out the life that God intends for us. After all, Jesus said, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” Just imagine all of the good that would be done if all the members of Christ’s body—if all the members of the Church—were carrying out the works of Jesus through the power of the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in and among us! Just imagine how we could touch the sick, the poor, the lost, the hungry, the lonely, and the hungry! Just imagine if we were so full of Jesus’s love that we couldn’t hate, if we were so full of Jesus’s humility that we couldn’t be arrogant, and if we were so full of Jesus’s service that we couldn’t seek power.
Jesus also said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” To ask in Jesus’ name means to ask in line with who Jesus was and with how Jesus lived; it means to ask in line with who the Spirit teaches us about the Son.
The Gospels tell the story of who Jesus was and of what Jesus did; Jesus served, Jesus gave, Jesus sacrificed, Jesus forgave, Jesus healed, Jesus helped—the bottom line is that Jesus loved. And if we get to know God as the Son revealed God and as the Spirit who is in God dwells in us and connects us to God, we will come more to live a life in which we serve, we give, we sacrifice, we forgive, and we help. The bottom line will be that we will love more and more and more and more.
So I return to my original question: Do we even want to know God? Do we really? Or would we rather settle for far less than God? Would we rather settle for less than in God we can be?
We have the blessed opportunity to know God. Let’s seize it!