We’re continuing in our series through Jesus’ farewell speech in John 14-17. So far, we’ve seen that Jesus is God’s authorised representative. He alone gives access to the Father. In fact, he’s the only one qualified to make the Father known.
Jesus makes the Father known
John 14:7-9 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 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’?
Once again we see parallels with the story of Moses. In Exodus 33 we read that he asked God ‘show me your glory’. But God replied: ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live’. Nevertheless, he allowed Moses to see his back.
In the first chapter of the gospel, John mentions this parallel:
John 1:17-18 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
That is, in the past God was made known in a veiled way through a human representative – through Moses. But now, in Jesus, the face of God has been revealed. So when Philip echoes Moses’ request to ‘show me your glory’, or ‘show us the Father’, Jesus is exasperated. After all this time Philip doesn’t get it: Jesus is the surpassing revelation of God. He is the ultimate representative.
We see this, too, in the Father-Son language used. In the Old Testament, the Israelite king functioned as God’s representative on earth, and at his coronation he became known as a ‘son of God’. God says to David concerning his descendants:
2 Sam 7:14a ‘I will be his father, and he will be my son.’
As God’s representative people on earth, Israel, too, were collectively called God’s son:
Hos 11:1 ‘When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.’
In the first century, the son – particularly the firstborn – was expected to follow his father into the family business. And he had a special role as the father’s representative. Although the father may employ servants to represent him in business, there was a special authority given to the son. To do business with the son of the owner – not merely a servant – was considered the same as doing business with the owner himself.
Before my father retired, he was an executive in the waste management industry. His job would often involve selling waste management solutions to local governments. Now if I had turned up to one of his potential customers and said ‘Dad’s not coming, but that’s OK, you can deal with me’, I don’t think that would have gone down all that well. ‘Do you even work for the company?’ – ‘no’. ‘Do you know anything about the product?’ – ‘no… but I’m his son.’
It’s not going to get me very far. But in the first century it would have been different. You could do business with the son as though you were doing business with the owner himself.]
This is what Jesus means when he says ‘anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’. He is the son. The heir. The ultimate authorised representative. To do business with Jesus is to do business with God himself!
And that’s what John meant when he said in the introduction to his gospel:
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus has indeed shown us the glory of the Father. More so than the pillar of cloud that led Moses and the Israelites through the desert, and dwelt in the tabernacle. He became human, and dwelt among us. God’s representative on earth.
Let me remind you for the third time this week that Jesus has commissioned us to carry on his work as God’s representative. Now there’s a scary thought! If we’re doing our job as God’s ambassadors, then if people have seen us, they should have seen – at least to some extent – the Father himself. When the world says ‘show us the Father’, they should be able to look to us for a glimpse of God. To see Jesus in us. Particularly in how we treat each other. In the previous chapter, Jesus had said as much:
John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
He does the work of the Father
And Jesus not only makes the Father known to the world, he also does the Father’s work:
John 14:10-11 “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. 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 works themselves.”
This reflects back to an extended image in chapter 5 where Jesus depicts himself as the son apprenticed to his carpenter-father. As an apprentice, the son would copy what he saw his father doing; they would be of one purpose; they would work together to accomplish the same task. As God’s perfect representative, he has been sent to do God’s work. And that work is bringing the message of eternal life to all who trust in him.
Once again, as God’s representatives, that’s our task. Jesus – through his death and resurrection – has made eternal life possible. We’ve now been sent to join God in his task of taking this message to the world.