Saturday Oct 10, 2015

Gems in the Gospel of John - Part 07

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 7 - John 1:18
Unseen – but known

What does God look like? We don’t know as this verse tells us very directly when it says: “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.” But that almost certainly won’t have stopped us from having some sort of mental image of God and of Jesus. The trouble is we are probably completely wrong!

I remember as a young boy seeing pictures of God or of Jesus on the walls of the room we had our Sunday School lessons in. God was always a very old, but big strong looking, man. Jesus was always a very good-looking young man with broad shoulders, blond hair and a small beard. He was usually surrounded by animals and children and had a lamb in his arms. You can tell from which part of the world I come from.

I want to share with you the moment when my mental picture of Jesus was turned upside-down. We were in Pakistan, near the bottom of a steep mountain path, when a Pakistani man went by. He was a medium small lithe fellow moving up hill with the easy grace of a mountain man. He wasn’t blonde; he wasn’t big; he wasn’t European. His clothes could have been cleaner, being covered with the dust of much walking. I suddenly realized that is what Jesus must have looked like.

Isaiah said (53: 2, 3), “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

Clearly there was something markedly different about Jesus: he was able to confront an angry crowd and walk away through it unharmed. He was strikingly different.

What is your image of Jesus like? Of course, it wont be accurate, but that does not matter. If you are American he will be American; if you are Pakistani he will look Pakistani; if you are Chinese he will definitely look Chinese; and so on. It does not matter how accurate you are. Jesus was everyone; he still is.

And, of course, I have swerved sideways from talking about what God is like to talking about what Jesus was like. That is deliberate. The most we know about God is Jesus. It is all too easy to have a mental picture of God in which he is basically a wrathful God full of judgement and reserve the idea of a concerned, gracious and loving person for Jesus. But that is not the way it is. Our God is the God of Love as well as of Judgement.

And so we come to the end of the Prologue, the Introduction, to John’s Gospel. We have come all the way from the Word who was with God to Jesus and the Father. God with us as Matthew says – Emmanuel.

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