Philip said to him, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffises us.…
Philip knew that Moses had once led the elders up to the mount where "they saw the God of Israel," and that to many others had been granted sensible manifestations of the Divine presence. As a disciple he longed for some similar sign to confirm his faith. As a man he was conscious of the deep need which all of us have for something more than an unseeable and unknowable God. The peculiarities of Philip's temperament strengthened the desire. To all Nathanael's objections he had only the reply, "Come and see." And here he says, "Oh! if we could see the Father it would be enough." His petition is child-like in its simplicity, beautiful in its trust, noble and true in its estimate of what men need. He meant a palpable manifestation, and so far he was wrong. Give the word its highest and its truest meaning, and Philip's error becomes grand truth.
I. THE SIGHT OF GOD IN CHRIST AS ENOUGH TO ANSWER MEN'S LONGINGS. There is a world of sadness and tenderness in the first words of our Lord's reply. He seldom names His disciples, When He does there is a deep cadence of affection in the designation. This man was one of the first disciples, and thus had been with Him all the time of His ministry, and the Master wonders that, before eyes that loved Him as much as Philip's did, His continual self-revelation had passed to so little purpose. Learn —
1. That we all need to have God made visible to us. The history of heathendom shows us that. And the highest cultivation of this nineteenth century has not removed men from the same necessity. A God who is only the product of inferences, the creature of logic or of reflection, is very powerless to sway and influence men. The limitations of our faculties and the boundlessness of our hearts both cry out for a God that is nearer to us than that, and whom we can see and love and be sure of.
2. Christ meets this need. How can you make wisdom visible? How can a man see love or purity? By deeds. And the only way by which God can ever come near enough to men to be a constant power and smile in their lives is by their seeing Him at work in a man. Christ's whole life is the making the invisible God visible.
3. That vision is enough. The mind settles down upon the thought of God as the basis of all being, and of all change; and the heart can twine itself round Him, and the seeking soul folds its wings and is at rest; and the troubled spirit is quiet, and the accusing conscience is silent, and the rebellious will is subdued, and the stormy passions are quieted; and in the inner kingdom is a great peace. We are troubled because we see not God, our Father, in the face of Jesus.
4. Our present knowledge and vision are far higher than the mere external symbol of a presence which this man wanted. The elders of Israel saw but some symbolical manifestation of that which in itself is unseen and unattainable. But we who see God in Christ see no symbol but the reality.
II. THE DIVINE AND MUTUAL INDWELLING BY WHICH THIS SIGHT IS MADE POSSIBLE (ver. 10). There are here —
1. Christ's claim to the oneness of unbroken communion. "I am in the Father" indicates the suppression of all independent will, consciousness, thought, action: "And the Father in Me," indicates the influx into that perfectly filial manhood of the whole fulness of God.
2. The claim, that because of this there is perfect cooperation. Jesus Christ in all His words and works is the perfect instrument of the Divine will, so that His words are God's words, and His works are God's works.
3. And from all this follow —
(1) The absolute absence of any consciousness on Christ's part of the smallest deflection or disharmony between Himself and the Father. Two triangles laid on each other are in every line, point, and angle absolutely coincident. That humanity is capable of receiving the whole inflow of God, and that indwelling God is perfectly expressed in the humanity.
(2) If this was what Christ said, what did He think of Himself? If Jesus had this consciousness, either He was ludicrously, tragically, blasphemously, utterly mistaken and untrustworthy, or He is what the Church in all ages has confessed Him to be, "the Everlasting Son of the Father."
III. THE FAITH TO WHICH CHRIST INVITES US ON THE GROUND OF HIS UNION WITH, AND REVELATION OF, GOD (ver. 11). Observe that the verb at the beginning of this verse passes into a plural form. Our Lord has done with Philip especially. He bids us believe Him.
1. The true bond of union between men and Jesus Christ is faith. We have to trust, and that is better than sight. We have to trust Him. He is the personal Object of our faith. Faith is the outgoing of the whole man — heart, will, intellect and all — to a person whom it grasps. But the Christ that we have to trust is the Christ as He has Himself declared to us. If He be not God manifest in the flesh, I ought not to trust Him. I may admire Him, reverence Him, have a kind of a love to Him. But what in the name of common sense shall I trust Him for? And why should He call upon me to exercise faith in Him unless He stand before me the adequate object of a man's trust — namely, the manifest God?
2. Believing in the sense of trusting is seeing and knowing. Philip said, "Show," etc. Christ answers, "Believe! and thou dost see." If you look back upon the previous verses of this chapter you will find that in the earlier portion of them the keyword is "know"; that in the second portion of them the keyword is "see"; that in this portion of them the keyword is "believe." The world says, "Ah! seeing is believing." The gospel says, "Believing is seeing." The true way to knowledge, and to a better vision than the uncertain vision of the eye, is faith.
3. Faith, even if based upon lower than the highest grounds, is still faith and acceptable to Him, "Or else believe Me for the very works' sake."(1) And so we are taught that if a man has not come to that point of spiritual susceptibility in which the image of Jesus Christ lays hold upon his heart and obliges him to trust Him and to love Him, there are yet the miracles to look at; and the faith that by help of that ladder climbs to Him, though it be second best, is yet real. Imperfect faith may be the highway to perfection. Let us follow the light if it be but a far-off glimmer, sure that it will bring us into perfect day.
(2) On the other hand, no faith avails itself of all the treasures laid up for it which does not lay hold upon Christ in the character which he presents Himself.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.