Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."
I. A DIVINE VISION REQUESTED. "Show us the Father." This implies:
1. A special vision of God.
(1) A material vision. Such as Moses wished when he prayed, "Show me thy glory," and such as Moses had when he saw that glory on the mount. The request of Philip did not mean much more than this, although the language in itself is capable of a wider and a higher meaning, and ultimately led to this.
(2) A vision of God as the Father. "Show us the Father." it is not "Show us the Creator, the Governor, the Judge," but "the Father." How natural for an embodied spirit to wish an embodied representation of its Divine and invisible Parent! No view of God could be so charming and attractive as this.
2. That such a vision is the great want of man.
(1) This want is deeply felt. It is the deepest cry and the profoundest prayer of the human heart. The heart, in spite of sin and estrangement from God, has not lost all its aspirations for the Divine, but the echo of God's voice is still there, and the shadow of his image, and the most plaintive wail of the heart is for a fuller knowledge and a clearer vision of the Father. The ritualism and idolatry of the world were its intense but mistaken struggles for this.
(2) This want was generally felt. "Show us the Father." It was not the cry of one, but the cry of all to a more or less extent. It was the common prayer of the human family, expressed in every age, in different ways, and through different mediums. God is the universal Father, and to know and realize him was a universal want.
(3) This want was now especially felt by the disciples. "Show us the Father." They had heard so much of him in the ministry of Jesus, and this had excited in them an intense desire to know more of him, to enjoy a closer fellowship with him, and even to have a direct vision of him in his endearing character, and especially would they feel this desire now as Jesus was about to leave them; then they sighed for a vision of their Father.
3. That such a vision, they believed, Jesus was fully able to furnish. "Lord, show us," etc. Of his ability to do this they are quite confident, of his willingness they have but little doubt; hence the prayer is direct, confident, but reverential. Their request is addressed to the proper Person, and their confidence is well founded. Jesus was able and willing to furnish them with a vision of the Father, and struggled hard to prepare them for it.
4. That such a vision would be most satisfying. "It sufficeth us."
(1) Most satisfying to faith. Faith had become weak and struggling; her eye was dim by gazing on the invisible, and panted for a present and real vision of the Divine, the Source of light and love. Such a vision as requested would invigorate and even satisfy faith.
(2) Most satisfying to conscience. The conscience by sin is become guilty, burdened, and turbulent. The righteousness and reconciliation of God in Christ alone can appease it, and a full view of God in real character and disposition as a kind, loving, and forgiving Father can alone satisfy it.
(3) Most satisfying to the heart. The orphan-cry of the human heart is for the Divine Father. There is in it a craving which nothing can satisfy but the Divine Father, a vacant seat which no one else can fill. But a clear vision of the Father will give full satisfaction to the spiritual nature of man.
II. THIS DIVINE VISION HAD BEEN GIVEN.
1. It had been given in Christ. "He that hath seen me," etc.
(1) In Christ the nature and relationship of God were maul-rested. Being essentially one and equal with him, "the Image of the invisible God, the Brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his Person," he had a unique capacity of revealing his nature and glory as a personal, infinite Spirit, and the Spirit-Father of the human race.
(2) In Christ the character of God was manifested. Not only as the Creator of men, but as their Father; and in his life, actions, and conduct the power, wisdom, justice, holiness, love, and mercy of the supreme Father shone with constant and Divine brilliancy.
(3) In Christ God's will was manifested. In his life on earth he was an embodiment of the Divine heart and a revelation of the Divine will and purposes, and the Divine vision was exhibited in our nature, so that it was near, clear, and in the most attractive and congenial form.
2. It had been given, but not fully realized.
(1) Because Christ was not fully known. To realize fully the vision of the Father, Christ must be fully known. To see the Father, Christ must be seen and recognized. The very request, "Show us the Father," is a confession of their ignorance of Jesus; for if they had known him, they would have known the Father.
(2) Jesus was not fully known, although the greatest advantages to know him had been enjoyed. "So long a time with you." It would not be a long time to be with many, but a long time to be with Jesus. An hour with him was an age of the highest tuition. Their progress is not commensurate with their advantages.
(3) It takes a long time to know Jesus fully. It was so in this instance. They were very ignorant, short-sighted, and material in their notions of his mission and reign; so that to know him cost them repeated failures and struggles, and cost him repeated revelations.
3. Their confessed ignorance of Jesus called forth from him very significant and valuable expressions. "Have I been so long time with you," etc.?
(1) There is here a feeling of surprise and even grief. Christ struggled hard to reveal himself, his Person, character, Divinity, mission, his inmost thoughts and heart. Some are afraid to be really known - recognition pains them; such are impostors. But it pained Jesus not to be known. His chief object in making himself known was to make known the Father. He was the only Medium of this knowledge and vision.
(2) There is here a gentle rebuke. It is addressed to all, especially to Philip. "And yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" Thou, one of my first followers, who gavest such an early promise of spiritual insight into and recognition of my character and mission! And think of the long time I have been with you, and the advantages enjoyed! "And yet hast thou not," etc.? There is here a gentle rebuke. With whip of small cords faith is lashed to greater activity, to higher flights, and to open her eyes on the vision so much desired.
(3) There is here a fuller revelation. "He that hath seen," etc. The light is intensified, and the vision of the Father in him is directly pointed out, so that they gain by their failure and learn by their confessed ignorance. It is a step towards further knowledge. They are drawn out towards him and he towards them, and their minds are fixed upon him as the only Medium of the desired vision.
III. THIS DIVINE VISION CAN BE ONLY REALIZED BY FAITH. "Believest thou not," etc.?
1. By faith alone the Son and the Father can be seen and known. In the days of his flesh the Godhead of Jesus could not be seen in his Person by the material eye. To the carnal and material sight he was only an ordinary man. Faith alone could see his glory and Divinity. Divinity in the Father or the incarnate Son can only be seen and known by spiritual insight - by faith, the eye of the soul.
2. To faith, Christ and the Father are in essential, close, and Divine union. In this spiritual vision the Son is seen first in the Father, then the Father in the Son. The order depends upon the standpoint from which faith looks; but whether viewed in their essence, nature, and glory, or in relation to the scheme of redemption, the Son is seen in the Father and the Father in the Son.
3. Faith in relation to this vision is supported by the strongest evidence.
(1) The personal evidence of Christ. "Believe me," etc. This is the highest evidence of the highest Witness. He is the true and faithful Witness. The Son of God is in the witness-box. And his dignity and known character deserve and demand faith and confidence.
(2) The evidence of his ministry. "The words that I speak unto you," etc. His ministry as a whole, and some of his special sayings, they unquestionably point to the Father. His speech betrayed him; the echo of his Father's voice was in his. Any one who had the least knowledge of the Father would at once recognize him in Christ.
(3) The evidence of his miracles. "He doeth the works;" "Believe me for the very works' sake." His teaching and actions pointed to the same Divine Source. There is a perfect consistency. Although conscious of perfect veracity, yet he is willing to be judged by his works, all of which were of such a nature and character as to reflect most brightly the Father's glory and power.
4. The evidence of faith is promised a substantial increase.
(1) In the performance by the apostles of the same works. This would bring the evidence home to them; the Divine voice would speak in their own; the Divine vision would appear within them; and they themselves would be the direct mediums of the Father's power and glory.
(2) In the performance by them of even greater works than those performed by the Lord. This was literally fulfilled in the experience of some, if not all, of the apostles. Some of their works were more marvelous in some respects than his own. They were greater in number, wider in their influence, more extensive and mighty in their spiritual results and triumphs. Christ is spiritually mightier in believers than in his personal ministry; in them he still works and reveals the Father.
(3) In the exercise of prayer. "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name," etc. In prayer faith is strengthened and transfigured, and the Father is revealed to the soul. It brings it into immediate fellowship with him, and there is a spiritual commerce carried on between them. To establish this between the soul and the great Father was one of the chief aims of Jesus.
(4) All this was the result of the complete fellowship of Jesus with the Father. "Because I go unto the Father." Thus was completed his fellowship, in his human nature, work, and mission, with the Father; and the blessings of that fellowship would flow to believers in ever-living streams. He went nearer to the Father that the Father might come nearer to them; that faith might glow in the smiles of his countenance, and be satisfied with the Divine vision for which it craves, and the soul become ecstatic with the full answer of one of its profoundest prayers. "Show us the Father." - B.T.
Philip saith unto Him, Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us.I. THE SPIRITUAL CRY OF MANKIND. Philip represents all men in their deepest spiritual experiences. What is this but the cry of spiritual orphans for a lost Father. "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him." The cry implies an underlying belief —
1. In the existence of a great Father. In the human heart —(1) there is no atheism; that is a phantom of the brain. The idea of God is at the root of all ideas.(2) There is no pantheism. The heart craves a person.(3) There is no molochism. The heart craves a Father, not the representation of God in certain theologies. This belief is instinctive; you cannot reason it away. It is the hope of the sinner on his death bed. The heart turns to it as the flower to the sun.
2. In the sufficiency of the Father's manifestation. Until the Father comes the soul will have a gnawing hunger and an aching void. It will satisfy —(1) The intellect. Solving the problems insoluble to reason, and whose crushing weight philosophy but augments.(2) The affections. It will unfold, purify, harmonize, and centralize them. The prodigal was flooded with joy in the warm caresses of his father's love. As the genial sun of May sets the choristers of the grove into music, the presence of the Father will not only hush all the cries of the child, but fill the heart with filial rapture.
II. THE SATISFACTORY RESPONSE OF CHRIST. In Christ the Father of man appears to man in man's nature.
1. This was now amply attested (vers. 10, 11). Who but the Father could have wrought those works which He accomplished, inspired the doctrines He proclaimed, produced such a character as He manifested?
2. This was now practically ignored (ver. 9). Note here —(1) A criminal neglect of means. "Have I," the medium of His power, the organ of His thoughts, the image of His character — "been so long with you," etc.(2) The finality of the revelation. "How sayest thou then," etc. There is no other revelation of the Father to come. "No man hath seen God," etc. If you cannot find the Father in Me, you will never find Him, neither in the universe nor in the speculations of philosophy. Conclusion: Without this, whatever else thou hast, thy destitution is terrible. No amount of worldly wealth, social influence, intellectual culture will be of real and lasting service without this revelation of the Father.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. THAT THE DEEP CRY OF MAN IS FOR THE UNFOLDING OF THE PATERNAL IN RELIGION. Men cry for the paternal rather than —
1. The historical in religion. Religion has a history both interesting and significant. It comes down to us from the earliest times.(1) It unfolds the inner life of humanity.(2) It introduces to our attention the most remarkable and beautiful characters that the world has ever known.(3) It is connected with worship and religious thought. And this is made known to us by a Divine inspiration. Such a history must be interesting to man, yet, after he has perused it, his cry is rather, "Show us the Father." And men read history in search of the Divine Fatherhood.
2. The philosophical in religion. Religion has not merely a history, but also a philosophy. It is at the basis of all philosophical questions. It has given rise and importance to them all. The philosophy of evil, of mediation, of salvation, of futurity, is inseparably connected with the religion of Jesus Christ. These problems are perplexing. They have taxed the best minds. They are still unsolved. Heaven can only give the solution of them. Man studies the philosophy of religion in order to get at the Great Father of the universe, and of His being.
3. The theological in religion. Religion has not merely a history, a philosophy, but also a theology. This theology has been systematized by councils, and crystallised in creeds. The development of Christian doctrine is interesting. But in the study of the Bible, man seeks more to catch the smile of his Father, than to see the sceptre of his legislator, or to hear the voice of his teacher. This is the present direction of human sentiment. Men are everywhere seeking the paternal; they are doing so to an unwarrantable extent; to the overbalance of theology; to the destruction of the moral government of God, in utter forgetfulness, or neglect of other attributes equally involved in His existence. Let men see the Father, but let them also see the King, and the Judge.
II. THAT THE DEEP CRY OF MAN'S HEART IS FOR A SENSUOUS UNFOLDING OF THE PATERNAL IN RELIGION.
1. Some men's ideas of religion are thoroughly sensuous. Such was the case with Thomas and Philip. It would seem that the religion of these two men was confined to what they knew and saw. Some men cannot interpret the spiritual meaning of imagery, nor understand symbolism. They remain in its outer court, and appear unable to enter its holy of holies. We want the power to see heavenly meanings in earthly words. There is another vision than that of sight, even that of faith.
2. We should strive to correct the sensuous ideas associated with the religious life of men. "Have I been so long time with you," etc. Christ was the manifestation of the Divine Father. Philip, in seeing Him, ought to have risen to a vision of the Father.
3. We should strive to lead men into the bright vision of faith. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Some only see half of the things they look at. They look at mountains, and see nothing but crags; at trees, and see nothing but sticks and leaves; at stars, and see nothing but candles; at Christ, and see nothing but manhood. Whereas, to other men all nature is a revelation of God. They penetrate into the inner meaning of things; they behold the invisible. When such men look at Christ, they also see the Father.
III. THAT MAN HOPES TO OBTAIN, FROM A VISION OF THE PATERNAL, DEEP SATISFACTION OF HEART.
1. A sensuous vision of the paternal in religion will never satisfy the human heart. Man cannot with bodily eye behold the Father. If he were to see Him, he would doubt the accuracy of his sense immediately the glad vision were gone. This would be but a glimpse of Fatherhood. It would not give satisfaction.
2. A view of the paternal, obtained by faith, will give constant satisfaction to the soul of man. From this vision the Divine Father will never withdraw. The vision shall be co-extensive with the faith. It will produce the satisfaction of peace, of hope, and of joy. The soul will want no other vision. Lessons:
1. To cultivate the inner sense of the soul.
2. To make Christ the interpretation of all our heavenly relationships.
3. To obtain heart rest from a consciousness of the Divine Fatherhood.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
I. THE GREAT WANT OF MANKIND. God has not left Himself without witness, and not the least of His evidences is that our nature is ever seeking Him. The question of Philip —
1. Asserts the knowledge of the Father as that which suffices. It is an assertion of our grandeur. Ours are not glow worm faculties; ours no owl-like souls. No dim vision, no starlight manifestations can content us. Our capacity takes in the universe, and then cries, "Show us the Father," etc. Less than such a desire is a degradation of man. Less is to make his nature a dwarfed and sickly thing.
2. Echoes the cry of the races. Our nature is not always conscious that it is after Him; but it reaches and calls after what is in Him alone. The savage approaches the conception of power by his adoration of strength; the sage the worship of infinite understanding through study of the truth; the artist through his vision of the beautiful; the poet through his dream of the right and good. The world swings round, and men catch single gleams of Godhead, and know not what it is — only something great and noble.
3. Is the instructed soul asking for the Father. It is not scepticism searching for a deity — an insensate principle. It is not half convinced doubt feeling along the links of creation after a first cause. It is not amiable optimism out in immeasurable extension of beneficent actuality asking for a Creator. It is awakened faith seeking its author; a hungry soul searching a satisfying love.
II. WANT, UNCONSCIOUS OF NEAR SUPPLY.
1. Men go afar for the knowledge at their doors; nay, at their very feet. They search after the mystery of God. They sound for Him in depths; they climb for Him in the heights! Yet His footprints are on every green, His hand touches on each flower and shrub and spire. Gentle and Titanic forces alike declare Him. Could I give the atom a tongue, it would cry, "Have I been so long time with you, and have I not spoken to you of God?" The river sings as it hastens oceanward, "Have I been so long time with you, and have you not seen God reflected in my silver beauty?" Oh, blindness, which can fail to discern Him I Has that word lain by you so long with promise, covenant, and command, and yet have you not known the God it discloses?
2. Philip's error was, that he had looked elsewhere than to Christ for the vision of the Father. God had been described. He had been promised. For the first time he was manifested. His love came out in Christ's Divine human voice, and was in the touch of those human fingers. It was the Father's authority in the "Go in peace and sin no more." It was the Father's majesty in the awakening voice at the grave of Lazarus. Yet it was God incarnate, and Philip knew it not.Conclusion: There is profound significance to us in the lesson of Jesus to Philip.
1. We are to find the Father in the Only-begotten, who dwelt in His bosom, and hath declared Him. You can neither understand Him in His works or word until you study both through the Incarnation. Around that, as we look steadily, both a theology and a theodicy must crystallise. Our knowledge of Jesus is through faith, and through that our knowledge of the Father becomes experimental.
2. It is hence that we know the infinite. Christ's mediation stretches a cord between heart-love and God-love, soul-life and God-life, human nature and Divine nature. It answers nothing as to mysteries it oversweeps. It is silent as to riddles of theology and questions of schoolmen. But it touches us here, God there; we touch it with our guilt, He with His compassion. We apprehend the Infinite we can never comprehend. Jesus came to reveal the Father who hears prayer, who governs in providences, who smiles upon His child; who sees the prodigal, foot sore and tattered, yet trying to come home, and runs to meet him.
(T. M. Eddy, D. D.)
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.)
I. THE CRAVING FOR GOD WHICH IS CHARACTERISTIC OF ALL MORAL NATURES.
1. To those who deny God, I am justified in putting the question — Why do I concern myself about religious things? Why do I crave some vision of God? As well ask why my physical body craves food, or my intellectual soul seeks knowledge. By persistent sin, a man may practically disable his soul; just as by drunkenness or licentiousness he may disable his body, or reduce to idiocy his mind. So also he may reason down his religious instincts by material philosophies; just as by fanciful notions concerning his body he may make himself a hypochondriac. But it is part of him still. He may damage, but he cannot kill it. And sometimes — it may be after years of sin,. or scepticism — there shall be a sudden rolling away of the stone, and a coming forth of the entombed soul, and it shall cry out for God, and refuse to be comforted if it cannot find Him.
2. But this, we are told, is only traditional superstition, educational influence, social environment. But how account for the superstition, the social sentiment? Its universality and uniformity point to something inherent and ineradicable. The soul may be befooled, Men take advantage of it when ignorant or morbid, and urge upon it religious sacrifices, services, and ceremonies, sacraments, penances, and prayers. But even those do not suffice. No religious things can satisfy, the living soul cries out for the living God. True, in Philip the desire shaped itself in ignorant forms; but in which of us does it not? Sometimes it is only a feeling of blind unrest, a craving for we know not what. We moan and toss like men in a fever.
3. Who, conscious of a living soul, can be contented with mere laws of nature instead of the living God? If there be no God, our nature, as it is, is the greatest solecism in the universe. All things else have their purpose and harmony. But for man, this spiritual nature is a waste, and a mockery. Robespierre was right. "If there be no God, then it behoves man to make one."
4. The strength of this craving is attested by the credulities of scepticism as much as by the confidences of faith. Let men reject the Christian revelation of God, and as surely as they succeed, wild and incredulous imaginations will break forth and in pitiful forms give the lie to all their philosophy. The fantasies of modern spiritualism are as conclusive attestations as the convictions of Paul. Blind to spiritual truth, men are by the very strength of their spiritual nature "given over to strong delusions, and believe a lie."
II. THE MISCONCEPTIONS INTO WHICH, IN THEIR QUEST AFTER GOD, EVEN GOOD MEN FALL.
1. The disciples generally had but a very confused and imperfect conception of Christ and His work. Their persistent dream of a restoration of David's throne and dominion hung like a yell between them and Christ. We find few things more difficult than to believe in purely spiritual forces and processes. It is a poor spiritual teaching that can be fully comprehended. Our Lord has to speak of the highest spiritual things to men of low spiritual type; and after vain attempts to make them understand, He has to content Himself with a promise of the Holy Spirit, who should "teach them all things."
2. Probably Philip thought of some visible manifestation, such as the Shekinah symbol or of Isaiah's vision. How rarely men recognise manifestations of God in purely spiritual forms, in true religious ideas, in holy actions, in Godlike character. For three years Christ had been with these men, and they were utterly unconscious that, in all His moral glory, they were looking upon the truest and highest manifestation of God. When we think of Divine manifestation we think of supernatural miracle, of inspired fervours, of signal conversions, of ecstatic services. How difficult we find it to realize that in the sublime faith, the unselfish love of a quiet saintly life, there is a far higher manifestation of God than in all miracles! The great aim of our Lord's teaching was to turn men's quest after God from signs and wonders to His spiritual workings in religious hearts. Philip asked some theophany — "the Lord coming suddenly to His temple," as Malachi had predicted — which he thought would give certainty to his faith and precision to his idea. Christ replies by directing him to a living spiritual Person, "full of grace and truth."
3. If, then, this manifestation of purely moral and spiritual glories be the true vision of God — the glory of His goodness which God caused to pass before Moses — may we not, in the light of it, test the various ways of seeking God which men pursue?(1) Men come with their intellectual methods of analysis and reasoning. The astronomer brings his computations; the geologist his hammer; the chemist his crucible; and the philosopher his laws of sequence, order, and causation. They resolve substances into atoms, or ether; they trace back all developments to a common protoplasm; they follow up sequence to its last term, and then they gravely tell you that they cannot find God. How should they, when they have brought only physical tests to the mere material universe of God? His spiritual character they have never attempted to essay. Even on their own physical ground they confess that their atoms are pure imaginations, that when they have traced all organisms to their common protoplasm, the mystery of life is utterly inscrutable; that they can throw no light upon the genesis of mind, or of moral feeling, or of religious idea, or even suggest how vegetable life develops into animal intelligence, or animal intelligence into reason or conscience. Before these primal mysteries, the profoundest philosopher stands as utterly ignorant as the dweller in an African kraal. How should men find God by such processes? As well may the antiquary who unwraps an Egyptian mummy, or the surgeon who conducts a post-mortem examination, demur because he cannot find the heroism of the patriot, the genius of the poet, the affections of the lover, the piety of the saint. All that these processes can lead to is a rational presumption that a universe so wonderful must be the creation of an Infinite Intelligence. The supreme manifestation of God is in the moral sphere of things. Let men ask their moral consciousness whether the scriptural ideas of God are not true and transcendent? whether they do not satisfy the highest thoughts and yearnings and wants of their own spiritual nature? whether they can think anything greater or holier, more congruous and satisfying? While God is supremely and characteristically a moral Being, it must in the necessity of things be that the world by its mere intellectual wisdom cannot know God.(2) The other way in which men seek God is through creeds and churches, priesthoods, sacraments, and rituals.
III. THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD THAT MEN CRAVE IS THAT OF A FATHER. In our Lord's day, as in our own, men had been told much about God as the Creator, the Ruler, the Judge of men. But it did not satisfy the soul. They yearned for something else in God — for pity, patience, help, love. Let the thought come that this great and holy God is also the Father. How our hearts leap towards Him! As a Father, He is precisely the God we need; our sins crave the forgiveness, our weakness and imperfections the patience, our sorrows the sympathy of a Father; our yearnings His fatherly love and bosom. We kneel down to pray to Him how gladly we catch up the great word put into our lips, and say, "Our Father who art in heaven." Some glimpses of this the old Jew had. But, as with all religious truths, the realization of God as a Father depends not upon intellectual ideas merely, but upon religious experiences. It is the experience of what, as a Father, God does for us, that enables us to understand what He is.
IV. GOD AS A FATHER IS REVEALED TO US ONLY IN CHRIST.
1. Christ claims this as His distinctive revelation of God. Like a refrain it rings through the Sermon on the Mount at the beginning of His ministry; like an atmosphere it suffuses this last great discourse "on the night that He was betrayed." It is the one unvarying representation of all His intervening teaching. But, in this great word to Philip much more than a teaching is meant It would be a cold and meagre paraphrase of it to say, "He that hath received My teaching hath received a true doctrine of the Father." It is a vision of God, not a theory of God, which He gives.
2. I do not think that the explanation is to be found in the Incarnation. Men saw Him, the veritable incarnate Son, and yet they did not see the Father. Nor does He refer to His miracles, the displays of His supernatural power: these He always put in disparaging contrast with His spiritual glories. Clearly His idea is of a purely spiritual conception of God, a vision of God's spiritual character such as God proclaimed to Moses when He made "all His goodness pass before him." There is no sense in which, as distinguished from His almighty works, the spiritual God can be seen but in manifestations of His holiness, goodness, and love. And these can be adequately embodied and expressed only in a personal moral life — the life of the only begotten Son. This is the true incarnation — the embodiment in a human life of these Divine moral qualities. As we conceive of the spiritual God, there is nothing else in Him that could be incarnated.
3. May we venture a speculation upon God's peculiar Fatherhood in its relation to the Incarnation? Is there not an essential oneness between the spiritual nature of God and the spiritual nature of man, as between fire and the sun, the father and the child? Is there not something in the Divine nature of which the Incarnation is the supreme expression? — something in human nature which makes the Incarnation possible in virtue of affinity? Does He not love us because a father must love his children? And does He not in the Incarnation of Christ show us how closely our nature is allied to His?
4. I need not dwell here upon the inevitable inference from all this, as to who or what this transcendent Personage really is. No creature may claim Divine glories, least of all God's spiritual perfections. Deliberately and emphatically this calmest and most ingenuous of men claims to have perfectly embodied them. No other interpretation of the claim is rationally possible than the accepted interpretation of the Christian Church. "I and my Father are one." This conception of the Christ is much more than a theological dogma. It is a great religious inspiration full of practical uses. Nothing so assures our hearts, nothing gives us such a feeling of Christ's practical sufficiency as a Redeemer. We can trust such a Christ, pray to Him, worship Him, realize His presence and help.
V. THE MANIFESTATION OF THE FATHER IN CHRIST IS A PERFECT SATISFACTION TO THE SPIRITUAL SOUL. Philip was right. He who really can show us the Father does "suffice us." Let the claims of Jesus be submitted to this test. He who really shows us God must be of God. No one has revealed God to men as Christ has done. And is not this the true and sufficient test of every religious teacher: How truly and in what degree can He show us the Father? Is it not the sufficient authentication of every teaching — does it bring us face to face with the spiritual God? Is it not in this that so much religious teaching is defective? Men tell us about God, but it is doctrine only, they fail to make us see God. About means of grace, again, they have much to say: upon these they insist as the appointed, the indispensable means of seeing God. But we see only the means, not God Himself. Whatever its theological truth, no teaching is really and spiritually such if it do not reveal God to us. This was the supreme characteristic of the teaching of Christ. The sum of all religion is to see the Father; and by whomsoever and by whatsoever the Father is most fully revealed to us, and we are but made to stand in the pure white light of His spiritual glory, there is the truest teacher and the highest worship. "It sufficeth us."
VI. HOW THEN MAY WE PERSONALLY REALIZE ALL THIS?
1. The Father can be seen only by men of spiritual vision. "The pure in heart see God." Christ does not demonstrate God, He simply manifests Him. The process is not a theological, it is a religious one. We can know God as a Father only by religious experience of Him. All life, all great passions of life, are understood only by experience. It demands the poet's eye to see poetic beauty; the artist's eye to see art beauty. We do not see light through the demonstrations of the astronomer; we know love only by loving; and life only by living. In the essential nature of things God cannot manifest Himself to an impure unspiritual soul, any more than the sun can shine into a blind man's eye. We know God only by the indwelling of God.
2. The Father is revealed to us in processes and experiences of common religious life. "If any man love Me he will keep My words, and My Father will love him," etc. The obedient in life see God, obedience is practical experience of God.
3. The process is somewhat prosaic: men of great fervours and of ecclesiastical enthusiasm get somewhat impatient with it. But here, as everywhere, the divinest wisdom lies in common place methods. And how transcendent the visions of God which the man attains who thus, by patient processes of purity and obedience, develops all the faculties of his religious life!
(H. Allon, D. D.)
(J. C. Jones, D. D.)
(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
Have I been so long with you and yet hast thou not known Me.
I. AS TO WHAT IGNORANCE OF CHRIST IS. Our Lord charges Philip with not knowing Him because Philip had said, "Lord! show us the Father." And that question betrayed Philip's ignorance of Christ, because it showed that he had not understood that "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Not knowing that, all his knowledge of Christ — howsoever full of love, and reverence, and blind admiration — is but twilight knowledge, which may well be called ignorance.
1. Not to know Christ as the manifest God is practically to be ignorant of Him altogether. This man asked for some visible manifestation, such as their old books told them of. But if such a revelation had been given — and Christ could have given it if He would — what a poor thing it would have been when put side by side with that mild and lambent light that was ever streaming from Him, making God visible to every sensitive and responsive nature! The revelation of righteousness and love could be entrusted to no flashing brightnesses, and to no thunders and lightnings. Not the power, not the omniscience, are the Divinest glories in God. These are but the outermost parts of the circumference; the living Centre is a Righteous Love, which cannot be revealed by any means but by action; nor shown in action by any means so clearly as by a human life. Therefore, above all other forms of manifestations of God stands the person of Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh.
2. This is His own claim, not once or twice, not in this Gospel alone, but in a hundred other places. And we have to reckon and make our account with that, and shape our theology accordingly. So we have to look upon all Christ's life as showing men the Father. His gentle compassion, His meek wisdom, His patience, His long-suffering yearning over men, His continual efforts to draw them to Himself, all these are the full revelation of God to the world. They all reach their climax on the cross. "Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him, and He will save us." There are some of you who admire and reverence this great Teacher, but who stand outside that innermost circle wherein He manifests Himself as the God Incarnate, the Sacrifice, and the Saviour of the world. But not to know Him in this His very deepest and most essential character is little different from being ignorant of Him altogether.
3. Here is a great thinker or teacher, whose fame has filled the world, whose books are upon every student's shelf; he lives in a little remote country hamlet; the cottagers beside him know him as a kind neighbour, and a sympathetic friend. They never heard of his books, his thoughts, his worldwide reputation: do you call that knowing him? You do not know a man if you only know the surface, and not the secrets of his being. You may be disciples, in the imperfect sense in which these apostles were disciples before the Ascension, but without their excuse for it. But you will never know Him until you know Him as the Eternal Word, and until you can say, We beheld His glory, etc. All the rest is most precious; but without that central truth, you have but a fragmentary Christ, and nothing less than the whole Christ is enough for you.
II. AS GIVING US A GLIMPSE INTO THE PAINED AND LOVING HEART OF OUR LORD. We very seldom hear Him speak about His own feelings or experience, and when He does it is always in some such incidental way as this. So that these glimpses, like little windows opening out upon some great prospect, are the more precious to us.
1. In another place we read: "He marvelled at their unbelief." And here there is almost a surprise that He should have been shining so long and so near, and yet the purblind eyes should have seen so little. But there is more than that, there is the pain of vainly endeavouring to teach, to help, to love. And there are few pains like that. The slowness of the pupil is the sorrow of the honest teacher. If ever you have bad a child, or a friend, that you have tried to get by all means to take your love, and who has thrown it all back in your face, you may know in some faint measure what was at least one of the elements which made Christ the "Man of Sorrows."
2. But this question reveals also the depth and patience of a clinging love that was not turned away by the pain. How tenderly the name "Philip" comes in at the end! It bids us think of that patient love of His which will not be soured by any slowness or scantiness of response. Dammed back by our sullen rejection, it still flows on, seeking to conquer by long suffering. Refused, it still lingers round the closed door of the heart, and knocks for entrance. Misunderstood, it still meekly manifests itself. Surely in that we see the manifested God.
3. Remember that the same pained and patient love is in the heart of the throned Christ today. We cannot understand how anything like pain should, however slightly, darken His glory; but if it be true that He in the heavens has yet "a fellow feeling of our pains," it is not less true that His love is still wounded by our lovelessness, and His manifestation of Himself made sad by the slowness of our reception of Him.
III. AS BEING A PIERCING QUESTION ADDRESSED TO EACH OF US.
1. It is the great wonder of human history that, after eighteen hundred years, the world knows so little of Jesus Christ.(1) The leaders of opinion, of literature, the men that profess to guide the thoughts of this generation, how little they know, really, about this Master! Some people take a great deal more trouble to understand Buddha than they do to understand Christ.(2) How little, too, the mass of men know about Him! It is enough to break one's heart to look round one, and think that He has been so long time with the world, and that this is all which has come of it. The great proof that the world is bad is that Christ has stood before it for nearly nineteen centuries now, and so few have been led to turn to Him with the adoring cry, "My Lord and my God."
2. But let us narrow our thoughts to ourselves.(1) Many of you have known about Jesus Christ all your lives, and yet, in a real, deep sense you do not know Him at this moment. Do you know Christ as a man knows his friend, or as you know about Julius Caesar? Do you know Christ because you live with Him and He with you, or do you know about Him in that fashion in which a man in a great city knows about his neighbour across the street, that has lived beside him for five and twenty years, and never spoken to him once all the time? Is that your knowledge of Christ? If so, it is no knowledge at all. People that live close by something, which men come from the ends of the earth to see, have often never seen it.(2) And, to you who know Him a little, this question comes with a very pathetic appeal. If we know Him at all as we ought to do, our knowledge of Him will be growing day by day. But how many of us stand at the same spot that we did when we first said that we were Christians! We are like the Indians who live in rich gold countries, and could only gather the ore that happened to lie upon the surface or could be washed out of the sands of the river. In this great Christ there are depths of gold, great reefs and veins of it, that will enrich us all if we dig, and we shall not get it unless we do. He is the boundless ocean. We have contented ourselves with coasting along the shore, and making timid excursions from one headland to another. Let us strike out into the middle deep, and see all the wonders that are there. This great Christ is like the infinite sky with its unresolved nebulae. We have but looked with our poor, dim eyes. Let us take the telescope that will reveal to us suns blazing where now we only see darkness.(3) This knowledge ought to be growing every day; and why does it not? You know a man because you are much with him. And if you want to know Jesus Christ, there must be a great deal more meditative thoughtfulness, and honest study of His life and work than most of us have put forth. We know people, too, by sympathy, and by love, and by keeping near them. Oh, it is a wonder, and a shame, and a sin for us professing Christians, that, having tasted the sweetness of His love, we should come down so low as to long for the garbage of earth. Who is fool enough to prefer vinegar to wine, bitter herbs to grapes, dross to gold? Who is there that, having consorted with the king, would gladly herd with ragged rebels? And yet that is what we do.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:18). Would we discover the Father's wisdom? let us hearken to Him who was the wisdom and word of God incarnate. Would we know the Father's power? let us observe it in the miracles of Christ. Would we know how holy God is, and the nature of His holiness? let us observe the spirit which Jesus breathed and the conduct He maintained. Would we know whether God be a kind and compassionate Being, and what is the nature of His benevolence and love? we must look how these qualities were displayed in the character of Jesus Christ. Would we see His meekness, patience, forbearance, and long suffering? let us observe how these dispositions shone forth in Christ. Would we have a display of His justice? let us see sin condemned and punished in Him who "gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God." Do we wish to see the love of God exemplified? observe Christ dying for us, "dying for the ungodly;" "when we were enemies, reconciling us to God by His death." Would we know God as our Creator? observe Christ secretly and insensibly multiplying the loaves and fishes; observe Him giving sight to the blind, and life to the dead. Would we know God as our Preserver? let us contemplate Jesus upholding Peter while walking on the water. As our Governor? let us observe Him controlling the powers of nature, "rebuking the winds and the sea, and producing a great calm." As our Redeemer? see Him "giving His life a ransom for us." As our Saviour? consider Him coming "to seek and to save that which was lost." Would we know God as a Friend? mark the familiarity and tenderness with which Jesus conversed with His disciples. As a Father? observe Jesus "begetting us again by His Gospel," and see His parental care for His disciples. In a word, if we wish to know the mind, dispositions, and intentions of God towards man, we must see them delineated and exhibited in the doctrine, example, and works of Christ. In order to this, however, it is necessary we should be enlightened by the Divine Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:11); that we be "taught" and "learn of the Father" (John 6:45; Matthew 11:27; Matthew 16:17).
Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? —
I. CHRIST IN THE FATHER. In the Father's —
1. Affections. He loves Christ more than He loves the universe. "This is My beloved Son." As a loving child lives in the affections of his parents, so Christ, only in an infinitely higher degree, lives in the heart of God.
2. Thoughts. What an intelligent being loves most he will think most about.(1) Christ is the Loges, the Revealer of the Divine thought. As the word is to the mind before it is sounded, Christ is in God.(2) He is the Executor of the Divine thought. By Him His creative, redemptive, governing, statutory thoughts are carried out.
II. THE FATHER IS IN CHRIST as in His special —
1. Temple. He whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain has a special dwelling in Christ. In Him He manifests Himself in a fulness and glory seen nowhere else.
2. Organ. As the soul dwells in the body, God dwells in Christ and works by Him.
3. Revealer. "The brightness of His glory," etc. — the Revealer of His power, wisdom, character, as all that is pure, just, tender, and compassionate.
4. Devotee. God is the object of Christ's supreme love. All His thoughts, powers, and aims, were subordinate to Him.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. An APPRECIABLE personality. It is difficult, if not impossible, to realize the Divine Personality in nature. He seems so vast and boundless. But in Christ He comes within the range of our —
II. An ATTRACTIVE personality.
1. Does wonder attract? He is "the Wonderful."
2. Does love attract? His is the tenderest, strongest, most self-sacrificing, and unconquerable love.
3. Does beauty attract? He is "the altogether lovely." In Christ there is power to draw all men to Him.
III. An IMITABLE personality. Our obligation and well being require us to become like God, partakers of the Divine nature — "holy, even as He is holy." In Christ He appears preeminently imitable.
1. His love wins our hearts.
2. His principles command our consciences.
3. His moral glories inspire our admiration. Thus we can imitate Him.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
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