Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Seeing the Father in Jesus?

A good friend of mine shed some light on my questions over the direction the charismatic church is taking their understanding of the divine. We were speaking of pain and suffering, and the apparent silence of God in the face of all that causes our vision to cloud, are hopes to fade and our purpose die. My friend comes from a tradition where God's fatherhood is more central, but he wondered if our Jesus obsession (please understand this in the right way) is related to the pain of unanswered prayer. How can a good father be so silent and distant?

And yet the only way we are related to Jesus is through God's decision to adopt us as Jesus' brothers and sisters. It is an amazing honour, but without the Father we get nowhere. Jesus knew it. I would encourage anyone to listen carefully and savour his words:

Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. (John 8:42, NIV)

But what about seeing the Father in Jesus? This was precisely John and Philip's challenge from Jesus in John 14:5-11 that Thomas can be seen to finally understand when he sees his risen Lord in John 20:28 (my Lord and my God, c.f. John 20:17). One of the saddest things we note in the modern church is so many people unable to grow to maturity because they have not experienced good fatherhood and motherhood in their lives. The solution to this problem is not just about instigating discipleship relationships where we identify "spiritual Mums and Dads" (I am not a huge fan of this language), but to return to our Heavenly Father, the one Jesus cared so much to have us restored to.

None of this really answers the title I threw over this post about "seeing" the Father in Jesus. The New Testament teaches us that Jesus is the perfect image (or "inscription") of God - that is to say the Father, without Jesus being the Father. Can we say he carries a perfect "resemblance" when it comes to character and purpose? Certainly, I would say, the NT authors wanted us to understand the dual focus here:

Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my ownGod sent me.

So when we fail to see answers to prayer, it remains difficult for our faith - but especially for our understanding of God the Father as our providing father. We should recognise it and factor this in to our thoughts and prayers. We should also be careful not to do what I very nearly did in this same paragraph and talk of "understanding God as Father". That is like describing a person by their name. Father in that sense is too generic, too much like a theme or an idea or a facet. Would you not agree?

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