The Holy Spirit is better than seeing God!

The night before Jesus died, Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8). It’s not that knowing Jesus wasn’t awesome. But Jesus had just announced that he was about to leave them. They were about to face big challenges without him. Philip wanted a bigger experience of God to assure him.

It’s like Moses asking to see God. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11). But faced with the prospect of God leaving them to face the wilderness alone (33:3), Moses not only asks God to go with them, he asks for the reassurance of seeing him. Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you….But you cannot see my face, for no-one may see me and live.” (33:18-20) No-one can see God directly as he would overwhelm us just as we cannot look directly at the sun (cf Job 37:21-23). But God gave Moses a full experience of himself to assure him as he set off in the challenging task he was leading him in.

Jesus’ reaction to Philip is quite different. 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’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?”

Instead of showing Philip a fuller experience of God’s glory, Jesus expresses disappointment that Philip would ask such a thing. But notice that Jesus is not disappointed that Philip seeks reassurance in seeing God’s glory. Rather Jesus is disappointed that Philip doesn’t perceive that the fullness of God’s glory is displayed in Jesus himself. Philip already has something better than Moses had, but he doesn’t appreciate it. In seeing Jesus, Philip sees God the Father.

What is even more striking is that Jesus goes on to say that after he has been taken from the world and sent the Spirit of truth, this will be the situation of all who love him – “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (14:21)

So having the Holy Spirit is better than seeing God. We’ll be exploring how that works, for God and for us, in this Sunday’s Bible talk.

Matt Waldron

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