John 14:5-11 (Fifth Sunday of Easter—Series A)
“Knowing the Father Through the Son”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
May 14, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from the Gospel lesson recorded in John 14:
5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How are we able to know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I Am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you knew me, you would have known my Father also. And from now on you do know Him and see Him.” 8Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father and that is adequate for us.” 9Jesus said to him, “I am with you so long and you don’t know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words which I speak to you I do not speak from Myself, but the Father who remains in me does His works. 11Beleive Me, that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. But if not, believe on account of the works themselves.”
How do we know God? And if we know God, how do we know that we have it right? How do we know that we know the true God?
When we talk about the doctrine of God, we often speak about knowing God. People can know that there is a God by taking a look at the world around them. Because the world exists with such great variety and complexity, it makes sense that someone—God—had to have made it. If you were walking along in the woods and found a watch on the ground, would you conclude that the watch just appeared there or would you figure that someone dropped it? Upon examining the watch with its gears and hands, would you conclude that it just happened to put itself together like that or would you figure that there must have been a watchmaker? Similarly, when we look at the world around us, we conclude that there must have been a Creator who is powerful and wise. But that’s about all we can say about this God based on that natural knowledge from the world around us.
People also have a conscience. Even without ever having picked up a Bible or any other religious literature, people know there exists a right and wrong. They know it is bad to steal or to murder. They also know there is something or someone bigger and greater than they are. They call that “higher power” God. But our conscience really doesn’t tell us anything about who God is or what He is like.
If anyone thinks that they know God based on this natural knowledge, they are very mistaken. If anyone believes that they can know God through their own reason and senses, they are very mistaken. Dr. Luther put it like this in the Large Catechism, “The whole world with all diligence has struggled to figure out what God is, what He has in mind and does. Yet the world has never been able to grasp the knowledge and understanding of any of these things.”
Left to ourselves and our own thoughts and ideas, what kind of God would we come up with? Perhaps we’d end up with a golden calf like the Israelites did. “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ . . . [They made] for themselves a golden calf and . . . worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” (Exod. 32:1, 8 ESV).
Alright, we likely wouldn’t fashion our idea of God into a golden calf, but we would make God be what we want Him to be. Our reason and senses would construct a God that is most like us and what we would most like. How do you think God has come to be portrayed as a gentle grandfather-figure sitting on the puffy white clouds giving out exactly what all His human grandchildren want? He’s never going to tell you that you were wrong or did something bad. He’s going to make sure you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and are happy all the time, getting everything that you ask for. Well, that’s why people have imagined God to be more like a genie in a bottle. Rub God’s magic lamp and He’ll do exactly what you want since you’re in charge.
God in our culture gets stripped of any power that He might have had. He’s portrayed in movies and on TV as more of a bumbling fool or a passive observer or an out of date guy that no one pays attention to anymore. Yes, this is the kind of God that we would come up with if left to our own devices. While we might piously sit here and say, “I would never think of God in those ways,” the truth of the matter is that we do. Even if we haven’t come up with the idea for who God is, we do, at times, buy into the world’s view of God. We have used God as a “get out of jail free” card when we’ve gotten into a situation that we can’t get out of. “God, if you get me out of this, I promise I’ll…” Or we have used God as an excuse to do something we want to do, even though it is wrong, because “God isn’t really paying attention” or “He won’t really punish me” or “I’ll just ask for forgiveness and I’ll be good to go. He knows I’m not perfect and He’s okay with me being me.”
Reality check, my friends. God is not okay with you being you in your sinful condition. How do I know that? Because God has chosen to reveal Himself to me and to you and to all people in His Word. If you and I really want to know God, we can’t look at the created world or our consciences. If we want to know God, we need to look where God shows us who He is. So we turn to the Scriptures, God’s inspired Word to humanity.
There, we find a God who is three persons in one divine being. There is one true God in three separate persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In His Word, He shows us His attributes, His qualities and characteristics—God is holy, without sin and hating sin. God is just. God is righteous. God is fair. God is love, gracious, merciful. The Bible reveals to us all these truths about God. The Bible is the story of what God has done for His creation that abandoned Him and chose sin.
But we could easily read the Bible as any other book, a book of myths or fairy tales. How do we truly know God? Because the Bible is God’s Word who reveals the Word of God Made Flesh to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. “God has revealed Himself and opened the deepest abyss of His fatherly heart and His pure, inexpressible love [Ephesians 3:18–19]. He has created us for this very reason, that He might redeem and sanctify us. In addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has even given to us His Son and the Holy Spirit, who brings us to Himself [Romans 8:14, 32]. For . . . we could never grasp the knowledge of the Father’s grace and favor except through the Lord Christ. Jesus is a mirror of the fatherly heart [John 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3], outside of whom we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge. But we couldn’t know anything about Christ either, unless it had been revealed by the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 2:12].” (LC: Creed)
God the Holy Spirit reveals to us God the Son, Jesus Christ, who shows us God the Father. “If you knew me,” Jesus says, “you would have known my Father also. And from now on you do know Him and see Him.” Philip was still confused. He wanted to see the Father with His own eyes. But Jesus tells Him that when Philip sees Jesus, He is looking at the Father because the Father is in Jesus even as Jesus is in the Father. Father and Son and Spirit are One—One true God in three distinct persons. F.F. Bruce put it like this in his commentary, “To know the Son is to know the Father; to see the Son is to see in him the otherwise invisible God. As the prologue to the Gospel [of John] has put it, ‘No one has seen God; the only-begotten (himself) God, who has his being in the Father’s bosom, is the one who has declared him’ (John 1:18).” Or as Luther said as only he could, “You must not conceive of this seeing and knowing God as being literal and physical, as a cow stares at a gate; you must not think that he who sees Christ also sees with his eyes the form of the Father. No, this must be done with the vision of the spirit and of faith, and yet in undeniable conformity with these words: Whoever sees Christ with the eyes of faith also sees the Father with those eyes; for he meets the very Person in whom the Father also dwells bodily, as St. Paul states [in Colossians 2:9], and in whom He reveals His whole heart and will. Thus we also see and know both Christ and the Father, not with our eyes or with our physical sight and knowledge but with this same faith. Seeing Christ with our physical sight alone avails us nothing; spiritual sight must be added. And this is the sight of the heart or the knowledge of faith. Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and almost the whole Jewish nation saw and knew Him; yet they knew neither Him nor the Father. Though they see and know the Person of Christ, still they do not see the Father in Christ and Christ in the Father, and both as one heart, mind, and will, yes, as one united and indivisible Divine Being.”
Jesus shows us the Father. He shows us the Father’s heart that ached for His fallen, sinful, condemned-to-death humanity. And the Father acted graciously to save those who are all too willing to create their own versions of God and become their own gods. It was decided from eternity that all people would be saved through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of God the Son, Jesus Christ. Christ came down from heaven and loved us sinners to death, literally, to death on a cross. In obedience to the Father, Jesus suffered and died for our sins. He took away God’s wrath from us. He paid for our sins in full. His blood won our complete forgiveness and life forever with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Through faith in Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel Word, we have been taught the heart of God the Father. We now know God and have seen, by faith, the person of the Father in the face of His Son. When you and I hear Christ now through the Word, we hear only His words: “’I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me. No one’s own notions, works, or holiness are valid here; I alone am. Therefore do not look beyond Me; but cling to Me, and place your trust solely in Me. And where I go through cross and death, there you will also abide, so that no one can separate you from Me and the Father.’”
No lies about who God is and what He has done to save you in Christ will be able to separate you from Christ and your heavenly Father. None of your sins nor your guilt will be able to drive a wedge between you and the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel and enlightened you with His gifts through Baptism and the Word. He sanctifies you and He keeps you in this one true faith through the Word and the Lord’s Supper. In the Word you hear the Gospel message of God, “’Believe in me. Believe that I forgive you your sins and am gracious to you for Christ’s sake. Be baptized on this. Be obedient to father and mother, and do what your calling and vocation enjoins. Then you have everything, and God in the bargain!’ ‘Oh,’ you ask, ‘is that seeing and hearing God? I assumed that He was up in heaven and that I needed a special revelation from Him.’ No, far from it. If you want to encounter God, you must first see Him under the mask, in the Word. Then one day you can behold Him also in His majesty. For now God will not present you with anything special, apart from and contrary to His command contained in His Word.”
It that Word which gives us Christ our Savior. It is our Savior who is the only way to know the Father and to see the Father by faith through the work of the Spirit. And that’s how we know the one, true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through the Word, we know we’ve got it right because we see Him and know Him by faith. And through His saving Gospel, we have received from Him forgiveness and everlasting life. Amen.
“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Rom. 16:25-27 ESV).
 Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 406.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 24 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 59–60.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 24 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 58–59.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 24 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 68–69.