When you know Jesus, you know God.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 October

At the beginning of John’s gospel we read,

John 1.18 KJV
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

God, being spirit, Jn 4.24 is invisible to us material creatures. So in order for the folks in the Old Testament to see him, he had to show them a visible representation of himself. It’s not literally himself; it can’t be, because he himself is invisible. So the Old Testament folks got to see a burning bush, a column of cloud, or a pillar of fire, which represented the LORD’s presence. (And notice how he kept deliberately choosing representations which had no solid form. Hope you can recognize why.)

But in Jesus the Nazarene, God presents something which is exactly himself. Visible, so we can see him. Easy to hear and understand—when we’re really listening. A fully accurate depiction of who God is. You wanna know God? Get to know Jesus.

John 14.8-11 KJV
8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

Loads of preachers and theologians love to list any of God’s attributes which reflect his grandness and power. Like his omnis: Omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnivorous, and so forth. ’Cause we humans covet power, and rarely for the best of reasons. So we’re attracted to God’s might, and rejoice that we have a powerful God.

Again, rarely for the best of reasons. There’s this assumption that because we have a powerful God, it somehow makes us powerful and right, and our message and religion and influence oughta also be powerful. Or at least it would be powerful if we’d just grab hold of that power… and smack the world upside the head with it.

But power belongs in God’s hands, and no other. It’s not appropriate for humans. And Jesus demonstrates this: When he became human, he deliberately depowered himself. Pp 2.7 Yes he did miracles, but that’s because he tapped the Holy Spirit’s power. Ac 10.38 And the reason he told us we can do as he does, is ’cause we have the same Spirit. Jn 14.12

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and Jesus exhibits these fruits better than anyone. He puts limits on himself. Far more limits than we bother to put on ourselves. Which means all these “omni attributes” which preachers love to list, don’t apply to Jesus. He surrendered them, and his will, to his Father.

That’s why the people of Jesus’s day had the darnedest time recognizing him as God. Humans expect God to be almighty… but see Jesus and think, “Well he’s not almighty. People resist him, and he lets them. People insult him, and he doesn’t strike them down with lightning. He doesn’t enforce his will. Heck, he got himself killed. What kind of weak, ineffectual God is that?”

Not weak at all. Self-controlled.

God without power.

I know; those who covet power can’t perceive Jesus this way. They’ll take the other extreme and insist, “He is almighty; he’s just hiding his almightiness underneath a human façade. You remember the transfiguration story? Mk 9.2-10 Underneath he’s glowing like a space alien. That’s the real Jesus. The rest is just a show, ’cause he’d break his disciples’ tiny little minds if he walked around looking like God.”

Problem is, holding that belief means you don’t really believe God became human. You think he’s only pretending to be human. It’s one of the oldest heresies—the belief Jesus wasn’t really flesh. 1Jn 4.2-3, 2Jn 1.7 Just God in a flesh suit.

Jesus is YHWH. But YHWH in a form absolutely nobody expected, and probably didn’t even want: God without power. God whom we can’t describe as “omni” anything. God where the basis of our relationship is no longer muddled by our unhealthy obsession with power, so now we can focus on his other attributes which he considers far more valuable: Love. Honesty. Humility. Generosity. Fairness. Compassion. Patience. Faithfulness. And other fruit of the Spirit.

The reason Philip told Jesus, “Lord, shew us the Father,” Jn 14.8 is because Philip, like most of us, sought the power. (Apparently he’d forgotten how Old Testament folks were terrified of being shown the Father, lest his awesomeness kill them. Ex 20.19, Jg 13.22) It’s like those folks who go to a place of business, and whenever they get the hint they may not get their way, they wanna speak to the manager. They don’t want underlings; they want the boss. Philip was happy with Jesus, but he still wanted to speak to the Boss. Thing is, Jesus is the Boss. Don’t let the fact he won’t smite people like a vengeful Zeus confuse you: He’s no underling. You want the manager, you got him. There’s no going over his head.

The vengeful-God idea, where we have this angry violent God who wants to destroy sinners in fire and blood, and a placating doormat Jesus who’s willing to get struck down for us instead, isn’t who God is. Jesus doesn’t have a different agenda than the Father. When you see him, you get the Father. Again:

John 14.10 KJV
10B The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

Jesus’s attitude is the Father’s attitude. Jesus became human, not because he wanted to bring an alienated, faraway God close, but because God wants to be close. Jesus teaches about God, not because God is deliberately secretive and mysterious and needs someone to explain him, but because God wants to explain himself to us. Unlike other religions, where an enlightened prophet spells out who God is, we get God himself explaining himself as best as we can understand.

But, like Philip, sometimes we’re too fixated on the power, and lose sight of the relationship.

So. You wanna know God? You wanna understand his attributes, his motives, his love? Start reading the gospels. Get to know Jesus, what he teaches, and what he expects of his followers. Try to understand, and live in, this kingdom he keeps talking about. Focus on that, instead of God’s omnis.

Which yeah, I’ll write about too. But still: You wanna know God, you get to know Jesus.