The Real Fatherhood of God
Do you know why many people don't see anything wrong with the prayer service held in Yankee Stadium after 9/11? Many people believe Christian clergymen and non-Christian clergymen can pray together because God is the Father of us all. If God's the father of us all, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, why can't we pray together? This is a tempting argument. You can quote Malachi 2:10, "Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?" This indeed proves God is the Father of us all, but it doesn't prove that all religions pray to the same God. You'll see in our text that we don't, we can't as Jesus shows us the real Fatherhood of God.
Our text begins with Jesus calling the disciples to Himself. It's the upper room on Maundy Thursday. Jesus has just told them that one of them would betray Him and all would flee from Him. The disciples are very troubled. Jesus calls them to Himself saying as the KJV correctly translates, "You believe in God; believe also in Me."
The disciples are like us. They believe in God. God would do this. God would do that. God would help. God would hear their prayer. God would watch over them. God, God, God the name behind which any number of deities can hide. God's the generic name for deity, for the Supreme Being, for Allah, Vishnu, Kali, jehovah, etc. etc. The disciples were big believers in God as indeed virtually everyone on the planet is and always has been. Psalm 14 says that only fools say there is no God. Everyone believes there is an uncaused First Cause, a Being who has always been here and always will be here, an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present entity.
Jesus says, "You believe in God," but then goes on to say, "Believe also in Me." This is the emphatic form of "Me." In my notes it's in bold. Jesus says, "Believe also in Me!" Me and none other. Me right there alongside God. Wherever you put God there put Me. Wherever you put Me there put God. This my friends is radical stuff. Where Jesus is there God is. God is in the virgin Mary's womb. Mary is nursing God. Holding God. Changing God. The Christian confession of Faith since 431 A.D. is that Mary is the Mother of God. Our Formula of Concord says, "She is rightly called and truly is the Mother of God." St. Paul in Colossians expresses it this way, All the fulness of the Godhead dwells BODILY in Christ.
You think it's extreme to see God in the womb of Mary, God on her lap, God being fed and changed by an earthly mom as we all were? Keep going. See God hungry, exhausted and led around by the devil in the desert. See God with no place to lay His head. See God tired and thirsty at a well in Samaria. See God arrested, beaten, whipped, and mocked by men. See God suffering, sighing, bleeding, dying and stuck in a stone-cold tomb.
The disciples that Jesus is talking to would see all this; we have seen all this. Why shouldn't this trouble them and us? What does Jesus say? "Don't let your hearts continued to be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me." The answer to a troubled heart is to trust in the Jesus who will be judged by God, punished by God, and forsaken by God. How's that?
Follow what Jesus does next. He takes them to the Father. He ceases to speak of "God" and speaks now of His Father. He tells them that there is plenty of room in His Father's House. You know those jokes about barely squeaking into heaven or about tiny little dwellings for most people? Well Jesus blows all that out of the water. He says there's plenty of room in His Father's House. Also note that when Jesus goes from speaking about God to speaking about His Father He goes from vague generalities to specific things that we can all identify with: a Father and a House. When Scripture speaks of God it speaks of Him being unseeable and unapproachable. John 1:18 says, "No man has seen God at any time." I Timothy 6 says, He dwells in light unapproachable.
We believe in God but we are confronted with a God we can't see and can't approach. No comfort there when you're heart is troubled. But Jesus calls us to Himself and then takes us right to His Father and His big, roomy house where we never have to fear we will be turned away. Not only is there plenty of room but Jesus has gone there and prepared a place for us. In the upper room on Maundy Thursday before the "It is finished" on Good Friday, Jesus speaks of being on the way to do the preparing. But that's all in the past now. He has finished preparing a place for us.
How did Jesus prepare a place for us? By keeping the Law that endlessly says, "You must do this, do that, and this too, before you can get a place in the Father's House." Jesus did it all for us. The commandments that we can never keep have been kept by Jesus. All the do's and don't that hung over our head, have been done by Jesus for us. Of course, that's not enough. Not only did the Law have to be kept, our sins had to be paid for. You don't pay for your sins by repenting, by feeling bad, by feeling guilty, or by trying harder. Only the blood of Jesus because it is the Blood of God could cleanse us from all sins. Only the suffering of Jesus because it is the suffering of God could satisfy the wrath of God. Only God can satisfy God. God in flesh and blood, Jesus, has done this for us flesh and blood sinners.
But Jesus doesn't just tell us that He has prepared a room for us in His Father's House, He tells us that He comes and literally "will receive us to Himself." Now don't think that Jesus is telling these disciples who are troubled now that it will be some time in the distant future that He will come for them. No, right after Good Friday comes Easter Sunday. Easter is the proclamation that the doors to the Father's House have been successfully flung open by the death of Christ. Easter is the announcement to the world that the Law of God has been kept for everyone and all the sins of every man woman and child have been paid for. Easter proclaims that through the risen Jesus anyone and everyone can go into the Father's House.
Jesus begins by saying: where you place God you must also place Me. Now He tells us where you place Me you must also place all those in Me. Those who've been baptized have been joined to Jesus, says St. Paul. Those who've been absolved on earth in Jesus' name have been absolved before God in heaven, says Jesus in John 20. Those who've eaten and drank the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion have eaten and drank My Body and Blood, says Jesus. By the Sacraments Jesus is in us and we're in Him. Where Jesus is that's where those in Jesus are. Jesus is in heaven; you are in heaven. Jesus reigns and rules all things now. In Jesus, you reign and rule all things now. Jesus is not troubled by anything not sickness, not death, not Satan, not sin. Therefore, you need not be troubled either.
Jesus draws us away from believing in a generic God who is unseeable and unapproachable to Himself. Then in Him He takes us to the Father and into the Father's House. It's a great House. Plenty of room. No fear here; no worry here; no guilt here. Plenty of light and life here. But Jesus doesn't stop here. He drives home the amazing point (the point that was denied when Christians participated with non-Christians in praying to God) that Jesus in the only way to come to or even know God the Father.
The Gospel of John begins with this amazing point. It states, as I said, "No man has seen God at any time." But it goes on to say, "But the only begotten Son of God who is in the lap of the Father has made Him known." John 1:18 simply states the bear fact. The Gospel of John goes on to show that the only way to know God the Father is through God the Son. Chapters 2-12 show that the unseeable and unapproachable God the Father is seen and approached in God the Son. Here in John 14 Jesus says this plainly.
The disciples get the message that the important thing is to know God the Father. That's why Philip pipes up: "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough." He gets the point that you can't just speak of God in generic terms. There is no power or comfort or forgiveness in knowing a generic God. One must know the Father. Still Philip didn't get the point that the only way to know the Father is by the Son. He still thought of the Father as the Big God and Jesus as some sort of lesser revealer. This error is what all who took part in the prayer service in Yankee Stadium were agreeing on: There is a big God, a Father God who is above and beyond Allah, the Jewish jehovah, and the gods of the Sikhs and Hindus, a Big God above and beyond Jesus. Through our own lesser gods we will pray to that Big One, who is the Father of us all.
Jesus certainly trashes that view in His next words to Philip. I picture Jesus as being disappointed when He answers Philip's request to show them the Father: "Don't you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me (Me is bold here again.) has seen the Father." You can look at Allah all you want and you won't see God the Father. You can gaze at the Jewish jehovah all day and you still don't see God the Father. Ponder, mediate, pray all day to the gods of the Sikhs and Hindus and you do not, will not and cannot see God the Father. Only Christians know, see, and pray to God the Father. They do so through, by and in God the Son, Jesus of Nazareth, born of the Virgin Mary.
In Jesus God is not invisible or unapproachable. On the contrary, Jesus says, "Look at Me and you see God." "Come unto Me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest." Want to know what God thinks about you? Want to know what God is doing for you? Want to know where you stand with God? Look at Jesus. Jesus goes to the cross rather than send you. Jesus is whipped rather than allow you to be. Jesus' hands are nailed to a cross, so that He can load your hands with the blessings of forgiveness, life and salvation. Jesus' feet are nailed to a cross, so that your feet can bring you here where He distributes abundant life through Word and Sacraments.
Jesus is the key. That's why we have pictures of Jesus not of blinding light and burning fire hanging in our homes. If you want to know what God thinks about you or how God feels about you, the only sure and certain way is to look at Jesus not Allah, not the Jewish jehovah, not Kali, or Vishnu. In your Baptism, Paul says you put on Jesus. Any wrath, judgment, or terror in your Baptism? In the Absolution, Jesus says your hear Him speaking. Hear any thing other than forgiveness there? In the Holy Communion, Jesus says you get the same Body He gave unto death and the same Blood He shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Find anything there to trouble your heart?
The only way to know the Fatherhood of God is through the Brotherhood of Jesus. Where you do not see Jesus you do not and cannot see God. Where you see Jesus there you see God. Jesus let the disciples know on the night that He was betrayed that not even the brutal Good Friday cross could alter this comforting truth. Well friends, not even planes falling from the sky and crashing into buildings should be allowed to take away or obscure the comforting fact that God the Father is only seen and known and prayed to in God the Son, Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Easter V (4-28-02), John 14:1-12