"Show Us the Father" (Easter 5A)
"Show Us the Father"
John 14:1-14; Acts 7:55-60
By Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda
“6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
Many times in the Bible, we discover that when faithful people reach a crossroad or a hard place, they want to see God. We are going to weave through some other Bible stories to come back and land in John 14.
In the book of Exodus, when the Israelites built the Golden Calf in the wilderness, they began to worship this false idol. They sinned against the LORD God who had brought them out of Egypt and rescued them from slavery in Egypt. God was jealous and angry with them for their act of betrayal. God wanted to abandon them, giving up on the plan for salvation and the covenant with Israel.
But Moses spoke to God from Mt. Sinai and pleaded on behalf of the people. Moses prayed that God would have mercy on Israel and forgive them. The LORD said yes because Moses had found favor in God’s sight (Exodus 33:17). As soon as God says yes, Moses turns around and asks a deeper question. “Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray” (Exodus 33:18).
This has been a trying time for Moses and for all of Israel. His spiritual life has become a spiritual battlefield. And what he needs in that moment is not more argument, or more study, or more work. In that moment, he needs to see God’s glory. He needs to know God face to face..
Likewise, Psalm 80 is a prayer written under duress. It is probably written by an Israelite who lived through the Exile in Babylon. These people had suffered mightily.
They had been defeated in wars over and over again. They had been stripped of their national sovereignty. Their Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Their worship life was ruined. And to top it all off, their best and brightest young people were stolen from them and forced to live as slaves again in a foreign land.
The refrain in Psalm 80 is a petition that is repeated three times: “Restore us, O God of hosts; Show us the light of your countenance and we shall be saved” (Psalm 80:3, 7, 18).
We who have been beaten down and exiled need God’s restoration. They want their religious life and their civic-political life to literally restored to its former glory. But they know that the path to restoration is not simply about political or military strategy. No, it requires God’s supernatural, spiritual intervention. In order for us to be restored in our darkest moments, we ask God to “show us the light of your [face].” Only when we see God face to face do we have a chance of being saved. We, like Israel, need to know God face to face.
Next we turn to our lesson from Acts. St. Stephen is a deacon in the early church. He was brought to trial in front of the Sanhedrin, the same council that convicted Jesus and sent him to be crucified. Stephen was falsely accused before the Sanhedrin, and called a firestarter and a blasphemer. Stephen rejected the testimony with a long speech about how Jesus was part of God’s plan for Israel from the beginning.
Stephen’s testimony is a masterful work of preaching and apology, but it unfortunately upset the crowd so much that they dragged him away and began to stone him. Despite the fact that Stephen was in immediate physical danger, he was not focused on his own safety. Instead, he received a vision from the Holy Spirit: “‘Look,’ [Stephen] said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” (Acts 7:56).
When he was in trouble, Stephen asked not for physical protection. He didn’t run away from his martyrdom. Instead he was satisfied with the pure joys of seeing the glory of God. He saw God and he was saved. The action that brought him the most peace in time of trouble was to see and know God face to face.
Finally in John 14, Jesus and the disciples are gathered on the night of the Last Supper. They have finished their meal and Judas has already left them to betray Jesus to the authorities. This is a stressful night for everyone, though the disciples don’t yet know how stressful it will be.
Nonetheless, the Eleven know that something is strange because Jesus keeps speaking about his departure. He will give them a new commandment. He will leave them and give them an Advocate. They must remain as branches in the Vine. So something seems off.
Then Jesus says again that he is going away: “‘If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’” (John 14:3-4).
All of this is bizarre. Jesus speaks about a journey that they cannot join him on, but that he will show them how to get where he is going. They are on edge and they don’t know what to do next. They are further confused by Jesus’ response. “I am the way” hasn’t quite helped them understand.
Then Philip speaks up. Philip may not understand Jesus’ teaching here. He may not know how Jesus himself can be the way to the Father. But he knows that in his hour of need, the only source of healing, refreshment, and restoration is in the LORD God. “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the way to the Father, and we will be satisfied’ (John 14:8).
Philip also wants to know God face to face. Fortunately for him, Jesus Christ, the very Road to the Father, was standing right in front of him.
The important bit of learning for us here is that the way to the Father is not a belief system or a formula or ethical precepts. It’s not something we can earn or something we can control and put into a box. The way to the Father is a person. This person helps us to see another person. The person of Jesus is the way. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Critically, Jesus wants us to focus on our vision. What and who do we see? What and who do we want to see? This isn’t simply about intellect and thoughts, nor about beliefs or feelings. This is about an encounter with a Living God. Jesus is alive and present with us here and now. His Holy Spirit still moves in us and give us opportunities, like St. Stephen, to see “the glory of God and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).
So don’t just read about God or talk about God and think about God. Talk to God, look for God, and meet this God face to face. No matter how tough life might be in this moment, that intimate, personal knowledge is all we truly need. Amen.