Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
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. (John 14:8–9a NIV)
The above is a very interesting exchange between Philip and Jesus from the Gospel of John. Although he didn’t know it, by looking at Jesus, Philip had seen the Father. He had seen God. We know Jesus is truly God and truly man. Philip was looking at the human Jesus. And Jesus is saying that Philip had seen God. That means it is possible for a human being to reveal God to another human being.
We remember that in Genesis when Jacob experienced the forgiveness of Esau, he said he saw in Esau the face of God (Genesis 32:30a). This shouldn’t surprise us. Human beings were chosen to bear God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27). God is spirit but if you want to know what God looks like you look at Adam and Eve, and their descendants.
In our corporate worship we often talk about our desire to see God. Usually this happens when we encounter God in His Word preached and as we experience Him in prayer and song. But it makes sense that it will take a person to reveal another person. To be saved is to become a new humanity, one that bears the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29–30). We are meant to see Christ in each other.
The meetings in our churches tend to be divided between vertical meetings — worship meetings that are aimed at encountering God — and horizontal meetings — fellowship meetings that are aimed at helping church members encounter each other.
Typically, on a given Sunday we orient ourselves toward God while gathered in the presence of others, whereas in a horizontal gathering such as dinner church (churches whose main activity is a fellowship meal) the idea is to orient ourselves toward our bothers and sister in Christ while in the presence of God. [Mike Graves, Table Talk (Eugene, OR: Cascade Book, 2017) pp. 111].
It is interesting to note that in the first 300 years of church life, the main church meeting was a horizontal meeting, the fellowship meal. That was where they met the risen Christ — in the context of their fellowship. Maybe our horizontal meetings are as important, or perhaps more important than our vertical meetings, in our desire to encounter God.
We remember, of course, that all followers of Jesus are still growing in Christlikeness, a journey that will only end when we see Him face to face (1 John 3:1–3). At best, therefore, we are but imperfect representations of Jesus. Nevertheless, that is what we have been called to do — represent Christ to each other. Therefore the onus is on us to grow in our journeys of Christlikeness. And in looking for Christ in my brother or sister, I still look at the Christ portrayed in the Gospels and in the rest of the New Testament for an authoritative portrait.
So, if you really have a desire to see Jesus, don’t close your eyes during worship service. Don’t open your eyes and look at the ceiling or at the worship activities up front. Open your eyes and look at a brother or sister. Better still, invite him or her to a meal. And talk face to face.
There is a song that goes:
Open our eyes, Lord
We want to see Jesus.
To reach out and touch him
And say that we love him
Open our ears, Lord
And help us to listen
Open our eyes, Lord
We want to see Jesus
(Robert Cull, 1976)
Let’s open our eyes and look at our brothers and sisters.