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by Clive Bowsher
Welcome to this August Friends of Union devotion, and thank you for partnering with us in the work of the gospel.
We’re going to be looking today at John 14:1-11 and a few verses in John 17 as well.
In John 14:8, Philip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” That has always made me smile. Well, that would be enough, wouldn’t it? Encountering the Father, seeing God. Knowing him, seeing him face-to-face. Philip is longing for reality. He’s longing for God. He’s longing for something beautiful. Perhaps you find yourself longing at the moment too? Philip already knows who likely has the answer. I guess he thinks Jesus will either grant his request (somehow) or tell him to wait a while (maybe a long while!). But Jesus gets Philip to change perspective. He tells Philip he’s already looking God right in the eye:
If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. … Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? (John 14:7, 9–10)
To know Jesus is to know the Father. Seeing Jesus, the Son, is seeing the Father. That makes sense, Jesus explains, because “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Or, as he puts it in John 10v30, because “I and the Father are ONE.”
We get to listen to Jesus himself praying out loud in John 17. Twice more, Philip and the other disciples hear him say he is one with the Father (vv. 11, 22). “One” sums up so much of what John’s Gospel teaches us—about who Jesus is and about how we can relate to him and the Father. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit. Just what does Jesus mean when he says he and the Father are one?
“You-in-me-and-me-in-you” relationship, he calls it. This means when Jesus speaks, the Father speaks. His words aren’t just his; they’re the Father’s. That’s every word you hear coming from Jesus’ mouth in the Gospels. This means when Jesus does something, the Father does it too. He tells Philip the same thing (John 14:10–11). Just think of everybody you see Jesus relating to and everything you see him doing in the Gospels. His words, deeds, and friendships aren’t just his; they’re the Father’s too. When you see the Son, you see the Father. Their purpose and their relationship with each other even closer than we can imagine—perfectly united. ONE. That’s an awful lot to take in if we’ve not heard God described that way before. It is, without doubt, a dazzling kind of relationship that Jesus is telling us about.
Raising the bar on love
Tom, our pastor, was preaching yesterday morning. “We can overcomplicate the Christian life,” he said. I nodded. “It’s all about gazing at Jesus and wanting to be carried by, even immersed in, the wave of who he is, the wave of one who is Love.” Now, admittedly, Tom’s a swimmer, and we both live near a kite-surfing beach. You could change the metaphor, but Tom’s right. “You can’t control the wave; it’s a lot bigger than you. God is love. Have you reckoned with the magnitude of this. Love is personal; it has to be. Surfing or skiing, music or hiking, art—all of these can be beautiful. (Perhaps not all of them to everyone, but you know what I mean.) Human relationships, on the other hand—personal and intimate and joyful ones—they mesmerize us. But I think God raises the bar on love.
Imagine. The Father, Son, and Spirit perfectly united, perfectly one—before they created anything. Before galaxies or oceans, mountains or mammals. Before time and space. A world where everything was, well … right.
The Word, God the Son, with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, in the beginning. Jesus Christ the Son, “in the Father’s bosom,” closer than we can imagine to the Father’s heart (John 1v. 18). A world where everything is right, and love is everything. The Father loving the Son at his side and glorifying him (John17:5). Imagine that kind of closeness. That kind of harmony. The Father in the Son and the Son in the Father. Knowing each other completely. Loving each other perfectly. Loving with an intensity we can’t plumb the depths of. It’s the perfection we long for. Three persons, one God. And the most astonishing thing—Jesus draws you and me into this divine life and love, into this dazzling glory (John 17v24). God is already drawing us into this beautiful love, to share it with him today.
Raising the bar on relationship
This God loves you, person-to-person. If we pause to consider, that’s huge. I don’t know about you, but my approach to God can still sometimes be, well … too mechanical. I fall back into it. But I’d probably never treat a good friend that way. Think for a moment about the struggles we can have as Christians. We seem confused about all sorts of things: worship, obedience, God’s presence and our experience of it, mission (“Am I supposed to want to do this?”), even prayer. But how much might be simplified if we made relating to God central? I mean really relating to him. Person-to-person. Sharing in the kind of love God has always been sharing and knowing, before anything was created. Loving this kind of God is overwhelmingly beautiful. What if we made everything about joining in and loving God back as we enjoy the way he loves us too? Our culture has cheapened love, and we’re so thirsty. But Scripture says there is a deep river. Love which flows from within God, who is Trinity, from his relational heart to our heart—and then flows back to him and out to people around us.
Jesus teaches us that in the day following his resurrection (that’s our day), we will know that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. The resurrection opens up the reality of the most beautiful love to us. It’s stunning! Everything flows from this Father–Son love, this in-one-another love, this me-in-you-and-you-in-me love.
So, the Father, Son, and Spirit are one, perfectly united. And you’re invited into the beauty of who God is. You’re invited to live in this love. If you ever get to hear Ard Louis talking about science and truth, you’ll hear him say that deep truth can only be known by entering in and experiencing it from the inside. Ard is professor of theoretical physics at Oxford University. He knows and loves Jesus. (He’s also rather used to science problems which require a .) But knowing God isn’t a hard problem for us to solve. It’s a dazzling and thrilling reality to dive into. We experience the real God as we trust him, receive his love, and begin to love him back. We dive in, and then we find the freedom of knowing the truth. If we wait for complete understanding first, we’ll be disappointed. But when we relate to God, really relate, everything changes. Love, God’s and ours, has the capacity to bring ultimate reality and the beauty of heaven breaking into our lives. “Love is the constant between our present, incomplete knowledge and the full knowledge yet to come,” Love is the bridge we need.
You can know and experience in-one-another love with the Son, a love so close it blows your mind. When we hear Jesus is relating for real, loving us and able to reach us—today, in the here and now—we begin to realise that maybe we don’t need to understand everything to love him back. Jesus is inviting us to dive in.
Let me encourage you to take some time out with God, now or later on today, to reflect and to enjoy being with him. Perhaps read all of the conversation in John 14:1–11, and then pray it through.
Past Friends of Union Devotionals