Today’s full reading is John 14:1-31
“The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”
Today’s reading reveals something pretty heady about God; get ready…
In this verse and in the one previous to it Jesus is replying to his disciple Philip’s request that they might see the Father, ‘show us the Father‘ Philip pleads. Jesus is trying to help Philip see that he (Jesus) is the Father made manifest, that he’s not only the Father’s representative but is one with him in thought and deed.
In that sense, Jesus is different from an ambassador and speaking to him is different from speaking to an ambassador. Ambassadors speak on behalf of another person or country. They are given authority to act on behalf of and as a representative of their sending party. So far so good, so far so similar to Jesus. But Jesus claims a different level of familiarity with the one he’s representing.
Jesus claims to not only do the things that come from above, he claims that he is ‘one’ with the Father. Having done that Jesus goes further still and says that he is in the Father (i.e. he exists within the Father’s essence). Then, even more shockingly, he claims that God the Father, Yahweh, the Creator is also in him.
The Son is in the Father
The Father is in the Son
Jesus is not saying, as Eastern thinkers have done, that everything is god; that we are gods. He is not even saying ‘we are gods and God is in us’. What he is saying is:
I am in God and God is in me.
This, said in response to Philip’s question, has to do with Jesus’ identity and therefore (by implication) the Father’s identity.
This morning, sitting where I am outdoors on a sunny day, I lift my head to take in my surroundings and I’m struck by the beauty and majesty of the created world. Then as I take in the blue sphere above me and as I consider the vast, and as yet unexplored, universe beyond it I have to catch myself and stop a train of thought that develops. Tempted as I am to stop and soak it in and consider it to be awesome and marvellous, I mustn’t. Creation is a signpost that points beyond itself to the creative & powerful mind of the Father. The difference is comparable to the majesty of a lego city being placed alongside the intricacies and complexities of a real city, one with all the organisms that live there. God is far greater than anything he has made.
And then I have to stop myself once again.
The God who made this universe is, in essence, a Father. The Father is in the Son and if I can conceive who and what Jesus is then I can conceive who and what the Father is. Therefore creation may help me to marvel, but the Son enables me to relate.
The Father-in-the-Son and the Son-in-the-Father makes me both marvel and relate and finally it makes me, stop. It makes me put down my pen and relax. I can rest in the confident loving arms of my Father.
But my journey doesn’t end there. ‘What about the Holy Spirit?’ I wonder ‘surely he ought to figure too in this ‘me in him and him in me…’ description of God’. God isn’t only Father and Son but Father, Son & Spirit. Glance back at the scripture in front of you and it seems that Jesus is tracking our train of thought. Two verses after the one we’re focusing on, having explained part of the mystery of the Godhead Jesus helps his listeners to grasp even more:
‘I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.’
The Holy Spirit, the Helper, is described here as ‘he’. He is sent by the Father at the request of the Son. He dwells/lives with us and will be ‘in’ us. In these verses both the Son & the Spirit are said to be ‘in’ us. The Son is in the Father and the Spirit comes from the Father.
Trying to wrap my mind around all this is hard for me. That’s where historic diagrams of the Trinity come in handy:
God is one but three persons who each exist ‘in’ the other without being dissolved into a non-distinct blend of bland monotheism.
This is the nature of God and then Jesus ‘drops a bombshell’ when he says that: he (v20), the Spirit (v17) and the Father (v23) will be in us. The scandalous truth is that in some profound and mysterious way the triune God lives in me, lives in you.
Jesus effectively says of God ‘we will make our home with and in them.’
God is committed to us. He is with us, in us, for us, at home in us, loving us, leading us, teaching us.
This isn’t because of intellect and learning or moral perfection. This is because of grace, because of Christ and because of the Father’s unrelenting love toward us.
The Father covers us with his love. He surrounds us, lives in us — and us in him.
Father such thoughts are almost too much for me to take in. Help me to enjoy the reality that these words are pointing to. Help me to know you, delight in you and enjoy relationship with you. Fill me with your Spirit, help me to love your Son and cause me to trust you for everything I need today. Amen.