Week 3: The Way, Truth and Life

The Church of England - - ENGLAND -

The God who hears our cries; the God who guides our path … Now we think about the God who makes him­self known to us. That in it­self is an amaz­ing con­cept: that the Cre­ator of the Uni­verse, the in­fi­nite power that brought all things into be­ing, ac­tu­ally wants us to know what he’s like and in­vites us to come to him.

This is the great in­vi­ta­tion of the Bi­ble. ‘If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me,’ (Jeremiah 29:13). ‘Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you,’ (Matthew 7:7). It is up to us hu­man be­ings to do the seek­ing, ask­ing, and knock­ing. But it is up to Almighty God to show him­self to us and in­vite us to come into his pres­ence.

More dra­mat­i­cally, some­times the in­vi­ta­tion is put the other way round. ‘Lis­ten, I am stand­ing at the door knock­ing,’ says Je­sus in one of Rev­e­la­tion’s less com­pli­cated vi­sions (3:20). He’s out­side the luke­warm church at Laodicea. ‘If you hear my voice’, he says, ‘and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.’ Hol­man Hunt painted the scene, and it’s of­ten used by evan­ge­lists to urge peo­ple to ‘ask Je­sus into their lives’. Fair enough. But in fact it’s a whole Church that’s in­side, and the Son of God who’s out­side. And - this is the point - he’s plead­ing to be let in. The God who makes him­self known So the God of the Bi­ble is a God who wants to be known. He’s not a ‘se­cret’ God, but a God of rev­e­la­tion. Ob­vi­ously we can’t ‘un­der­stand’ him. We can’t work him out or dis­cover him with our mi­cro­scopes and tele­scopes. If God is almighty and all-know­ing (and what sort of ‘god’ would he be if he weren’t?) we are de­pen­dent on him to let us know what he is like. The uni­ver­sal wit­ness of the Bi­ble is that he has done that - though grad­u­ally, and over long ages.

‘God, who gave to our fore­fa­thers many dif­fer­ent glimpses of the truth, has now, at the end of the present age, given us the truth in his Son,’ (He­brews 1:1-2). That, in a nut­shell, is the story of the Bi­ble - from glimpses to the whole pic­ture.

But how ex­actly are we sup­posed to ‘see’ God or ‘find’ him? The hu­man search for God, as the Bi­ble re­lates it, has fol­lowed many paths. One is the lived ex­pe­ri­ence of those who be­lieve in him and live by that be­lief. Some­how, we can of­ten ‘see God’ in them. For other peo­ple the path is the mys­tery of our very ex­is­tence. The Scrip­tures But most of us need a more spe­cific path to knowl­edge of God, and that is of­fered in the Bi­ble. In th­ese writ­ings we have, as it were, an in­spired scrap­book of the hu­man race’s ex­pe­ri­ence of God. Here are records, sto­ries, vi­sions, po­ems and songs which tell how, down the ages, peo­ple have en­coun­tered the Di­vine. Some of it will be more rel­e­vant to us to­day than other parts, but it would be a cold heart that isn’t stirred by this record of hu­mankind’s long search for the ul­ti­mate prize: the un­fold­ing rev­e­la­tion of the na­ture of our Cre­ator.

Je­sus made this as­ton­ish­ing claim to his dis­ci­ples: ‘Who­ever has seen me has seen the Fa­ther,’ (John 14:9). It is a stag­ger­ing claim, but it has stood the test of time. If you want to know what God is like, look at Je­sus. The cul­mi­na­tion of our search for God is his Son, Je­sus.

The New Tes­ta­ment writ­ers pass on to us to­day the im­pact and mean­ing of his amaz­ing life on those who knew him and fol­lowed him on earth. Je­sus is, they would claim, the cul­mi­na­tion of the hu­man search for God, and of God’s search for us. What are you seek­ing? Early in John’s Gospel there’s a scene with all the hall­marks of au­then­tic per­sonal me­mory. Two fol­low­ers of John the Bap­tist heard him say, as Je­sus walked by, ‘Look, here’s the Lamb of God!,’ (John 1:35-36). So they fol­lowed this per­son to find out more. As they trailed Je­sus, he turned and asked them what they were seek­ing. ‘Rabbi [ Teacher], where are you stay­ing?’ was their rather in­ept re­ply. Pos­si­bly they meant, ‘Can we come and spend some time with you?’ Any­way, Je­sus’ an­swer was clear and invit­ing: ‘Come and see.’

In a sense, that’s al­ways been the di­vine in­vi­ta­tion. You’re look­ing for an­swers, ex­pla­na­tions. Your ‘god’ is a mys­tery, some­times a fright­en­ing one. If there is a Cre­ator, a heav­enly Power who shapes our lives, what is he (or she or it) like? Well, ‘Come and see!’ Look at the world you live in. Lift your eyes to the stars. Look into your own imag­i­na­tion, and that of oth­ers. See the signs of love in hu­man re­la­tion­ships, the touch of a friendly hand, the en­fold­ing arms of a nurs­ing mother. Best of all - as those dis­ci­ples were to dis­cover - Je­sus says, look at me. When you do, you may be­gin to see God. Come and see! CANON DAVID WIN­TER was Head of Re­li­gious Broad­cast­ing at the BBC. He is a prolific au­thor and a pop­u­lar broad­caster.

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