Week 3: The Way, Truth and Life
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.