Seeing the Relational God through Jesus

Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him.
That means it is through Jesus, the Father’s unique Son, that we see the Father himself. To see Jesus in action is to see the Father in action. So, when Jesus touched the man with leprosy to heal, the Father was also acting compassionately in and through Jesus. So Jesus can say, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

When we look at Jesus, we actually see the inner life of God unveiled as relational. We constantly see Jesus relating to his Father in love and the Father relating to him in love. Jesus was always talking about his Father as he served his Father. He constantly gave himself to accomplishing the work his Father had given him to do. And the Father was always giving himself to Jesus, the beloved Son, with whom he is well pleased.

Jesus’ baptism is a snapshot of this relating. In that moment, Jesus presented himself to his Father as the willing Servant-Son in love. The Father responded by saying you are my Son whom I love with you I am well pleased. All this relating took place in the joy of the Spirit who came on Jesus at that moment. And Jesus went on to serve his Father in the Spirit always looking to his Father and making it his very life to do the Father’s will.

In view of all this, we aim to be constantly attentive and responsive to the relational God who shows up in Jesus.

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How do we know what God is like?

How do we know what God is like? Do we simply try to think right thoughts about God? No! God has made himself known to us through Jesus. It is only in Jesus that we really come to know God according to the way he has made himself known to us. Only as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus can we truly know God. So we must never try to look at God apart from Jesus for he is God as human.

John speaks about the Word who was with God and was God. Then he tells us that this Word became flesh and lived among us. And so, through him, we see who God is because the knowledge of God himself comes to us through a human just like us. We see God himself with a human face. And so, John goes on to say, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1:18 NRSV).

Apart from Jesus, we are left staring at a Nameless and Faceless Deity. But the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 4: 6). So, we keep the eyes of our hearts fixed on Jesus to see the glory of God in his face and to be transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3: 18)

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Presence in Absence

Jesus is now in the presence of his Father and he is also present with us where we are. He is present as the absent One. He is absent because he is at the very centre of the heavenly sanctuary representing us before his Father. Nevertheless, he is still deeply involved with us by his Spirit.

Jesus promised his disciples that when he returned to his Father he would ask the Father and he would give another just like his Son, Jesus. The Father would send this one in Jesus name to be Jesus own presence in them. That’s why Paul speaks often about the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit is the one who comes from the Father in Jesus name as Jesus presence.

By the Spirit, Jesus is present to be all that he wants to be with us and for us. Indeed, he said that it is better that he has departed to be with his Father because now he can be with all of us more deeply than when he was with his friends in the flesh. All this shifts our attention from the past to the present. While make much of Jesus’ work for us in the past we also expect him to show up in our lives where we are right now.

Truly, we can now talk about both the presence and absence of Jesus without contradiction and with great meaning. Absent from us as he represents us in his Father’s Presence and present with us as both he and his Father make their home with us in the Spirit.

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A Human in the Father’s Presence

The Father sent his Son to us in our human flesh. The Son went back to his Father still wearing our human flesh. The ascension is not the story of escape from the body, but the entry of a human into heaven. The Son of God himself now has a body – as a permanent presence in the Father’s presence. Human flesh is now with God.
Nick Needham says:
“This is not to say that his risen, ascended humanity hasn’t been glorified. It has. So there are differences between his earthly humanity and his ascended humanity, but that doesn’t alter the fact that he is still human. He has a glorified humanity, not a glorified something else … The ascended Christ is still a human being and he will remain a human being for all eternity – an exalted and glorified human being, yes, but a human being with a recognizable human body.”

How assuring to know that in the Father’s presence a real human continually represents us. To know that we never approach the Father in our own name, but always in Jesus’ name because he is in his Father’s presence in our name.

This glorified human in the Father’s presence also guarantees what we will become in the future with him. And this glorified human also sends the Spirit to us as the presence of the future in our hearts. In this way, we already enjoy resurrection life as we eagerly await our future resurrection into full glory.

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The New Human in God’s Presence For Us

The Father’s Son came to us as human. He came, as human, to rescue and restore us as humans. He came, as the TRUE human, living in complete faithfulness to God on our behalf. In faithfulness, this true human, went down into the very lowest place, death on the cross. And even in the darkness of death and the moment of utter forsakenness, he committed his spirit to the Father whose love he trusted even though he could not feel it.

Therefore, God raised Jesus as the NEW human, the re-start of the human race. Then this new human ascended into the presence of his Father. And he has taken us with him into the Father’s presence because this new human represents us before his Father. He is one with us and we are one with him. Everything that happens to him happens to us. He was raised and we are raised with him; he was seated at God’s right hand and we are seated with him. Our lives are hidden with him in God.

If the one who sits at the right hand of God does not remain fully human, then we will never enter the most holy place. But in union with Jesus, we will live in the Father’s presence forever sharing Jesus’ communion with his Father. And even now, we have full confidence to enter God’s holy presence through Jesus as the new and living way.

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Grace Abounding to the Worst of Sinners

Jesus encountered Paul speaking to him personally. What did Paul do to merit this revelation of Jesus? Was God pleased with Paul because he was such a good person? Paul says he actually did things to disqualify him from God’s blessings. When Jesus encountered Paul personally, he wasn’t seeking Jesus. He was rather trying hard to wipe out Jesus’ followers because he hated the name of Jesus. Paul considered himself the very worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). As we listen to Paul in other places, we see that he considered himself the worst of sinners because of his hatred for Jesus and his persecution of the church. When Jesus met him, he said to Paul, Why are you persecuting ME? In Paul’s eyes, this made him the worst of sinners. And yet, Jesus met him showing his love and turning his life around.

Having described himself as the worst of sinners, Paul says Jesus showed his immense patience to him as an example to the rest of us (1 Timothy 1:16). As we see Jesus showing undeserved love and patience towards “the worst of sinners” we know that he shows the same undeserved kindness to the rest of us.

The Spirit of Jesus reveals Jesus to us even though not one of us deserves to know him. For the Spirit loves to show Jesus’ face smiling upon us. And through that smiling face, the Spirit shows us Jesus’ gracious heart. So we rejoice in seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus transforming us into his own likeness.

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The Giving Gift

For Tom Smail, the Holy Spirit in Person is “The Giving Gift”. For sure, The Spirit really is the free gift that goes on and on giving all that is ours in Jesus.

The Spirit brings Jesus to us. And as we encounter Jesus, as the one who is with us and for us, faith emerges in our hearts. The Spirit also brings us to Jesus so that we live in union with the one who loves us. The Spirit goes on and on showing Jesus to us enabling us to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3: 18,19). And in all this, we are transformed into the likeness of Jesus by the Lord who is the Spirit.

It is also the same Spirit who assures us that we are God’s children in union with his Son. He assures us so deeply that we cry Abba Father as we move, with Jesus, ever closer to our Father’s heart. The same Spirit also enables us to share in Jesus ongoing mission as we serve our Father in the power of the Spirit in the name of Jesus.

Furthermore, the Spirit is the gift of prayer joining our hearts to Jesus’ prayers in the Presence of his Father. We pray because the Spirit is already praying in us with sighs too deep for words (Rom. 8: 26). And the Spirit’s intercession is really an echo of Jesus’ intercession for us in heaven. The Spirit prays in us because Jesus prays for us.

Yes, the Spirit really is The Giving Gift who goes on and on giving enabling us to give ourselves to God in response to all his giving.

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Sure of constant blessing

Luke tells us that while Jesus was blessing his disciples, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven” (Lk 24:51). As Jesus blesses them, I wonder if he was saying the words of blessing that God gave to the High Priest in Old Testament times: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace” (Num 6: 24-26).
Jesus ascended as our High Priest into the presence of his Father. He now constantly turns towards his Father interceding for us. And he also turns towards us to bless. Keeping our eyes on this vision of the ascended Jesus, we are sure of ongoing blessing. We know that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). And we also know that all these blessings flow to us continually through Jesus. For Jesus is constantly turned towards his Father asking him to bless us. And the same Jesus is also turned towards us to bless.
Ongoing blessing depends on Jesus not on us. We do not ever turn inward despairing because we are not worthy of God’s blessing. Our eyes must be ever fixed on Jesus. He is the one who constantly seeks his Father’s blessing for us. He is the one in and through whom we are blessed. He is also the one who blesses and is himself the blessing in whom all blessings are found. With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can be fully assured that God’s face is turned towards us so that we might share in his own happiness and pleasure.

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Meeting with Failures

When the risen Jesus came to his disciples, they were full of disappointment, doubt, dread and despair. So he first showed them his nailed pierced hands and then said, Peace be with you (John 20:19). He didn’t say a word about their recent failure. He just wanted to be with them as their peace.

Thomas was not there and he would not believe that Jesus had met with them. A week later, Jesus came to them again while Thomas was present. He didn’t reject Thomas because he refused to believe. He simply approached Thomas directly saying, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Within this personal encounter, worshipful faith emerged in Thomas.

Another time, the risen Jesus met with his disciples while they were fishing on the lake. He prepared breakfast for them and then drew Peter aside. However, he didn’t say a word about Peter denying him. Instead, Jesus aims to draw from Peter a declaration of love. Three times he says, Peter, “do you love me?” When Peter said he did love Jesus he was urged to show it by caring for Jesus’ flock.

The risen Jesus does not withdraw from failures until they get their act together. He meets with failures as their peace drawing from them the faith and love that he desires in them. For, even now, as exalted king, his heart is bound to his failing followers.

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A Message to Failures

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, his disciples fled leaving him to face his ordeal alone.  Peter flatly denied that he ever knew Jesus with oaths and curses.  So, when Jesus arose from death what message did he first send to his disciples?  We might suppose he would tell them he had now decided to be a stranger to them. Or at least, we might imagine that his first words to them would be a rebuke of their failure.  Or maybe, he would attempt to shame them telling them how much he had just suffered for them while they were failing him.   But there’s nothing like that here.

 Instead, his first words to Mary were, “Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ (John 20:17).  Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.  Surely his brothers had been ashamed of him!  For him to call them brothers here shows his deep bond of love with them.  Jesus goes on, “Tell them,” I am ascending to my Father and your Father.” Jesus is eager to assure his brothers that his Father is their Father, and their Father is his Father. And soon he will go and prepare a place for them in his Father’s house so that they may be with him in the Father’s presence.  Furthermore, Jesus and his Father will soon come to them, by the Spirit, making their home with them. Jesus wants to assure his brothers of all this even after their total failure.

Consider this when you are troubled over your own failures.

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