Thursday, March 31, 2011

John 14: Natural Disasters - Acts of God?

John 14:7-10 Jesus said, "...If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 

This is one of the most astounding statement that Jesus made about his divinity: that to have seen Him was tantamount to seeing God! Wow... the implications are vast! What are they? 

The most important is that God is like Jesus, rather than that Jesus is like God. Often, when we say that Jesus is divine, we often mean that Jesus is God-like or a reflection of God. Maybe even just a subset of God's full attributes--the "softer" side of God. But when Jesus says, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father," he is saying more than that he is God-like but that God is Jesus-like! In John 10:30, Jesus asserted: "I and the Father are one." That confirms that Jesus is not a subset of God but the identity set with God! In other words, if we really want to know what God is really like, we only need to look at Jesus. 

There are three very important implications of Jesus' assertion that to have seen Him is to have seen God:

1. God has descended: There are many pre-believers who said, "Show me God and I will believe." God has indeed shown himself to the world through His Son. Jesus reveals God more perfectly than all the portrayals of Him by the Old Testament prophets. So we read in Hebrews 1:1-3, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways (Old Testament), but in these last days he has SPOKEN TO US BY HIS SON, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the EXACT REPRESENTATION of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word."

2. God is humble: In Jesus, we see a God who is humble and submissive. One would have thought that the exalted God, being the Creator-God in majestic glory, would have every reason to be self-assertive and demanding. Instead, in Jesus, we see a God who is humble and willing to surrender His position and power to become like a servant, washing His creatures' feet. To the question why we should be humble, the answer is not "God is so great and we are so small, so we should eat humble pies." Instead, the real reason we should be humble is because God is humble!

3. God Saves & Heals: Lawyers refer to natural disasters like the earthquake & tsunami that hit Japan as "acts of God" but it would be incredible to think of Jesus as God going around inflicting death and destruction to the people who came to Him. Instead, we read in the Gospels that he did the contrary: he rebuked the storms and waves, raised the dead, healed the sick and cast out demons. So who or what causes natural disasters? One answer is the devil (read Job chapters 1 & 2). The second answer is man: global warming that is partly responsible for the dramatic climatic changes around the world is a consequence of man's greed and selfishness. But Jesus expresses God's desires for man when he goes about rescuing the drowning Peter, healing the sick and raising the dead. God does not inflict death and destruction: he saves! Many Christian theologians struggle with the question of suffering & sickness: "If God is loving, why are there suffering? Is it God's will to always heal every disease and sickness?" Well, the answer is given in Jesus. What we read in the Gospels in many places (e.g. Matt 8:16) is that Jesus "healed all the sick" who came to Him. The only place that he could not heal all the sick was recorded for us in Mark 6:5-6 where it says, "He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their LACK OF FAITH."

Father, I thank You that You are like Jesus, not the God-caricatures that the world has portrayed You, as the source and cause of all human sufferings, making You out to be a vindictive and suffering-inflicting God. Thank You Jesus for coming down to show us what and who God is really like-a Savior! Amen