Sermon: Show Me

May 7, 2023

Acts 7:55-60
John 14:1-14

by Eric Anderson

The Gospel writer John spent a lot more time on the Last Supper than Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Mark gave it nine verses, Matthew ten. Luke took twenty-five verses to tell the story, more than the other two combined. But John? John gave the Last Supper five full chapters – and there are only twenty-one chapters of the Gospel of John.

Of those five chapters, three consist of what has become known as Jesus’ Farewell Address to his disciples. Nothing else in John’s Gospel receives this much attention, not the crucifixion, not the resurrection. If you want to know what John thought was absolutely vital for us to know, what Jesus said that John truly wanted to amplify and emphasize, here it is. Right here, at the beginning of chapter 14.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

That’s a comforting start, and more comforting than you may recognize. Immediately before this, Jesus had made the well-known prediction that Simon Peter would deny him three times before the night was over.

“Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

As Sarah Henrich writes at Working Preacher, “In the face of his negative prediction about Peter’s betrayal, almost as if such a betrayal does not matter, Jesus says, ‘Don’t worry.  Trust God and trust me.’”

The Farewell Address is off to a reassuring but somewhat rocky start. Simon Peter had actually interrupted Jesus already. Then Thomas got into the act by saying he didn’t know where Jesus was going. It must be said that Jesus didn’t answer his question. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he replied. I suspect Jesus thought he’d dropped enough hints about what was coming – his arrest later that night and crucifixion the following morning – that Thomas ought to have known.

Then Philip asked, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” Now that question Jesus answered.

“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?” said Jesus. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

I have some sympathy for Philip. We each have our own mental portraits of Jesus, and we probably also know that he probably didn’t look like that. What Philip saw before him was a poor man from Galilee, someone from the working class who was, at that moment, many miles from his home in northern Israel. His clothes probably needed washing and you and I would have wondered when he last got a haircut. He’d been a masterful teacher and healer, but just minutes before he’d been on his knees washing Philip’s feet.

Is that what God looks like?

Not to Philip. I don’t know what Philip expected God to look like, but based on encounters with God described in the Bible Philip knew, I can make some guesses. How about a pillar of cloud leading through the desert, one that became a pillar of fire by night? That’s from Exodus. How about smoke and mist in the hall of the Temple – Isaiah and Jeremiah both described something like that. Or strange shapes and living creatures moving through the air, as Ezekiel saw in a vision.

John Dominic Crossan titled his 1992 book The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. That’s a pretty good description of the figure Philip knew.

Is that what God looks like?

“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

I guess Jesus thought so.

As Jaime Clark-Soles writes at Working Preacher, “Jesus lights into Philip–don’t you understand that my only purpose in relating to you guys is exactly for the purpose of exhibiting the nature of God, of deep, sacrificial, life-giving, almost embarrassingly intimate relationship?”

Do you want to see God?

Then you’re going to have to search more than one favorite koa tree. You’re going to have to search beyond blood and fire and smoky mist, as the prophet Joel had written. You’re going to have to search beyond the bearded white man of Michelangelo’s famous Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. You’re going to have to search beyond the language of a masculine God and Father.

You’re going to have to consider the figure of Wisdom, God’s wisdom, described as a female figure in the book of Proverbs. You’re going to have to consider that Jesus compared himself to a chicken – a hen who wanted to gather her chicks beneath her wings. You’re going to have to consider that a batch of teachers marveled at the wisdom of a ten-year-old and that Isaiah thought that paradise looked like the leadership of a little child.

Philip struggled to recognize God in the best teacher he’d ever known, the person who turned water into wine, who could heal body and soul, who could summon the dead from the tomb, and who would kneel to wash the feet of his friends. Philip was willing to see this person as Messiah, as monarch, as ruler, but he struggled to recognize God in the best person he’d ever known.

Where will you see God?

I am not saying that you won’t see God in a guiding tower of cloud. I’m saying that’s the easy place to recognize God. It’s just rare. I am also not saying that you won’t see God in the figure of Jesus. We’ve been training people to see God in Jesus for two thousand years and here you are. It worked.

Can you see God in the person next to you? Can you see God in the child showing off what they just drew? Can you see God when the child is sticky and smelly and what did you get into, child? Can you see God in the person who’s angry with you and the person who’s ignored you?

Can you see God in you?

“Who knew that my life with God would actually be one long goodbye?” writes Debie Thomas at “That to know God, I would have to unknow God? To shed my neat conceptions of the divine like so many old snakeskins, and emerge into the world bare, vulnerable, and new, again and again?”

Can you see God in the people of God, who look so little like what you imagine of God?

Can you see God in you?


Watch the Recorded Sermon

Pastor Eric is inclined to improvise during a sermon, and today is no exception.

The image is Jesus Christ Washing the Feet (of the Apostles) by Battistello Caracciolo – [1], Public Domain,

Categories Sermons | Tags: | Posted on May 7, 2023

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