Jump Start # 3330
John 5:37 “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.”
It is a question that is difficult to answer. Teachers of children’s classes have to deal with this question all the time. We adults just don’t think about it. The question? “What does God look like?” The technical answer is that God is a spirit. Flesh and bone does not inherit the kingdom. God doesn’t have a form, yet, when you pray, do you have a mental picture in your mind? When my kids call, by the tone of their voices and their talk, I can see them, even though I don’t see them. What about God? Do you see an elderly person sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of Heaven? Do you see Him as an English judge, possibly in a white wig, seated behind a tall judicial bench? Do you see Him with a stern look upon His face? Do you see Him with no expression? Do you see Him smiling?
Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells Thomas, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
In the story of the prodigal, Luke 15, Jesus gives us one of the clearest pictures of God. Through words, we see Him. And, what we see, is exactly how Jesus lived. In seeing Jesus, we see the Father.
Consider the picture of God that Jesus draws for us:
First, as much as it breaks the heart of God, He allows us to run from Him and even make grave mistakes. The prodigal had enough of his father. He wanted freedom. He wanted the far country. The far country called him to a world of pleasure and excitement that he never had at home. I expect the father knew. Rather than saying, “No, you can’t go.” He let him go. He didn’t chase after him. He let him go.
And, so it is with us. How the Father longs for us to bend our wills and our hearts to Him. How He wants us to worship Him. But He’ll let us run the other way. He’ll let us fill our stomachs and veins with all kinds of chemicals that will only harm us. He’ll let us pollute our minds, bow down to images and embrace false doctrine. How hard it must be for the Father to see us hurting ourselves.
Second, as destroyed as we have made our lives, God allows us to come back home to Him. For the Jewish audience that Jesus was teaching, the image of a young man demanding his inheritance and then spending time with pigs was more than most could take. Heads must have been shaking as Jesus told this story. What a terrible image Jesus presented. And, yet, that’s us. We have broken hearts, vows and promises. We have ruined relationships, destroyed trust and filled our lips with lies that we knew were not true. Yes, we have been with pigs. We have wanted what pigs had. We were not made that way. We were made for better things. Sons living destitute of hope, faith and help. And, as much as we deserve to sleep in the beds we have made, God takes us back.
It’s much more than that. The father didn’t watch the son come crawling back. The father didn’t have a long lecture or an “I told you so,” speech. Instead, seeing the prodigal from a distance, he ran. He embraced. He kissed. That prodigal was likely very dirty, smelly and worn and ragged. That didn’t matter, not to the father. Forgiveness. Love. Acceptance. Things were better than the prodigal ever hoped. He was just wishing to be a servant. Instead, his status as a son was restored. It was never truly lost. He had only forgotten. Ring, sandal, robe, feast—the things we’d honor a hero with, come to the broken, lost prodigal. He didn’t deserve any of that. He hadn’t anything good to say, other than he had messed up.
What a picture of God that Jesus presents. We fear punishment that we so deserve, yet there is the Father with His arms stretched out, tears running down His eyes and a smile upon His face. What a picture of forgiveness. What an image of hope. What an illustration of grace.
Third, music, dancing and the smells of a feast fill the house, as the prodigal sees that the Father has always loved him. The prodigal didn’t have to slowly earn the love back. He was loved. He was always loved. Even with the pigs, the father loved him. Even when he walked out of the house, bent on putting distance between him and the father, the love was there. The prodigal didn’t appreciate it. The prodigal didn’t look for it. But when trouble came, the money was spent, famine emptied pantries and bellies, there was no one to help. There was no one there. The promises of the far country were all lies. He wasn’t better off. Rather than free, he was a prisoner. He was without a friend. But one constant remained, the father loved him. The love never left. He didn’t stop loving him. He didn’t just begin to love when he returned home. He was always loved. Always.
And, so it is for us. The times when we have been in the far country, and God wasn’t even a faint thought on our minds, He loved us. When we filled our hearts with lust and sin, He loved us. When we closed His book, refused to bow our heads, and emptied our hearts of Him, He still loved us. He has always loved us. When we were at our worst, He loved us. He has been patient with us. He has been kind to us. He has blessed us. He has never given up on us. We don’t have to earn His love. He has never stopped loving us.
And, with that, Jesus puts down His paint brush and leaves us with the most incredible picture of God. It is better than we imagined. So much grace. So much love. So much hope.
What does God look like? He looks like Jesus.
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