By Catherine A. Deddo
No God Behind Jesus (John 12:44-45)
When my husband was a campus minister, he once had a young woman approach him and ask “Who should I pray to, God or Jesus?” When he inquired as to why she asked this question, she replied, “Well, I really like Jesus, but I am not so sure about God.”
Is there a split between Jesus and God? Does Jesus show us who God is, His very heart and purposes, or is there a God behind Jesus? Is God full of wrath, ready to punish us for our sins, but Jesus is the nice guy who protects us from Him? Are God and Jesus somewhat at cross purposes towards us? Or are there some things about God that Jesus doesn’t show us?
I remember struggling a lot with this when I was a young Christian. I really liked Jesus. He was loving and compassionate. But I felt that, with God the Father, I could never be sure of being fully accepted and loved. I always felt that I was “weighed and found wanting.” While I believed that He loved me “unconditionally”, I felt a need to do what I could to make sure He continued to love me.
Is there a God behind Jesus? Is there some slippage of character, attitude, or heart between the Father and the Son? Or can we trust that Jesus fully reveals the goodness, the grace, the true character of the triune God? Is God just like Jesus?
What the New Testament writers emphatically declare is that Jesus is the clearest, fullest revelation of the character and purposes of God. In fact, in Jesus we don’t just learn more about God, we meet God Himself. This is how the author of Hebrews begins his epistle:
“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.”
The epistle’s author draws a sharp and absolute distinction between ALL the others ways and times God has revealed Himself, or spoken, and when He reveals Himself in Jesus, the Son. Before, all revelation had been revelation about God, but now we have God’s self-revelation. Have you ever heard a lot about someone and then met them yourself and come to know them as a friend? There is a huge difference, isn’t there, between knowing about a person or coming to know them, as they reveal themselves to you in person, face to face. God did speak in various ways to individuals in the Old Testament: through a burning bush, dreams, angelic visitors, or a voice out of a whirlwind. But now, in Jesus, God shows up and lives among His creation.
Jesus is not just another messenger, not even the greatest of all those whose spoke on God’s behalf in the past. He is God, God the Word, who is eternal and always with God, as John puts it at the beginning of his gospel. Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, declares that Jesus is the very image of the invisible God (Col.1:15). In Jesus, we meet God Himself.
Jesus declares that to know Him is to know the Father. During His last supper with the disciples, Philip asks Him to show them the Father. Jesus replies, “Have I been with you so long and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?”(John 14:8-10) To see Jesus is to see God. To see Jesus is to see the Father.
Jesus is emphatic about this point. In the Gospel of John Jesus speaks of His close relationship with the Father and that to see Him and know Him is to see and know the Father. Jesus teaches, “He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me.”(John 12:44-45) Jesus doesn’t let His listeners consider Him alone, apart from His Father. There is no slippage between the Father and the Son. In fact, to trust in Jesus is to trust in the Father.
And all of what Jesus says and does is always according to what He hears and sees from His Father (John 5:19-20, 30). Jesus speaks the words of God and does what God is doing, and this is true because He is God. As God the Son he shows us the whole God: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The whole God was at work in the Incarnation and in the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus Christ.
There is no God behind Jesus, because Jesus IS God, He is the Son and He is always with the Father and the Spirit, even when He was incarnate. God did not cease being God, He assumed humanity. And therefore, we can rest in the wonderful knowledge that when we look at Jesus, we see the triune God Himself. What you see is what you get! He graciously enters our time and space and reveals Himself to us in flesh and blood. There is no "part" of God that remains hidden. The whole God wants a relationship with His creation, the whole God was willing to pay the price to free us from our sin, to heal us, and make us able to truly be His children, His very beloved children. The whole God, Father Son and Spirit is our loving, gracious Savior.