Know Jesus, Know the Father (Jn 14:7-11)

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What prompts Philip’s statement? We are going to answer that question shortly, but before we do, let’s rehearse the conversation going on in John 13 & 14.

Jesus:  I’m leaving, so make sure to love each other (13:31-35).

Peter:  Where are you going? (13:36-38)

Jesus:  I am going to the Father to prepare a place for you, and then I’ll come back and get you (14:1-4).

Thom:  But Lord, we do not know how to get to the Father. We do not know the way. (14:5).

Jesus:  Yes, you actually do know the way. I am the way. If you know me, you have known the way and you have seen the Father (14:6-7).

Philip:  Just show us the Father, and we will be good to go (14:8).

Jesus:  How long have you been with me and you still don’t seem to be getting it? If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father (14:9).

The Problem: Humanities Natural Longing to see God

Philip reveals the problem in verse 8. “Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (Jn 14:8). Philip appears to be the guy in the group who has been quietly sitting and observing and realizes that everyone is talking past one another. He wants to offer a solution to all the confusion going about. His solution. “Jesus, show us the Father and we’ll be good to go.”

The text reveals that this is a problem on a couple of levels. (1) Philip has a problem. He is genuinely confused. Jesus is leaving – maybe dying. Yet, he is going to go somewhere and prepare something and then come back. We do not know the way and yet somehow Jesus is the way. Very confused! And, Philip offers a solution. “Jesus, just show us the Father and we’ll be fine.” (2) And yet, Jesus indicates that this is a problem on another level. It is a problem in that Philip does not seem to already understand what Jesus is saying. Jesus clearly indicates that Philip should already understand.

Philip reflects humanities natural desire to see God. Philip’s problem and his proposed solution reflect humanities natural desire to see God. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes of how God has put eternity in man’s heart – a longing that can only be satisfied with God (3:11-13). Therefore, man displays this natural desire when he longs to see God. We feel that all our questions and confusions can be put to rest if we could only see God.

Moses, Aaron, and the leaders of Israel see God and ate and drank (Ex 24:9-11).

Moses said to the Lord, “Please show me your glory” (Ex 33:18). God tells Moses that if he were to see His face, he would not be able to live. But, he did place Moses in the cleft of a rock and passed by allowing Moses to see his back (33:23).

As well, Isaiah sensed an overwhelming sense of woe as he observed just the trailing gown of God as he stood in the doorpost of the temple (Isaiah 6:1-5).

Reflected in modern worship music. Third day sings, “Show me Your Glory. Send down your presence. I want to see your face.”

So then, Philip has a problem. He is confused by how this whole conversation has gone. He offers a solution to his problem. “Jesus, let me see the Father, and all will be fine.”

The Confusion: Philip Confused, Jesus Dismayed

Philip Confused. As Jesus responds, he does not tell Philip that his solution is wrong. Instead, Jesus informs Philip that his solution has already been provided. Philip wants to see the Father. Jesus informs him that he has already seen the Father. “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’? (John 14:9).

What Philip failed to realize is that in Christ, God unveiled himself. Paul refers to Christ as “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), and the author of Hebrews writes concerning Christ, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb 1:3). If you have seen Jesus, you have seen God.

Jesus dismayed. The reader of John’s gospel has potentially come across statements that would either clearly articulate or minimally hint at the truth that Christ is the visible representation of the Father. In the first chapter, John writes, in reference to Jesus, that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn 1:14). And just a few verses later, John acknowledges that no one has seen the Father, but that Jesus “has made him known” (Jn 1:18). While not as definitive, Jesus hints to this fact when he says “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (Jn 5:19).

John 8. Philip would have been present when the pharisees asked Jesus, “Where is your Father?” In John 8, Jesus replies by saying, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (Jn 8:19).

John 10. In chapter 10, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). In this scenario, even the pharisees understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. Jesus further responds to the religious leaders, “even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (Jn 10:38).

John 12. Shortly after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, while in the temple, Jesus cries out “whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me” (Jn 12:44-45).

These moments offer just a few snapshots of the teaching that Jesus offered his disciples. Inevitably, Jesus had made this point numerous other times with his disciples. His response to Philip reveals that he expected His disciples to understand. Jesus responds to Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Jn 14:9).

The Solution: See Jesus, See the Father

If we know the Christ of the New Testament, we know the Father of the Old Testament. Too often they are pitted against each other as separate and distinct entities. The Old Testament God impatiently blasts sinners in his wrath and vengeance, whereas the New Testament Jesus graciously and patiently serves and dies for sinners. Yet, this passage clearly indicates that they are one in the same. In knowing Christ, our view of God throughout the Old Testament finds a more comprehensive and robust perspective.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. The concept of seeing plays an important role in this section. In verse 7, Jesus just told his disciples, “from now on you do know him and have seen him.” It is to this statement that Philip responds, “show us the Father.” Jesus then continues to communicate that anyone that has seen him has seen the Father.

“Seen” in John 20. To better understand Jesus’ intent in these verses, let’s jump a few chapters ahead and look at one of the resurrection stories. John begins chapter 20 with Mary Magdalene seeing the stone moved away from the tomb. As a result, she runs to Peter and John and tells them of the empty tomb. Peter and John run to the tomb. John runs ahead of Peter, reaching the tomb first, and “he saw the linen clothes lying there, but he did not go in” (Jn 20:5). Peter follows John but enters the tomb – enough so to see the face cloth “folded up in a place by itself” (Jn 20:6-7). John then enters the tomb, and the reader is told that John “saw and believed” (Jn 20:8).

Within these four verses, John employs the idea of see three different times, and he uses three different Greek words to do so, even though we read the same English word, see. (1) John is first to see (blepo) the empty tomb. He stoops in and sees the linen clothes lying there. Simply put, John’s eyes visibly saw the empty tomb and the linen clothes. (2) Peter heightens this idea of seeing (theoreo) as he presses past John and sees enough to offer some observations. Peter puzzled over or scrutinized the grave clothes. Mary had said that someone took the body. Peter likely begins to ask some questions. If Jesus was taken, why are the grave clothes still present? Why were the cloth bands that had wrapped Jesus body not strewn about the grave? Why were the spices not spilled? (3) John then takes the concept of seeing (orao) to its’ ultimate end. He walks into the tomb and sees, resulting in perception and increase knowledge. John believes.

It is this final concept of see that Jesus uses with Philip in chapter 14. “If you have seen (orao) me, you have seen (orao) the Father.” Jesus does not tell Philip that visible site of himself is the same as seeing the Father. Instead, when we truly perceive of who Jesus is, we understand the Father. We have “seen” the Father. Boice writes in his commentary, “Jesus replied that what was needed was not so much a demonstration as an apprehension. It is not a seeing but a perceiving that is important.”[1]


Yet, we cannot see Jesus. Philip desired to see the Father. Jesus tells Philip that in seeing him (Jesus), he (Philip) can see the Father. But, what about us. We cannot see the Father, and we cannot see Jesus. What are we supposed to do?

If perceiving and understanding is equivalent to true sight, then we can understand and perceive of Jesus. He has been revealed to us through His Word. Of course, that requires that we spend time in His Word.

Purpose Statement. Believers that focus on and understand God’s Word and the person of Jesus will see and understand the Father.

Believing is seeing. Take note, in my purpose statement, that I start with “believers.” Seeing the Father appears to be contingent upon belief. In this passage, belief seems to precede site. Philip wants to see the Father, and Jesus responds with “don’t you believe.” This thought is counterintuitive in a culture that concludes “seeing is believing.” Yet, in spiritual things, at least some of the time, “believing is seeing,” at least the kind of seeing or perceiving or understanding that Jesus speaks of in this passage. Once we have believed Jesus’ words and his works, we are able to “see the Father.”

How long have you walked with Jesus and still do not really know Jesus or the Father? Jesus reveals a bit of frustration with Philip when he asks him “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me?” This same question ought to be posed to the church. Philip walked with Jesus for three years and Jesus expected Philip to understand these significant and foundational truths. How long have you walked with God? Would your level of spiritual discernment and perception draw a level of disappointment by Jesus? With these questions, I do not intend to heap shame on anyone. But I think Philip probably felt kind of bad in this moment.

We should probably pause for a moment and consider how this story would unfold if we were Philip. We have the same desire, as Philip, to see the Father. The Father has revealed himself to us through His Word and through Jesus. Like Peter and John, when they entered the tomb and paused long enough to understand and believe, have we paused in God’s Word long enough to understand and perceive of the Father.

Similarly, to how easily we might become enthralled with a “Where is Waldo” picture, do we come to Scripture scouring its pages to better understand and perceive of God?

Is the Church an accurate visible reflection of God? God has primarily revealed himself through Jesus and the Bible. Yet, God also, through the Spirit, transforms His people into the image of His Son. As believers, we are to more and more look like our Father. When people wonder how God would act, they should be able to look at the Church and have a glimmer of His character.

[1] James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 1089–1090.