A family resemblance

Often, when people see a photograph of my son for the first time, they say he looks just like me. His skin tone is similar, as is the way we wear our facial hair — and, well, he has something like my nose.

But really, I don’t see it. The one he truly looks like is my father-in-law. When you compare pictures taken at similar ages, the resemblance is uncanny.

So here’s something to contemplate: if we call God our Father, does that mean people are supposed to see something of him in us?

As we saw in a recent post, Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father, and Jesus replied that he already had: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9, CEB). But he doesn’t stop there:

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I have spoken to you I don’t speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me does his works. Trust me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on account of the works themselves. I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. (John 14:10-12, CEB)

Throughout John’s  gospel, Jesus has emphasized the intimacy of his relationship to the Father; indeed, he has risked being stoned for blasphemy by claiming to be one with the Father (e.g., 8:58; 10:30). This should not be news to Philip or the other disciples, and Jesus reminds them of this: When I speak, I speak the Father’s words. When I work, I do the Father’s work. You’ve heard the words and seen the works; that should be enough for you to believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there either. He turns the spotlight around, shining it on the unsuspecting disciples: But I’m going to the Father — so let’s talk about you for a minute. I don’t just want you to trust me because it will make you feel better. I want you to believe because I have something for you to do. You are going to do the works I do. (Yes, you.) In fact, you’re going to do even greater things…

Wait, greater than giving sight to the blind? Greater than raising the dead? I don’t think Jesus means “greater” in the sense of more miraculous; I think he means “greater in scope.” Through the generations of “whoever believes,” the work begun in Galilee, Jerusalem, and the lands between has spread across nations and centuries.

We are part of that work.

And…as the presence of the Father could be seen in the work of Jesus, so too, by implication, is God revealed through the way we follow in his footsteps. We see this in other ways in Scripture. Those who make peace will be called the children of God (Matt 5:9), for God is a God of peace. In one of his “I Am” statements, Jesus declares that he is the light of the world (John 8:12) — but also declares that we are to be the light of the world (Matt 5:14), so that people can see what we do and glorify the Father. And Paul explicitly teaches that we should be amazed to the point of fear and trembling that God works in and through us (Phil 2:13).

No pressure, right?

Right. But only if we take this as an amazing act of grace. God is our Father. And he wants people to see who he is through us.