John 14:8-17 and Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. The whole family had gathered. Suddenly, in the midst of their conversation everyone heard a sound like a powerful gust of wind and the sound seemed to be coming from a place outside human experience. The sound filled the house where they were sitting.
“Then tongues, seemingly made of fire, appeared to them.” But nobody got burned. And most importantly the fire spread! It spread to everybody in the family. The fire divided and each person found a tongue of fire resting on them. But no one got burned.
Since Jesus’ spirit doesn’t burn or hurt us in any way. And at the same time we are being taught that the Father is exactly like the son. When Phillip asked the question in today’s gospel lesson he is wondering what God is really like so he asks Jesus to show him the Father. As he often does Jesus responds with a question. “Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me?” The best teachers use questions in this way, to try to get Phillip to see the answer for himself. To learn by putting together what he already knows.
When Phillip can’t quite put it together Jesus helps him. Saying: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Then strangely he adds: Do you believe this? Do you accept this teaching that if you want to see God all you have to do is look at me. Sadly many actually think God is different than Jesus.
Most can see Jesus as a kind compassionate and forgiving perfect Parent. But they see God as often mean and capricious who can demand genocide of whole races as in the Old Testament.
God is seen like the actor with two masks in Greek plays where one is smiling and welcoming while the other is frowning and scary. But this is not the picture Jesus shows us of his Father. Jesus says; “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say Show us the Father?”
God doesn’t have two faces. God has one face and it is the face of Jesus. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. Jesus says, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”
Do you see how carefully Jesus is instructing Phillip, setting him straight on his theology, gently correcting his thinking? Phillip has been confused about God and Jesus wants him to get it right. Jesus is saying, “Phillip, believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.
Jesus is our advocate who always speaks on our behalf. Jesus then makes a solemn promise to Phillip. He tells him that when he returns to God, after his sojourn on earth has ended, whatever Phillip asks in Jesus’ name, Jesus will do.
Between the father and son there is no rivalry or competition to see who is the greatest. No one is trying to get ahead at the other’s expense. There is no dissention between them. Their relation is a model for us because they want us to live this way too.
Jesus tells Phillip he can be brought into this unity. If he believes that Jesus shows us the Father, he too will be brought into the family. If we see God as Jesus does, we become part of a unity that undergirds the universe. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What are Jesus’ commandments: to love Jesus and one another as Jesus has loved you.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” Another huge supporter is coming to join us. It is a voice who will speak for us and defend us against all false accusations. And this voice will never abandon us.
This new addition “is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
Now back to the beginning of the story: “Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us in our own language because He comes from God and deeply enters our hearts. The Spirit knows us and knows how to speak to us so we can understand and respond each in our own way. The Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, speaks in our personal language.
No one is excluded. It is not about who is out and who is in. It is about who is loved and all are. Everyone has their own separate tongue resting on them and yet all share in the same flame. And nobody gets burned.
Something new has been added to the human experience. The God of creation has been seen in Jesus and has come to stand with us forever in the person of God’s Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. This is why Pentecost is the birthday of the church. It is the day the Spirit came pointing to Jesus and saying, “If you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father too.”
1. How is it possible to know God?
2. Can we say anything about God apart from what we learn from Jesus?
3. By following Jesus can we become like God?